ederalism is a form of governance in which the powers of government are constitutionally shared between the central government and regional entities, allowing each level of government to function independently and autonomously. One thing is crucial in this government structure, and that is the constitution, which enshrines fundamental human rights.
Several individuals from various backgrounds were mixed together, and federalism was imposed on them without their agreement, as well as different constitutions such as the Clifford, Richard, and others. Power over the regions was transferred to a Nigerian-born citizen following independence, and regional legislatures were established.
General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head of State, issued Decree No. 34 of 1966, known as the “unification decree,” in May 1966. The proclamation effectively ended Nigeria’s Federal Government, which had been in place since the country gained independence from British colonial authority in 1960. Instead, the General established a unitary administration to discourage “tribal attachments and actions that promote tribe consciousness and sectional interests and must give way to the imperative work of national reconstruction.” The decree suspended portions of the Nigerian constitution and gave the military government a lot of unrestrained powers. To the General, unknowingly, the ramifications of this edict would echo well into Nigeria’s sixty-first year as a sovereign nation.
Since 1966, Nigeria has had many constitutions, each of which has given the central or federal government broad – and exclusive – powers to the disadvantage of the country’s component divisions. In many nations with federal governments, the central government retains some exclusive powers in order to maintain governance homogeneity. In the United States, for example, the Federal Government retains financial, military, and immigration capabilities. In the case of Nigeria, the central government’s exclusive powers extend beyond guaranteeing consistency. The lock on power has been maintained by successive federal governments, justified by the desire to find a political solution to the discord and profound differences that have existed since the unification decree’s passage. As a result, a massive political entity with centralized power and impoverished states has emerged and/or been created.
Nigeria’s revenue distribution system (between the Federal and regional government) stymies the growth of a truly federal republic. The 1963 constitution gave regional governments considerable authority to control natural and human resources on their lands, as well as broad powers to employ these resources to accelerate local development. As a result, significant progress was made in areas like agriculture and education. However, the oil boom of the 1970s resulted in an overdependence on oil revenues and the marginalization of agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries. The Supreme Military Council’s expanding power resulted in the formation of a mono-economy, in which states were addicted to monthly grants from the federal government, leaving them unable to remedy their weak infrastructure. As states’ autonomy declined under decades of military control, there was little local competency left to compensate for successive military governments’ poor management and waste. Despite the return to civilian rule, the problem persists: the 1999 constitution preserved the skewed arrangement in which Abuja wields real authority.
The security sector is another casualty of Nigeria’s dysfunctional federal structure, particularly in the domain of policing, where the Federal Government has sole authority. The constitution upheld the tradition of maintaining a highly centralized police force, which was a holdover from British colonization. The inflexibility of the policing system has resulted in an ineffectual force beset by financing concerns, a history of human rights breaches, and unquestioned fealty to the central government – all to the people’s harm. Many experts have called in changes to the Nigerian police, while others have advocated for scrapping the current centralized structure and re-establishing it as a decentralized institution that meets international policing standards. Successive administrations have ignored and failed to yield to these yearnings. As a result, Nigerian police officers are unmotivated and undertrained, resorting to bribery and extortion to make up for pay gaps. The Nigeria Police Force is now ranked last on the World Internal Security and Police Index by the International Police Science Association.
Nigeria’s imperfect federalism is still causing major problems in the energy sector. Although the constitution empowers both the state and federal governments to legislate in this area, it prohibits states from enacting legislation that conflicts with federal law. As a result, the federal government maintains an effective monopoly in terms of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, leaving states to legislate in regions not covered by the national system. As a result, the economy is reliant on an outmoded, expensive central grid infrastructure and limited electric generation capacity, sapping much-needed growth from the economy.
In light of this, numerous groups have asked for the country to be restructured. While some of these decisions are influenced by political considerations, it is clear that the country’s structural difficulties will persist as long as the federal government retains its exclusive powers. As seen by a constitutional amendment currently being proposed in the National Assembly, a progressive reversal is taking place, with rising opposition for state-controlled police forces and demand for further devolution to the states.
Nigeria should abandon its unitary focus and evenly divide authority to the states, leaving them with the budgetary autonomy required to spur economic growth, hence boosting prospects for peace and development.