There is no doubt that Nigeria since colonial period has settled for federal system of government. Federalism, being the theory or advocacy of federal principles for dividing powers between member units and common institutions, the division of power between the member unit and center may vary, typically the center has powers regarding defense and foreign policy, but member units may also have international roles. Moreover, the decision-making bodies of member units may also participate in central decision-making bodies. But over the years, Nigeria has experienced imperfections in the practice of true federalism, hence triggered protests, agitations and clamouring for restructuring of the system. The main objective of this study was to assess the practice of Nigerian federalism and evaluate the need for restructuring the Nigerian federal system. In achieving this broad objective, secondary data such as scholarly works from the internet, newspapers and textbooks were used. Contending issues in relation to contextual background of federalism in Nigeria serve as the bases for arriving at the challenges and prospect of federalism in Nigeria. In bringing to bear the objective of federalism in any political and social system, remedial approaches to the contending issues confronting the practice of federalism in Nigeria must be carefully addressed. The findings revealed that there have been a lot of contradictions in the Nigerian federalism which needed urgent restructuring to bring the system to minimum international best practices. However, it is therefore evident that the key to federal practice in Nigeria lies squarely in the adoption and adherence to the principle of restructuring or devolution of powers, as this would promote peace and stability in the country.


Title Page - - - - - - - - - i

Declaration - - - - - - - - - - ii

Dedication - - - - - - - - - - iii

Certification - - - - - - - - - - iv

Acknowledgement - - - - - - - - - v

Abstract - - - - - - - - - - vi

Table of content - - - - - - - - - vii


1.1 Background of the study - - - - - - - 1

1.2 Statement of the problem - - - - - - - 3

1.3 Research questions    - - - - - - - - 4

1.4 Objective of the study - - - - - - - 4

1.5 Research Hypotheses - - - - - - - 5

1.6 Significance of the study  - - - - - - - 5

1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study - - - - - - 5

1.8 Organization of the Study - - - - - - - 6

1.9 Definition of Terms - - - - - - - - 6


2.1   Introduction - - - - - - - - - 8

2.1.1 Conceptual Framework - - - - - - - 8

2.1.2 Conceptual analysis of federalism - - - - - - 8

2.1.3 Features of Nigerian Federalism - - - - - - 10

2.2 Literatures Review - - - - - - - - 11

2.2.1 Issues and Challenges of Restructuring Nigeria - - - - 18

2.2.2 Problems of Federalism in Nigeria  - - - - - - 21

2.3 Theoretical Framework - - - - - - - 23


3.1 Introduction - - - - - - - - - 24

3.2 Research Design - - - - - - - - 24

3.3 Description of the Study Area - - - - - - 24

3.4 Method of Data Collection - - - - - - - 27

3.5 Method of Data Analysis - - - - - - - 27


4.1 Introduction - - - - - - - - - 28

4.2 The absence of true federalism in Nigeria tend to evoke the 

clamour for restructuring in Nigeria - - - - - 28

4.2.1 Absence of true federalism and the clamour for restructuring in Nigeria -P 28

4.2.2 Ethnic and religious distrust tend to brew crisis in Nigerian federalism 32

4.2.3 Empirical Data on the recent killing in Southern Kaduna - - - 35

4.2.4 Restructuring the federation tend to be the panacea to resolve 

lingering issues affecting Nigerian federalism - - - - 38

4.3 Discussion of findings - - - - - - - 42


5.1 Summary - - - - - - - - - 51

5.2 Conclusion - - - - - - - - - 52

5.3 Recommendations - - - - - - - - 53

5.4 Suggestions for further research - - - - - - 54




1.1 Background of the study

Federalism as a system of government is pragmatic, dynamic, utilitarian and evolving. It can only strive on consultation, negotiation, compromise, bargaining and agreement between the constituent governments. It grows under a system of mutuality and interdependence (Fatile and Adejuwon, 2009). Federalism represents a unique form of governmental arrangement. This is because; it involves organization of the state in such manner as to promote unity while at the same time preserving existing diversities within an overarching national entity.

Federalism, in its modern form, has been shaped by the existing realities surrounding the concept of a market economy. Thus, the new political economy of federalism has provided refreshing ideas about federal substance. According to these emerging ideas, economic prosperity generated by local freedom is regarded as a key factor that unites citizens on the limits of state power and also forces political actors at the national and local levels to keep within their respective spheres. This is especially so because, federalism, with its interacting levels of government, was thought to be capable of offering a way of mediating the variety of citizen preferences (Eme, Onyishi and Sam, 2011). Nigeria is a country of extraordinary diversity and as such, one of extraordinary complexities. These complexities are as reflection of the avalanche of ethno-cultural and religious groups co-habiting the territory and the intricacies of interaction among them.Indeed, Nigeria adventure into pluralism of religious and ethnic diversities owes it origin to colonial conquest which permeated the entire continent of Africa beginning from the early 19th century (Alia, 2017).

Historically, the evolution of Nigeria federalism can be traced far back to 1914 when the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated with unitary form of administration. The further division of the country into three religions by the then Governor of Nigeria Sir Arthur Richards under the Richard constitution of 1946 gave more support to the emergence of Nigeria as a federal state.

However, the Macpherson constitution of 1951 gave further concrete support in the sense that, the constitution appointed Lieutenant Governors to head these three regions and granted legislative power to the legislative and executive councils that were established (Odion, 2011). The Lyttleton constitution of 1954 removed the final shade of a unitary system of government from Nigeria by establishing a true federal state in the sense that it shared powers between the central and the regional government (Odion, 2011).

Federalism in Nigeria has evolved against the background of about one century of British colonial rule, followed by just three decades of national independence (Ladipo, 1991). The federal system adopted in 1954 comprised a national government and three regional governments: Eastern, Northern and Western, The Eastern and Western regions became self-governing in 1957, followed by the Northern Region in 1959. National independence was won in 1960. A federal system of government was maintained in the independence constitution of 1960, Republican Constitution of 1963, second Republic Constitution of 1979, the third republic constitution of 1989, and fourth republic constitution of 1999.The national question has remained an intractable challenge to Nigeria’s existence. The debate revolves around the demand for restructuring of the federation and the elaboration of governmental structures in the country. The pattern of restructuring advocated has tended to follow closely the way the national question is framed. Federalism, the governmental framework of the Nigerian state, has been the subject of constant demands for tinkering or fundamental reforms since 1954 when it was first adopted, but these demands have been shaped by the underlying discourse on the national question (Abutudu, 2010).

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

Nigeria is a country of extraordinary diversity and as such, one of extraordinary complexities. This complexity is a reflection of the avalanche of ethno-cultural and religious groups co-habiting the territory and the intricacies of interaction among them.However, according to Aderonke (2015), federalism was adopted in Nigeria as a compromise device to help the country avoid the prospect of piece meal independence from the British. Some contend that it was a clever imposition by the British to appease the reactionary North. Despite what may or may not have been the real reasons or causes, four things are incontrovertible (Aderonke, 2015). 

Firstly, Nigeria federalism was not arrived at through social contract or plebiscite. It was a model agreed to by a handful of political leaders at the pre- independence London Constitutional conferences. Secondly, Nigerian federalism is very sick, unbalanced and lopsided especially in terms of the over-centralization of power. Thirdly, national integration has remained an illusion at best, even after fifty seven (57) years of independence, with few prospects for change. Ethnicity has been elevated by some people to the level of religion and so Nigeria has remained a state rather than a nation. Fourthly, pronounced injustices exist in the Nigerian federalism. Nigeria’s federal system is highly centralized in all its ramifications. 

The federal structure of Nigeria is believed to be “a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, and that there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja” (Ogbe, et al; 2011). Adoption of federalism notwithstanding, Nigeria’s political system has continued to operate with minimum cohesion. There is no doubt over its adaptability to solving Nigeria’s federal plurality problems. This is because the central government has usurped the powers, which were formally exercised by the regional governments. Power distribution is volatile issue which if not properly handled could lead to various forms of crises which are bound to crop up.Nigeria has not been forthright applying this principle to the later and the result of this has been heightening of ethnic tension, mutual mistrust among ethnic groups, minority problem, clamour for an answer to the national question etc. (Uhunmwangho and Ekpo, 2011).

1.3 Research Questions     

The following research questions are formulated to guide the study.

i. How has the practice of federalism in Nigeria evoked the clamour for restructuring?

ii. What is the level of assessment of the current federal system of government in Nigeria?

iii. Why an emergence quest for restructuring of federal of government in Nigeria?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this research study is to assess Nigeria federalism and factors responsible for the renewed clamour for restructuring. Our subsidiary objectives are:-

i. Assess the practice of Nigerian federalism from inception till now.

ii. Identify the problems and prospect of the Nigeria’s federalism, and 

iii. Evaluate the need for restructuring of Nigeria’s federal system.

iv. It access the recent killing of Christians/Muslims in Southern Kaduna. 

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were formulated to guide this research

1. The absence of true federalism in Nigeria tend to evoke the clamour for restructuring in Nigeria

2. Ethnic and religious distrust tend to brew crisis in Nigerian federalism.

3. Empirical Data on the recentkilling in Southern Kaduna. 

4. Restructuring the federation tend to be the panacea to resolve lingering issues affecting Nigerian federalism.

1.6 Significance of the study  

This research study would have multiple significances for designing and redesigning the federal system of Nigeria. It is true that some federal systems have only one federal constitution that includes within it constitutional provisions for state and local government as well as multi-level intergovernmental collaboration. Nigeria is an example of this in almost every case as it barely meets the definition of federalism in practice. This study would also enrich the literatures on the Nigerian federalism and restructuring, thereby enhance people and student understanding of the concept. By studying our current form of government and comparing it to the true practice of the federalism as clamored by the citizenry, will help to identify if the currents system has been effective and efficient.  Finally, the study will help us to further deepen our understanding of the government, her roles and the importance of having a workable Nigerian federal system of government.

1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research study covers the form and practice of federalism in Nigeria since its inception, while assessing its benefits and challenges it has posed to the Nigerian system of government. As the research study concerns the federation, the research will be limited to only Nigerian nation and it should be noted that the study may not represent untrue information about Nigerian federalism.

1.8 Organization of the Study 

This study intends to highlight every chapters presented by the researcher. Chapter one discuss the introduction of the research which includes the background of the study, statement of the problem, objectives of study, research questions, statement of hypotheses, significance of the study, limitation of study, organization of the study and definition of terms. 

Chapter two deal with the conceptual framework, review of related literature theoretical framework. Chapter three portray the methodologyused, research design, description of the study area, source of data and method of data analysis. Chapter four dealt with the data presentation and analysis and ends with summary, conclusion and recommendation. 

1.9 Definition of Terms

Daniel Elazar (1934/1999),federalism is a system of political organization uniting separate states or other units in such a way as to allow each to remain a political entity. 

Wheare (1963), described the federal principles as “The method of dividing powers so that the general and regional governments are each within a sphere co-ordinate and independent”. 

Robert Garran(1978), an eminent Australian scholar, federalism is: “A form of government in which sovereignty or political power is divided between the central and local governments, so that each of them within its own sphere is independent of the other”.     

ii.  Restructuring: This means re-adjustment, re-alignment, re-positioning or redesigning and re-ordering of relationships, a re-distribution of power and resources and a re-adjustment of boundaries of the component units of the Nigeria federalism.

Restructuring is bringing about a drastic or fundamental internal change that alters relationship between different components or elements of an organization or system. 

iii. Quest: A long or arduous search for something. An act or instance of seeking. 




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