Relationship & Differences between Federal, State, & Local Governments in Nigeria

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The three-tier structure is made of the federal government at the centre; the Federal Capital Territory, 36 state governments; and 774 local governments. It is a well-known fact that these three tiers of Governments work together to make governance in the country effective.

Some of the collaborative roles of these government levels include ensuring the security of lives and properties of the citizens, providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive as well as the provision of basic amenities.

federal state local governments

In this post, we will delve deeper into the roles of these levels of Government and how they are related to one another.

Relationship between Federal, State, and Local Governments in Nigeria

The Federal and State governments are responsible for setting and collecting taxes while the Local Government is primarily involved in collecting license fees. Usually, all of the collected revenue is held in a federal account before being distributed among the three spheres of government.

Let’s take a look at the history of this process.

When the federal constitution was adopted in 1954, Nigeria provided fiscal autonomy to its three regions both over expenditure decisions and over a local revenue base (consisting primarily of mining rents, personal income tax, and receipts from licenses).

However, there were centrally collected revenues, primarily from export, import and excise duties which were distributed to the regions according to the derivation principle. After independence in 1960, the derivation principle was modified in the interest of national unity, and the federal system of government began to be used to accommodate the diverse social and political interests of a multiethnic state. Since 1966, under successive military regimes, revenue administration and collection became increasingly centralized, and regional allocation was engineered at the discretion of the military government. Simultaneously, expenditure responsibilities and government functions also became centralized, with the federal government assuming the role of the engine of social and economic development.

In 1976, the local governments became recognized as the third tier of government, entitled to statutory allocations from both federal and state governments

Over the years, analysts have pointed out problems with this model as it is believed that the states and LGAs should do more than just acting as agents of the Federal Government and should be fundamentally involved in the effective delivery of public services.

This led to political leaders at the state level demanding constitutional guarantees of their fiscal autonomy. Also, the Local Government chairmen have also clamored for a greater share of resources and arguing that as grassroots organizations they are most responsive to the people, however, there is deep distrust at higher tiers about both their capacity and their accountability.

The 1999 constitution elaborates the roles of these various levels of government. In fact, the current distribution of responsibilities is provided in the Second and Fourth Schedules of the 1999 Constitution—Part I of the Second Schedule contains the exclusive legislative list on which only the federal government can act; Part II contains the concurrent legislative list on which both the federal and state governments can act; the Fourth Schedule provides the list of functions of the Local Government Councils. Hence, strictly speaking, the Constitution does not really provide the list of functions to be executed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the states (as it does for the Local Government Councils), but only the subjects upon which they can legislate.

This indicates that the Federal Government of Nigeria is responsible for matters of national concern such as defense, foreign affairs, regulation, and monetary policy.

On the other hand, the responsibility of service delivery in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, agriculture and industry is concurrently shared with states and Local Government Authorities.

Also, the local government authorities are responsible for the delivery of services such as public health; pre-school, primary and adult education; town planning; waste disposal; local transport; and roads.

Overall, we can say that the local government relates to the state and the federal government in the following ways:

State government creates local governments under a state law. Each local government is created by an instrument. The federal government can undertake reforms of the local government system and make necessary changes in the system in consultation with state government.

There are certain services, which both local governments and the state government provide jointly. These are primary education, health services and agricultural and industrial services. The state government provides the standards and general control for these services.

Apart from the functions assigned to local governments by the constitution, the state government can assign other functions to local governments from time to time.

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The federal government has a statutory obligation to pay 10% of the federal revenue account to local governments. Also, the federal government determines how the local government share of the federation accounts is shared out to them.

Additionally, the federal government can give specific grants to local governments for specific services.

The federal government also has the power to know how the money it paid to the local government is spent.

On the other hand, the state government has a statutory obligation to pay 10% of its total internal revenue to the local government within the state and can give other specific grants to the local government.

The state and federal government can execute certain functions on community development through or jointly with local governments.

The state government can institute an inquiry into the operation of the local government. It can punish offenders, it can dissolve the council and appoint a caretaker council until an election is conducted.

The state government approves the estimate, bye-laws and major programmes of the local government before they are implemented.

The state government provides inspectors who visit local governments regularly to inspect their operations. They look into their income and expenditure and other records and offer advice to the local government officials.

The state government auditors audit the account of the local government annually.

The state government provides rules which guide local government staff.

It provides the local government with financial memorandum. The state government also regulates and controls the appointment of certain professionals working with local governments like medical officers, etc.

Often times, the relationship of the three tiers of government is a talking point based on the revenue sharing formula that allocates resources from the Federation Account amongst the three tiers of government—currently 48.5 percent of the resources are transferred to the federal government, 24 percent to the state governments, and 20 percent to the LGAs.

Differences between Federal, State, and Local Governments in Nigeria

In this post, you will discover how the roles of the Federal, State and Local Governments differ from one another.

Federal Government

The Federal Government of Nigeria is also referred to as the government for the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN).

The FRN is composed of 36 states that share sovereignty with the Federal Government and 1 federal territory administered solely by the Federal Government.

Also, the Federal Government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the Constitution of Nigeria in the National Assembly, the President, and the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, respectively.

A. The Executive Arm

The executive arm is better explained within the context of the presidency. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the head of state, the head of government, and the head of a multi-party system and s/he has the constitutional enablement to exercise executive power.

Generally, politics in Nigeria takes place within the framework of a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic, in which executive power is exercised by the government.

The President of the Country serves as the head of the Federal Executive Council which is also known as the cabinet.

The executive branch is divided into Federal Ministries, each headed by a minister appointed by the president. The president must include at least one member from each of the 36 states in his cabinet. The President’s appointments are confirmed by the Senate of Nigeria. In some cases, a federal minister is responsible for more than one ministry (for example, Environment and Housing may be combined), or a minister may be assisted by one or more ministers of State. Each ministry also has a Permanent Secretary, who is a senior civil servant.

The ministries are responsible for various parastatals (government-owned corporations), such as universities, the National Broadcasting Commission, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. However, some parastatals are the responsibility of the Office of the Presidency, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Federal Civil Service Commission.

B. Legislative arm

The Legislative refers to the National Assembly of Nigeria which has two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It has 360 members, who are elected for four-year terms in single-seat constituencies.

On the other hand, the Senate has 109 members and it is presided over by the President of the Senate. 108 members are elected for four-year terms in 36 three-seat constituencies, which correspond to the country’s 36 states. One member is selected in the single-seat constituency of the federal capital.

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C. Judicial arm

The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court of Appeals, the High Courts, and other trial courts such as the Magistrates’, Customary, Sharia and other specialized courts.

The National Judicial Council serves as an independent executive body that protects the judiciary from the executive arm of government. The Supreme Court is presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and thirteen associate justices, who are appointed by the President of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council. These justices are subject to confirmation by the Senate.

State Government

We can understand what the State Government is by defining what a state is. A state is defined as a group of people permanently occupying a fixed territory and bound together by common habits and custom into one political body.

In Nigeria, states enjoy a level of sovereignty, but this sovereignty is within the constraints of the Federal Government as provided for by the constitution.

Each state in Nigeria has its own capital city and it is governed by an elected official known as a governor who serves a maximum of two 4 year tenures (maximum of 8 years). Just like the federal government, the state government has its executive, legislative and judicial arms.

Here are some of the roles the State Government plays in the country.

1. Security of Lives and Properties

The state government plays an important role in the security of lives and properties along with other levels of government. It is expected that the government takes a part of the tax payer’s money to fund the various security agencies in order to assist them in carrying out their statutory duties.

2. Provision of Basic Amenities

Also, the state government is responsible for providing amenities such as good roads and potable drinking water for the people. Although amenities like electricity are the sole responsibility of the Federal Government, the state government can also complement the efforts of the government at the federal level to provide these amenities by embarking on rural electrification projects.

In some cases, some state governments purchase transformers, electric poles and cables in order to assist the distribution companies to extend electricity supply to the people.

3. Creating Environment for Businesses to Thrive

This is done by providing loans and tax holidays to small and medium entrepreneurs as well as large-scale investors. The provision of security and basic amenities are also important in helping businesses thrive.

4. Establishment of Educational Institutions

Every state has at least one state-owned tertiary institution along with the scores of state-owned primary schools, secondary schools, and technical schools.

This role is essential in improving the level of education available in these states as well as providing employment to residents of the states in the form of academic and non-academic jobs.

5. Establishment of Health Care Facilities

One of the roles of the state government is providing health care at a subsidized rate. In this case, the state government build, equip and run hospitals where people can get good quality healthcare at an affordable cost.

6. Generation of Revenue

The State government doesn’t just exist to provide social benefits, it should also have the capacity to generate revenue in order to provide the aforementioned roles. Because the Federal allocations are normally given to state governments on a monthly basis but this is never enough to foot the bill of the state.

Local Government

The Local Government is the level of government that caters to residents in a specific local area. These areas have state endorsed representative councils, who have been delegated specific power by the state government to make certain laws that address the unique needs of their locality while carefully observing the larger constitution of the nation.

The Local Government is the last link in the chain of authority nearest to the local communities and the grassroots.

Some functions of the Local government include:

  • Providing recommendations to the state thereby helping the state to be more precise in its planning.
  • Providing welfare of the destitute in their locality
  • Generating revenues for the state through vehicle licensing
  • Responsible for the naming of streets and roads and numbering of houses
  • Responsible for the registration of births, marriages and death.
  • Provision of public utilities to the people such as construction and maintenance of roads, construction of drainage, provision of street lighting, recreation centres like parks and gardens and open spaces among others.

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