Nature and Structure of Nigerian Federalism
The foundation of federalism was laid in Nigeria by the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914. Northern and Southern Nigeria were recognised as near autonomous entities with some differences in the administration of each.
However, it was the Lyttleton Constitution, which came into effect on 1 st October 1954 that introduced real federalism in Nigeria. The constitution shared powers between the central and regional governments, giving out details on issues which were exclusive to only one level and those on which both could legislate. Regional premiers were also provided for in the constitution.
The Independence Constitution of 1960 followed the federal structure introduced by the Lyttleton Constitution with minor modifications. The Prime Minister was the head of government under the Independence Constitution with a ceremonial president as Head of State.
The Republican Constitution of 1963 created the mid-Western region, thereby increasing the regions from three (3) to four (4). However, the problem of unequal size of regions remained, with the Northern region larger than the three (3) Southern regions combined.
On 29th May 1967, under the administration of General Gowon, the four (4) existing regions were subdivided into twelve (12) states with powers and functions similar to those of the regions. This was an attempt to weaken the administrative area of Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the then governor of Eastern Nigeria, and to prevent him from seceding from the federation with the whole region. On 30th May 1967, three (3) days after the creation of states, Ojukwu still proclaimed the former Eastern region the Republic of Biafra. This was an action which eventually resulted in a 3-year civil war.
The four (4) regions were restructured into twelve (12) states with the former Northern region having six (6), the Eastern region having three (3), the mid-West having one (1), the Western region having one (1), and the old Lagos colony with some parts of the Western region making up a state. A military government headed each state with the exception of the East Central State with a civilian administrator.
The General Murtala Muhammad regime created seven (7) new states on 3rd February 1976 with the states then numbering nineteen (19). In 1987, the Babangida administration created two (2) more states: Akwa Ibom and Katsina. In 1991, under the same administration, nine more states were created, bringing the number of states to thirty (30), excluding Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The Abacha regime created six (6) additional states on 1st October 1996 to bring the total number of states to thirty-six (36).