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Origin and Evolution of Federalism in Nigeria

Origin and Evolution of Federalism in Nigeria

Federalism is a system of government in which powers are divided between the centre and the regions (states). Federalism in Nigeria is a product of the colonial administration. The Richards Constitution of 1946 provided the ground work for the take-off of the federal constitution.

Nigerian federalism started during her colonial experience with Britain. Lord Lugard amalgamated the colony and protectorates of the Northern Nigeria in 1914. Britain, through her colonial representative in Nigeria brought two (2) sections of the country together to enable Britain to achieve her economic objectives.

Clifford Constitution of 1922 provided a legislative council for the colony and Southern protectorates, while the Northern region was excluded from the council. However, its decisions could be applied to the North by the Governor General. The elective principle which the constitution introduced led to the formation of political parties and raised political consciousness in the Southern part of the country. The 1946 Arthur Richards constitution introduced regionalism in the country.

The country was divided into three (3) regions namely: The North, East, and West. There was no constitutional division of power between the centre and the regions. For instance, regional assemblies lacked the legislative powers to make laws for their regions.

Macpherson Constitution of 1951 was a quasi-federal constitution (regarded as ‘quasi’ because it contained both elements of unitary and federal systems). It introduced quasi-federalism which empowered regional legislative houses to make laws on specific matters to their regional government. This was however subjected to the approval of the central government.

The Oliver Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 introduced true federalism with division of legislative powers into exclusive, concurrent, and residual lists between the central and regional governments. The constitution provided the appointment of premiers to head the regions.

The evolution of federal system went through the following:

  • 1954 – 1963: Three (3) regions
  • 1963 – 1967: Four (4) regions
  • 1967 -1975: Twelve (12) states
  • 1975 – 1987: Nineteen (19) states
  • 1987 – 1991: Twenty-one (21) states
  • 1991 to date: Thirty-six (36) states

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