The three (3) tiers of government are:
1. The federal or central government
2. The state government
3. The local government
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly defines their functions and the limits of their powers. There are many differences between the three tiers of government even though they appear to be similar in certain aspects. These differences can be seen in thier functions, legislative powers, executive powers, concurrent powers, exclusive powers and residual powers.
The federal government performs specific functions just like the states and the local governments, but the functions of the federal government cover the whole country, including the states and local governments.
The federal government defends the whole country from external attacks and maintains peace and order within the states and local governments through the military and police force. The federal government also allocates revenue (money) to the states and local governments to pay salaries and carry out developmental projects. These are federal ministries in the federal capital territory and each has a branch in the states. Decisions taken in the federal ministries are also implemented in the branches and are adopted by the states.
The states take care of their states alone and cover the local governments under them. In fact, the activities of the state governments are spread all over the local government areas. They pay salaries of the state staff and construct roads, bridges, etc.
The local governments take care of their local government areas only. It is the third tier of government and the smallest unit, so it is called government at the grassroots. They handle only the local people.
2. Legislative Power
The legislature is the law-making arm of the government. The federal legislature which is known as national assembly is bicameral (two houses of chambers). This means that it is made up of the senate and the house of representatives. The senate is made up of three (3) senators from each state and one from the federal capital territory while the house of representatives is made up of three hundred and sixty (360) members.
The state legislature is unicameral, meaning that it is made up of only one house of assembly. The house of assembly is made up of one representative from each of the local governments making up the state. The national assembly makes laws affecting the whole country and these laws are obeyed by everybody in the states and local governments, while the state house of assembly makes laws for that particular state.
The law of the federal government is supreme; therefore, if there is any conflict between the federal laws and states laws, the federal laws will prevail and those of the states will be dropped. The local government legislature is the local council made up of the elected councillors and the chairman. They make bye-laws which are approved by the state house of assembly. The bye-laws apply to the particular local government that made it.
3. Executive Powers
The difference between the three tiers of government at this level is that the executive council at the federal level is headed by the president. He is assisted by the vice president and the ministers who are the heads of the federal ministries to which they are assigned. At the state level, the chief executive is the governor of the state. He is assisted by the deputy governor and the commissioners of the various ministries in that state. The President exercises power over the states and local governments while the governors exercise power over their particular states. The local government chairmen are the chief executives of their local governments and exercise power over their local governments alone.
It is well stated in the constitution how the powers should be shared among the tiers. The constitution also explains how the different levels of government can avoid conflict by defining their powers which are referred to as exclusive, concurrent and residual lists.
4. Concurrent Powers
This refers to the powers that both the federal government and state government have right to exercise. The constitution in a federal system of government states clearly, how these powers are shared. The items in the concurrent list include:
1. Allocation of revenue
2. Collection of taxes
5. Health, etc
5. Exclusive Powers
These powers are called exclusive powers, because they are reserved for the federal government alone. They are sensitive and special, therefore, the other levels of government (state and local governments) are not strong enough to manage or handle them. Some of the items in the exclusive list include:
2. Currency, coinage and legal tender
3. Citizenship, naturalization and aliens
5. Aviation, including airports
6. Immigration and emigration
7. Creation of states
8. Customs and excise duties, etc.
6. Residual Powers
These are powers that are not contained in both the exclusive and concurrent lists. They are restricted to the states. Matters on the residual list include:
2. Local government