In a federation, power is shared between the central or federal government, and other component units. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes a division of powers between three levels or tiers of government, namely:
1. The Federal Government
2. The State Government
3. The Local Government
Although the constitution separates the powers of these 3 tiers of government, they still have a form of relationship.
Merits Of Federal System Of Government
1. Reduction in work load.
2. Supremacy of the Constitution.
3. It safeguards the interest of the minorities.
4. It promotes employment opportunities.
5. It brings government closer to the masses.
6. It promotes political participation.
Demerits Of Federal System Of Governance
1. Expensive to run.
2. Duplication of functions.
3. Threat of succession.
4. Boundary disputes.
5. Fear of domination.
6. Ethic disharmony.
Relationship Among Federal, State And Local Government
1. Performance Of Functions According To Constitutional Provisions
In the federal constitution, exclusive powers are given to the federal government to perform functions such as foreign policy, mining, defence, foreign exchange, among others.
In the concurrent list, both the federal and state governments can legislate or exercise powers on the list, but where there is a conflict between the interest of the state and that of the federal government, the interest of the federal government supersedes that of the state. The areas covered by the concurrent list are education, research, health, industry, and so on.
The residual list covers items which are not taken care of by both exclusive and concurrent lists; and are exercised by the state government. The residual list covers matters like chieftaincy affairs, state museum, among others.
The third tier of the federal system of government is the local government is the local government which has its legislative powers in the 4th schedule of the Nigerian constitution. It takes care of matters such as registration of births, deaths and marriages, licensing of bicycles, motorcycles, collection of rates, among others.
Each tier of government tries as much as is constitutionally possible to relate to the other tiers. For instance, the federal government is the central authority and acts as a general overseer in directing the functions and conduct of the states and local governments. The federal government is responsible for the funding of both the state and local governments. The federal government sells petrol and petroleum products, cocoa, groundnuts, etc, to other parts of the world and gets money from provision of services and payment of taxes. These resources are kept in the national treasury and shared amongst governments on monthly basis. This is called monthly allocation. Nigerians often say, ‘let’s have our share of the national cake’.
These monthly allocations enable the three tiers of government to perform their responsibilities. In performing her functions, the federal government covers all the states of the federation, as well as the local government.
The states, while performing their own functions concentrate on their territories alone. They also act as supervisors to the local government on issues such as:
1. Approval of big contracts, budget and approval of change of leadership.
2. Granting and approval of loans for the local government.
3. Giving of advice to the local government.
The local government is often referred to as government at the grassroots level. This is the tier of government closest to the local people, and so, they provide important services to the local community. In fact, the local government appears to complement the efforts of the federal and state governments by making up what they could not cover.
2. Power To Legislate
There is also a relationship among the federal, state and local governments in power to legislate. The federal legislature comprises the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives. It is their responsibility to make laws for the whole federation. These laws are binding on all states and local governments.
Each state has a House of Assembly which makes laws for that state alone. The local government makes bye-laws that are approved by the state house of assembly. It is important to note that the federal laws are supreme and so, any law made by the state or local government, must never be in conflict with the law of the federal government. If that happens, the law of the state or local government must be dropped.
3. Forms Of Governance
The three (3) tiers of government have a relationship in terms of governance. The President is the head of the federation and rules with the executive council comprising the ministers, the head of service and permanent secretaries. They take decisions on matters affecting the whole country. They are advised by the council of state comprising all former presidents, governors, justices of Nigeria, senate presidents, etc.
The federal ministries give instructions to the state ministries which are similar, e.g. federal ministry of education and state ministry of education.
At the state level, the governor is the head and rules with his commissioners and permanent secretaries. The commissioners are in charge of the state ministries. The local government chairman is in control of the affairs of the local government. He rules with his councillors. Both the state and the local governments work according to the federal laws that established them.