This is a system of government in which political powers in a country are shared between the central government and the component units. The central government is the federal government and the component units are the state and local governments.

Nigerian federalism can be traced back to 1914 when the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated because during this period, the powers of government were shared between the central governmentheaded by the Governor-General and the governments of Southern protectorates and Northern protectorates.


  1. FEAR OF DOMINATION: in a multi-ethnic nation such as Nigeria, the fear of one ethnic group dominating other smaller groups led to the adoption of federalism in Nigeria.
  2. TRIBAL DIFFERENCIES: the differences in culture, religion, language, custom and tradition also contributed to the adoption of federalism.
  3. PROTECTION OF MINORITY GROUPS: it was also adopted to protect the minority groups from being oppressed by the majority group.
  4. SIZE OF THE COUNTRY AND LARGE POPULATION: the large geographical size of the country and the high population also contributed to federalism.
  5. TO BRING GOVERNMENT CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE: federalism makes the government nearer to the people e.g local government in various states and communities.
  6. FOR LARGER MARKET: federalism will bring about expansion in the local markets.



  1. What is federalism?
  2. State the reasons for adopting federalism in a state.


  1. Division of governmental powers between the central government and the component units.
  2. The different levels of government derive their powers from the constitution.
  3. Adoption of a written constitution.
  4. The constitution is rigid.
  5. The constitution is supreme.
  6. Supremacy of the central government.
  7. Existence of bicameral legislature.


  1. It brings about unity.
  2. It brings about faster economic development.
  3. It brings government closer to the people.
  4. It prevents dictatorship.
  5. It prevents fear of domination.
  6. It protects the interest of minority groups.
  7. It increases the participation of people in government.
  8. It encourages checks and balances.
  9. Human rights are protected.
  10. It encourages healthy competition among the different states.


  1. It can lead to inter-tribal conflict.
  2. It is expensive to operate.
  3. It causes delay in decision making.
  4. It can result into unhealthy rivalry among the different regions or state.
  5. It can lead to secession.
  6. It leads to election rigging and violence.
  7. Brings about problem of revenue allocation.
  8. The constitution is difficult to amend.


In a federal system of government, powers and duties of government are shared between the central government and the component units. This is to ensure that no level of government dominates or oppresses another level of government and to also ensure independent of the different levels of government.

The powers are shared as follows:

  1. EXCLUSIVE LIST OR POWER; The exclusive power reside mainly with the federal government (central government). Some of the powers or subject matters in the exclusive list include – police affairs, currency, foreign affairs, defence, telecommunication, immigration and emigration, census, passport etc.
  2. CONCURRENT LIST OR POWER; Theseare powers shared between the central government and the state government as stipulated by the constitution. However, if there is disagreement between the central government and the state government on issues contained in this list, the central or federal law will prevail over the state law.Matters on concurrent list include – agriculture, health, education, road, banks, insurance etc.
  3. RESIDUAL LIST OR POWER; In Nigeria, residual powers are put under the control of the local government in order to maintain law and order at the grass root level. Powers under this list include – chieftaincy matters, motor parks, markets etc.


  1. What is federalism?
  2. Explain advantages of federalism.
  3. Mention the disadvantages of federalism.
  4. What is drug abuse?
  5. Highlight the causes of drug abuse.


Read on federal system of government in Fundamentals of Civic Education for Senior Secondary School by Sola Akinyemi.


  1. A type of government in which power is shared between the central and component unit is (a) monarchy (b) federalism (c) confederation
  2. ______ encourages federalism except (a) large population (b) small geographical area (c) differences in language and culture
  3. Nigeria operates ______ system of government (a) unitary (b) federal (c) military
  4. All are problems of federalism except (a) allocation problem (b) election rigging (c) lack of natural resources
  5. Under a federal system of government, the constitution is usually _____ to amend (a) simple (b) difficult (c) flexible


  1. State five advantages of federalism.
  2. Highlight five disadvantages of federalism.

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