The origin of the federal structure in Nigeria is traced to the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates of Nigeria by the British colonial authorities in 1914. The northern and southern protectorates were amalgamated in order to make the administration of the country better. In 1939, Sir Bernard Bourdillion, the Governor – General, in a bid to further increase the efficiency of administration, split the Southern Protectorate into two. The constitutions of 1946 and 1951 provided for a decentralized administrative structure consisting of Eastern, Western and Northern regions. This decentralisation of administration marked the origin of the federal structure. Although it has been argued that the colonial authorities had no intention of complementing this administrative decentralisation with federal practice, Nigerian rulers and politicians have favoured the federal idea since then.
At independence, Nigeria was a federation of three regions and a federal capital. In 1962, the Midwestern Region was created out of the Western Region making Nigeria a four-region federation. In the first republic when Nigeria was made up of three regions and later four regions, there was a problem of inequality of regions. This is because of the preponderant size and population of the Northern region. This put the rest of the country under the perpetual domination or the Northern region that had more than half of the seats in parliament. Secondly, the number of federating units were too few leading to perpetual face-to-face conflicts. One way the Nigerian elite have tried to resolve these problems is by the creation of new states and local governments. Thus, Nigeria has moved from four regions under the 1963 Constitution to a federation of 36 states under the 1999 constitution.
The first restructuring of the country after independence was done in 1962 under democratic rule when the Midwest was carved out of the Western Region, one or the three regions existing then. The second occurred in 1967 at the beginning of the civil war under military rule. From a twelve-state structure in 1967, Nigeria moved to 19 in 1976, 21 in 1987, 30 in 1991and 36 state in 1996. The number of local governments has moved from 301 in 1979 to 774 in 1996. Currently Nigeria has 36 states. These states have 774 local governments altogether. There is also a Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The FCT has four area councils or local governments.
What are Characteristics of a Federation?
A federation usually has the following features:
- Governmental powers are divided between the central and component government
- The country usually has a written constitution
- The constitution spells out the jurisdictions of the various tiers of government
- The country is usually a large one in terms of size
- The legislature or law-making body is made up of two houses- the upper and the lower houses.