Federal Principle And Local Government Autonomy In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation

Filed in Articles by on December 8, 2022

 – Federal Principle And Local Government Autonomy In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation –

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Local governments are not sovereign unlike independent nation-states. It is a subordinate government, which derives its existence and power from law enacted by a superior government.

The nature and structure of transactions or interactions between the three tiers of government determine the degree of autonomy. Local government in Nigeria is rooted on historical antecedents of reforms.

The objective of the study is to show that the unwillingness of most state governments to adhere to the constitutional provisions on establishing democratically elected, freestanding councils is a fundamental problem about defining Nigeria’s federalism.

This study examines the contradictions in local government system and suggests that the sustainability of local government autonomy should anchor on improved revenue base adherence to constitutional provisions, political stability, accountability and transparency in governance.

Materials for this study have been drawn mainly from secondary sources found in libraries and archives in Nigeria; academic and other resources available in the internet, local and international publications (books and learned journals).

The strategy of content analysis was used to systematically analyses secondary data in view of the historical cum contemporary nature of the study. It then concludes with suggestions for possible solution.


Federalism, according to Wheare (1963), is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent.

He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate, not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (Wheare, 1953:10).

The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria.

Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units, thus local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root.

The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous on its own to carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government. The local government should do precisely the word government in its own sphere.

The evolution of local government in Nigeria has undergone a lot of changes and all these are geared towards making the local government a system that could serve the purpose for its creation.

But specifically in 1976, under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, introduced the 1976 local government reform. The reform recognized the local government as the third tier of government in the nation and it was expected to do precisely what the word local government implies that is, governing at the local level.


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Akande, J. (1982). Introduction to the Nigeria Constitution 1979, London: Sweet & Maxwell.

Akindele, S.T. and Olaopa, O.R. (2003) “The Theory and Practice of Federalism as a Structural Mechanism of Governance: How Adequate for Gender Struggle and Representation in Nigeria?” Anthropologist, 5 (3): 169-178

Appadorai, A. (1975). The Substance of Politics, New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

Awofeso, O. (2000). Issues in Local Government Administration in Nigeria, Ijaiye” Lisjohnson Resources Publishers

Awofeso, O. (2004). Issues in Local Government Administration in Nigeria, Lagos: LIS Johnson Resources Publishers.

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