The Concept of Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria Democratic Federalism

The Concept of Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria Democratic Federalism.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria  -Very often the concept of inter-govermental relations has been grossly confused and mis-understood by students/scholars of this field of study. Some people have tended to understand inter-govermental relations as the relationship between two governments in two sovereign governments. Whereas this conceptualization may not be completely wrong especially at the global analysis of government, but it tends to paint a nebulous picture of the scope of our subject matter and creates the impression that inter-govermental relations has to do with purely on international reactions matters (Abonyi, 2006).
According to Okpata (2008), inter-governmental relations deal with an important body of activities, or interaction occuring between governmental units of all types and levels within a federal system. It is the manner in which the units or the agents of the state associate with each other whether civilian or otherwise especially under the federal structure.
For Abonyi (2006) inter-governmental relations is concerned with both vertical and horizental relation, that exists between the various levels of government, and within the soverign government of a particular country. Inter-governmental relations is a series of legal, political and administrative relationship, established among units of governments and which posses varying degree of authority and juriductional autonomy. Amitai 1975 as captured in (Okpata, 2008), sees inter-governmental relations as the interaction that takes place among the different levels of government within a given state.
Ogunna (1996) asserts that inter-governmental relations can be seen as the complex pattern of interaction co-operations and inter-dependence between one or more levels of government lending their support to the constitutionality of the local government.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria

Bello (1995) maintained that inter-governmental relations has its root in Nigeria and America and it is traceable back to early 1930’s to late 1950’s with the establishment of advisary body in inter-governmental reactions. Although this body short lived between 1953 and 1955, it became a parmanent nature of the American federal system.
The birth of this concept was at the time when they were numerous and complex problems confronting three levels of government resulting to the need in a hetrogenous society like America and Nigeria.Establishment of government prevailed with several components of governing activities, which cannot be avoided, thus the various levels of government to inter- relate with one another. The inter relations therefore; become important not only for the achievement of national goals but to ensure national administration and harmonouse co-existence of the parts as well as the whole.

In Nigeria, inter-government relations both during the colonial era and the first Republic, very much  exhibited traits of the principal/agent model as a local government was constitutionally within practice, funtioned more as field administrative units of regional and later state governments before the second republic in 1979, the state government were empowered in section 7(1) of the constitution to enact legislation that would ensure the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of the local government council (Bello, 1995).
Meanwhile, Ayode (1988), opined that the Nigerian federal structure with a multiple decsion of relational activities and political structure, identified six levels of inter-governmental transactions within the levels;
I.    Federal-state relations
II.  Federal –state –local relations
III.Federal – local relations
IV. Inter – state relations
V.   State – local relations
VI. Inter – local relations

Constitutional Existence of the Local Government and Its Power Relations with the State
The constitutional existence of state and local government varies from one country to another. For instance, in federations like America and Germany, the constitution recognized two tiers of government only, the state becomes the basic constitutional unit of local government because the 10th amendment of the American constitution reserves to the state, the power to determine for itself the nature, scope and functioning of local government within its jurisdiction. In Britain and France for example, the local government as the agent of the national government, comes into existence through parliamentary legislation and thus exercise such powers and functions as are allowed it by the parliament (Okoli 1985).
Ezeani (2004) stated that the 1979 Nigerian constitution broke tradition on local government, being the first on modern history to expressly prescribe the existence and functioning of local government. Local government the word over, are therefore creations of the state including structures, functions, finance and powers, are all provided for by the law.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria

Njoku (1998) stated that the local government is technically a creation of the federal government as the third tier, its local prerogatives defined by the constitution and legislation. This implies that the local government is a state subjected in a federal system. Also, Bello Uman (1995) lending credence to this debate posited that; no matter the model of inter-government relations. The local government does not have absolute independence nor seen as a soverign unit in itself. This is because local governments are only intra-soverign units of government, administratively decentralized by the soverign nation state.
Supporting the debate that local governments are the property of the state, Redford cited in Okpata 2008 observed succently:
“The first property of local governments to be understood is that they are legally creatures of the state. The local governments that carry out most the programmes and deal with most of the conflicts in urban areas are legally established as municipalities chattered by either general of special act of the state legislature ………….ending the cities with a legal personality”.
Nwangbo (2004) aptly affired that local government is the creation of state which has the power to make and unmake it. According to him, the state of the local government is governed by the Dillion rule which was named after justice Dillion declared the states of the local government that:
“Municipal (2004) corporation, local governments owe their powers and reglits wholly from the state. It breathes in the breath of lif, without which they cannot exist.As it creates, so it many destroy it, may abridge control”.
From the above statements, there are forceful expressions that local government are generally created by and derived their powers from states governments especially in a democratic federalism, hence it is proper to assert that local government are derivates of state government and not constitutional creation as expressed in the 1999 nigerian  constitution.
However, in Nigeria, the constitution transferred to the state, the legal existence and as a result, the local governments are state creations through laws passed by their various House of Assembly within the context of 1999 Nigerian constitution, section 7 provides that the system of local government by democratically elected local government council is under this constitution  guaranteed, and accordingly, the government of every state shall ensure their existence, under a law which provides for the establishment, structure composition finance and functions of such councils.
Meanwhile, the state and local government relations in democratic governance has legal instrument and provides for specific local government, derives its power from a national constitutional provisions, approved and signed gazzettes. The states and local government laws as enacted by the state House of Assembly, makes provision in respect of the existence of the local government councils in certain areas.
Countries like Nigeria, Canada, United Kingdom, America, France and Germany have governments with original powers and juridiction derived from the constitution of the country, while the local government units are dependent for their powers and functions on the state and central government. Local government depends on the central government for their powers and functions and that the mode of powers and functioning sharing, affects and determine the function, power and place of local government in power flow of any of any country (Okpata 2008).
So, the nature of the state local government relations in Nigeria today can best be captured in the interpretation of principal/agent which presents a harichical view of the relations in between both the state and local government, hence perceiving the local government as an agent or means of locally administering centrally determined services.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria

The Nature and Dimensions of State –Local Government Relations in Nigeria.

The nature of inter-governmental relations between state and governments does not reflect from federalism. It is more or less master –servant relations in which the local government subsists at the mercy of the  state government i.e it is the giant Lilliputian relationship, resulting in muzzling the course that thread the corn’’. A few discussions on the implications of the relationship between the local state governments will shade light on the problems associated with both the constitutional provisions and the state creation of the local government system in Nigeria federalism. The 1999 constitution unfortunately had some confusion, lapses, ambiguities and intrigues which directly or indirectly affect the performance of local government. Most of the crisis of inter-governmental relations bedeviling the local government effectiveness is the aftermath of the inherent loopholes and ambiguities in the constitution.
To support the argument that the constitution and federal government have helped in creating confusion as to who is responsible for local government existence in Nigeria. Bello man cited in Onah (2004) posited that the federal government resulted to clearly spelling out basis of local government became definitely super ordinate. The federal government of Nigeria due to the prevailing situation of the local government in 1998, adopted comprehensive measures which were aimed at radically reforming the structure, finances and administration of local governments to make them viable and effectiveness, Aikhomu, as capture in Okpata (2008), concluded the argument.

The foregoing arguments, implicated the local government effectiveness on the following area:
i.    Existence of local government council
ii.    Sources  of revenue and general administration
iii.    Dissolution and expiration of council tenure and
iv.    The executive powers of the chairman and their vices
For instance, in the area of the existence of the local government council as in section 7 subsection (1)of the 1999 constitution and in section 8 (3-5) the same constitution states the process for the purposes of creating local government councils.
The question of control revolves around finance.  Nwankwo (1992) observed that under the new local government system, each local government council is expected to have principle categories of revenue some cases Recurrent and capital revenue. Mean while, section 149 subsection 4 and 5 provided for revenue allocation and disbursement to the local government in Nigeria. Thus;
a)    The national Assembly shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government council in federation; and
b)    The House of Assembly of the state shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government council within the state.

Okpata (2008) asserted that the above constructional provisions placed the back of the financial burden of the local government both on federal and state governments; however, it stands clear to ransom that since who ever play the piper dictates the tune, government can exercise some measures of control over local government
Meanwhile, section 162 of the  1999 constitution of federal republic of Nigeria sub-section (4- 6) provides that the amount standing to the credit of local government councils in the federations accounts shall be allocated to the state for the  benefit of their local government council on  such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by National Assembly,
a)    Each state shall maintain a special account called ‘‘state format local government Account’’ into which be paid allocation to the local government councils of the state from federation Account and from the government of the state;
b)    The amount standing and from credit of the local government of a state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms as prescribed by the house of assembly of the state whose constitutional duty is to establish ‘‘state from local government Account’’ into which these allocations are paid. Thus, what happens to the funds in the joint Account is not the business of the constitution (Okoli cited in Okpata, 2008).
The financial control or relationship between the local and the state governments brings the former to over dependence which reduces the autonomy of the local government thus increasing induce control of the state on them. This gives the state the leeway for financial manipulation of the local government.
Furthermore, in view of the principle agent relationship between the local government and state government, the local government is always rubbed of contain freedom, including revenue sources for effective performance. Onah (2004), observed that ‘‘no local government can pursue development plans, development activities; facilitate democratic self-government, mobilize human and material resources and link the local government to other tiers effectively, without predicable sources of fund’’. For instance, the statutory allocation of the federal government which were to enable the local government function in stimulating socio-economic development of the grassroots level only trickled down on small percentage from state front local government account, a midst other revenue sources seized by the states. In essence, the excessive use of power in the supervisory relationship of the state in the disbursement of the statutory funds, makes it extremely difficult to achieve the principal objectives of ensuring rapid economic and rural development in the parts of local government administration.

 General Implications of Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigerian Democratic Federalism

Effective inter-governmental relations will be result oriented if the relevant political actors will be willing to allow their actions to be guided by he letters and spirit of constitution. The absence of this indeed, has always been the problem of state local government administration. This has informed the manipulation and cynical intrigues of state and local government relations.
For effective state-local government relations, it must involve a pattern of cooperative relationship between the two levels of governments within Nigeria democratic federationlism. This pattern of relationship must need assume vertical and horizontal form to promote harmony among the levels rather than competitive federalism, which engenders jurisdictional conflict. This is because the key term in the study of inter-governmental relations is co-operations coordination or conflict of jurisdiction.

Fundamentally, the major element in effective state-local government relations is the area of administration and finance. Therefore, to ensure result oriented state – local government relations, these sensitive areas should be transferred to the legislative arm of national government. The legislative control is designed to ensure that the huge amount of money flowing to the local government from both federal and state resources as well as the internally generated revenue to the local government are effectively utilized and accounted for, within the state administrative oversight, this also will reduce the increasing appendages of the local governments to the states.

Finally, the emerging structure of Nigeria federalism today is a pyramid where the federal government is at the apexes the state below and the local government at the base. In this order, each level of government has distinctive areas of jurisdiction as constitutional objectives and joint undertaking.In the above circumstances; co-operative arrangement of the tiers of government will continue to share the bundles of domestic programmes. While the federal government specifically takes on some of the foreign affairs as in the exclusive list.
So also, local government allocation, should be contained in a ‘‘Consolidated Account’’ and shall be directly disbursed the federal by government under the supervision of the National Assembly.This again brings to focus the fact that the existence of local government be made a national or seen as the agent of National government, comes into existence through parliamentary legislation and thus exercised such powers and functions are allowed by the parliament.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria – Theoritical Frame Work  

This work will be anchored on theory of separation of power as propounded by Baron De Montesqieu (1689-1755), a french political philosophy and historian. As a frame work of analysis, the doctrine of separation of power contained that political power should be share among government organs/bodies as precaution against dyrany and depotism.
In line moneteqiue and his followers, before 17th century, man by his nature has innate tendency to keep accumulating power, and if allowed to gain absolutely and exclusive control of political power is very likely to raise this absolutely hold control of political on power to opress his fellow men. Mondesquieu therefore, concluded by adversing in his epic work ‘‘spirit of de law’’ (1948) that in order to check against possible authoritative dictorial or tyrannical uses of power, let governmental power be shared among the various bodies into which the government system should be divided.
In specific terms, montesqieu actually developed the rationalization into fully-blown doctrine known as separation of government power in legislation (Law making), executive (Law executive), and judiciary (Law interpretation). He also emphasized that each of these powers be confirmed or assigned to each  of the  three arms government into which the government business is divided legislatures, executive and judiciary.
Today, the idea of separation of power has gained popularity in a form of system based on the doctrine of checks and balances which served well to check any possibly excess on the part of any of the three organs of government, hence, the study adopted this theory to study ‘‘inter-governmental relations in a democratic federation using Ebonyi state government and Ezza area south local government area as case.

Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria –  Relevence of the Theory to the Study

The theory considered/above is relevant to the study.First it identifies and examines the responsibilities and function of the three organs of government and their impacts for the overall performance in business of government. Its emphasis is on the functions performed by each organ of government in their inter-dependent manner for the continuous survival and sustenance of government as an institution.
The theory also, explains the relationship between the legislative, executive and judiciary as structural one within Nigeria presidential system of government each having constitutional responsibilities assigned to it with some level of inter-dependence and mutuality in the performance of its statutory duties yet there is checks and balances to avoid power usurpation by any organ of government.

—-This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic


30 Comments on “The Concept of Inter-Governmental Relations in Nigeria Democratic Federalism”

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  4. salami yusuf says:

    I need the material on this topic ugently : the effect of state local government joint account on the efficiency of local government in nigeria

  5. wao !!! l’m proud and pleased to see this coming from my lecturer, prof okpata. keep it up.

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  8. nana jason says:

    what is the relevance of intergovernmental organizatons in the promotion of peace in our global system?

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  14. maina aji kolo says:

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  15. ABDULLAHI UMAR says:


  16. please what are the problems of inter government relationship

  17. Thanks. I really enjoyed it.

  18. Audu umar ibba says:

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  19. maduka ndubuisi says:

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  20. Omena Joshua chikwado says:

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  21. Elijuafor Mike Chiedu says:

    Please, outline the importance of inter governmental relations in Nigeria

  22. Daniel. A says:

    Good article. Good work.
    But you are not specific in your discussion of the horizontal and vertical relationship among the tiers of government.
    What is the horizontal and vertical relationship among the tiers of government?

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