LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT – FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

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LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT – SSS 1

lesson note on government Federal System of Government


FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

A federal system of government is one that divides the power of government between the national (federal) government and other levels or tiers of government such as regions, states or local government. Federal system is also known as federalism. USA, Russia, Nigeria, etc. are examples of federal states.
In a federal system, the constitution is supreme. Division of powers and functions among the tiers of government is clearly written in the constitution. In the federal system, state and local government are referred to as three tiers of government. The central government is supreme and acts in the common interest of the country in general. The states and local governments have substantial levels of autonomy though they are still subordinate to the central government.

DIVISION OF FUNCTIONS AMONG THE THREE TIERS OF GOVERNMENT

Following is the method used to divide functions among the three tiers of government in Nigeria.

  1. THE EXCLUSIVE LEGISLATIVE LIST: This is a list of powers and functions which are exercised by the federal government alone. Some of them are defense, currency, external affairs, petroleum, immigration, etc.
  2. THE CONCURRENT LEGISLATIVE LIST: This is a list of functions and powers exercised by both the central and the state government. Some of them include education, agriculture, labour, roads, and so on. Wherever conflict occurs in the course of carrying out these function, the power of the central government takes precedence over that of the state government.
  3. THE RESIDUAL LEGISLATIVE LIST: These are a list of functions reserved for the local government to exercise. Some of such functions include primary education, motor parks, market, library and so on.

FISCAL FEDERALISM

Fiscal federalism deals with the financial relationship among the different layers of government in a federal government. By having a clearly stated arrangement on revenue generation from relevant sources and how revenues are distributed and utilized, the government can be effective in carrying out their functions. The term was introduced by Richard Mugrave in 1959.

REASONS FOR ADOPTING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

  1. A very large country may require federalism for effective control by the government.
  2. A country with diverse culture, religion, language and belief.
  3. A need for stronger economy by pooling resources together.
  4. The interest of the minorities is better protected in a federalism than in a unitary government.
  5. In order to bring about a stronger security force.
  6. Historical background such as colonial imposition.
  7. Where the federating units are very close to one another, a federal state may emerge.

FEATURES OF A FEDERAL SYSTEM

  1. The constitution is supreme.
  2. Powers are derived from the constitution.
  3. There is a division of powers and functions among the tiers of government.
  4. Each tier of government enjoys constitutional autonomy.
  5. The constitution is usually written and rigid.
  6. There is equal representation and recognition of all interest groups.
  7. A federal government usually inculcates a bicameral legislature.
  8. There is usually a supreme court that interprets and settles constitutional conflicts among the tiers of government.

MERITS OF FEDERAL SYSTEM

  1. Federalism brings government closer to the people.
  2. Duplication of functions implies that more employment opportunities are generated.
  3. The interest of the minorities is catered to.
  4. It enables people from diverse culture, language and belief to live together.
  5. It discourages dictatorship or arbitrary rule since the constitution is not easily amendable.
  6. More people are given opportunities to participate in politics.
  7. Autonomy enables units to develop at their own pace.

DEMERITS OF FEDERAL SYSTEM

  1. It can lead to statism. This a situation where individuals are more patriotic to their state or region than the country.
  2. It is expensive to run.
  3. Duplication of function can result in redundancy.
  4. There is delay in decision making and implementation of policies on national issues.
  5. Displeased regions always threaten to secede.
  6. There is uneven development since states have autonomy to develop at their own pace.

FEDERAL CHARACTER

The Federal Character has been enshrined in the Nigerian constitution since 1979. It is a principle for ensuring that appointment into the public service and allocation of certain privileges reflect a fair balance across the linguistic, ethnic, religious and geographical diversity of the country. It is also meant to ensure the implementation of the quota system applied to the three tiers of government.

EVALUATION QUESTIONS

  • (a) Define the federal system of government.
  • (b) Describe how functions are divided between the tiers of government.
  • (c) What is fiscal federalism?
  • (d) What are the factors that can necessitate federalism?
  • (e) Mention the merits and the demerits of a federal system.
  • (f) Describe quota system.
  • (g) What are the feature of federal system?

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