Historically, the structure of Nigeria federalism can be traced far back to 1914 when the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated though with unitary form of administration. Since then, governmental power that existed in Nigeria started to be shared between the central government headed by the Governor-General and the governments of Northern and Southern protectorates headed by the lieutenant Governors. Therefore, with the existence and recognition of the two autonomous parts of Northern and Southern provinces, the administrative system of Nigeria wore a somehow outlook of a federation. This paper seeks to discuss the federal structure of Nigeria and Switzerland, and to make comparison of the similarities and differences between the Nigeria federalism and that of Switzerland.


Federalism is a system of government in which governmental parts that exist in a country are shared between central government and component region. It is also defined as the system of government in which governmental parts are shared between the central government, i.e. the federal government and its components (state and local government).

France federal structure

France is a small country of 7 million inhabitants surrounded by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the small principality of Liechtenstein. Although the first historical development of small local state units seeking independence from foreign kingdoms goes back to the 12th century, modern Switzerland has been constituted out of 25 sovereign (6 half cantons) cantons with the first Federal Constitution of 1848. The 26th Canton (Jura) has been constituted out of secession from the Canton of Berne in the end of the seventies.

The federal constitution gives significant powers both to Frnace’s 26 regional cantons, and to the individual towns and villages in them. …A handful of cantons have used ultra-low taxation to attract wealthy individuals to stimulate economic growth. Among the best known are Zug and Schwyz, both not far from Zurich. Most recently, Obwalden, a small, mountainous canton near Lucerne, slashed tax rates to match its low-tax rivals.

The cantonal levy is complemented by a local tax, calculated as a percentage of the cantonal level. Again, rates vary dramatically, even between communities in the same canton. For example, in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland’s most populous, local tax ranges from roughly 70 per cent of the cantonal rate in the wealthy and relatively low-tax towns and villages along Lake Zurich’s so-called Gold Coast, to more than 120 per cent in poorer and much more financially stretched communities in the hinterland. The local and communal taxes are capped by a federal tax, payable separately and at a different time of the year, that rises gently to peak at 11.5 per cent for the highest incomes.

Although three levels of taxation might sound expensive, personal taxes in France are relatively modest compared with much of Europe. Rates in the ultra-low-tax cantons can be as low as 16 per cent. Even “average” cantons tend to charge less than elsewhere in Europe, thanks to the cantonal tax competition that the Swiss say encourages cantons and local administrations to maximize efficiency.( Political Rights in Switzerland:2001)

Nigeria federal structure

Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state, whose constituent units are bound together by a Federal arrangement. It provides for a presidential system of government in which there is an Executive, a Legislature and a Judiciary, with each acting as a check and balance on the powers of the other two arms. The Constitution further provides for the operation of three tiers of government, at the Federal, State and Local levels. These provisions are binding on all authorities and persons throughout the Federation.

The relationship between the centre and the state in the Nigerian federalism portrays her federalism sick and problematic. Nigeria is a republic ran like a unitary state. Like many other federation in the world, Nigeria has a written constitution, unlike many other federations, Nigeria has not less than five constitutions since independent in 1960.

One disturbing factor that has doubt among scholars as the functionalism of the Nigeria federalism is the excessive power of the central government. In Nigeria the federal government monopolizes power and only delegate duties at will without any reference to the constitution, thereby contravening the principle and nature of federalism whereby the exclusive, concurrent and residual function are clearly demarcated for central and state government. The anomaly manifests clearly especially under military regime since 1966 and has come to stay as a feature in Nigeria politics.(Commonwealth of Nations. Retrieved 2009-12-21.)



Although federations vary considerably in how they are structured there are 3 commonalities to the two federations. There is a formal 'division of powers' between two or more levels of government, with neither level being able to unilaterally invade the powers of the other(s). Written constitution' that list the powers of each level of government, as well as describes the institutions of government. An 'independent judiciary' that is capable of reviewing the laws and regulations of each level of government and voiding those that transgress the division of powers.

Distribution Of Powers In France

In a federal system, powers of government are distributed between the centre state or regions.
Federal: The federal constitution in principle reserves the areas of foreign relations, the army, customs examinations and tariffs, value added taxes and the legislation on currency, measure and weight, railways and communications to the confederation.
Cantonal (based on 26 cantonal constitutions): On the other hand only the cantons (and some major cities) do have armed police forces, run hospitals and universities (with the exception of two federal institutes of technology). Legislation on public schools is made by the cantons, resulting in 26 different education systems, but the public schools are actually run by the communes, much like many other public services (like water supply and garbage collection). The confederation, the cantons and the communes do collect income taxes to finances their affairs.

Communal: in a few small cantons and in some 2500 small villages reunions of all citizens are held instead of cantonal and communal parliaments; local courts are usually common to several communities

Distribution Of Powers In Nigeria

The Federal: it is concerns with the function of the Exclusive list and parts of the concurrent list

The State (36 states of the federation including Abuja the federal capital territory);it is concern with the concurrent list on which both state and federal can legislate on. However in the case conflict the opinion of the centre prevails

The Local government area (about 774 local government areas of Nigeria)it involves in activities of residual list.
Matters of national importance which require uniformity of legislation and administration such as defense, foreign affairs, coinage and currency, railway,
Post and telegraph, customs etc are put under the control of the central government. While subjects of local importance like medical relief, education, industries, law and order etc are controlled by the state and local government.

Interactional agreements

The Cantons may enter into agreements with each other and establish common organizations and institutions. In particular, they may jointly undertake tasks of regional importance together. Also in Nigeria we have the governor’s forum which is an association of the 36 governors of the federation.


Revenue allocation

This relates to how the revenues available to the federation account are allocated among the components of the federal system, viz, the federal, states and local governments. This is called the vertical allocation of revenue. On the complementary side is how the shares that belong to the states and local governments are distributed among the 36 states and the 774 local governments in the country. The latter is referred to as the horizontal allocation of federation. In Nigeria the states and local government are almost wholly dependent on the federal government for funding. This has a tremendous negative impact on the operation of the Nigerian federal system and crippled the component units of government. The is no generally accepted revenue allocation formula in Nigeria, in terms of the organ responsible for sharing in the country, there is a body called Federation Account Committee (FAC), which meets monthly to allocate funds to the states and local governments for their monthly use. What these levels of received is determined by the federal government, thus making the local councils to lose their autonomy and inter-dependent status. This is antithetic to the federal principles which the constitution has emphasized.

   In France, revenue allocation has been constitutionally determined. The constitution made provisions for each level of government’s is financial autonomy in such a way that each state is allowed to control revenue from its own territory. However, the states have the mandate to pay a specified percentage of the generated revenue into the federal coffers. In Nigeria the federal government directly controls major sources of revenue such as oil revenue, company taxes, custom and excise duties and wide ranging sources of revenue. The states are left with proceeds from personal income tax, rents from business premises, property rates, e.t.c the funds generated from these sources are not enough for them to carry out their assigned responsibilities.


Frnace does not have a full-time president; the representational functions of a president are taken over by one (or all) of the government members. Every year another member of the government team is elected federal president in turn so that every government member assumes this role once in seven years. While in Nigeria almost all the power of the executive is vested on the president

The executive branch

The France Federal Council is a seven-member executive council that heads the federal administration, operating as a combination cabinet and collective presidency. Any Frnace citizen eligible to be a member of the National Council can be elected. Candidates do not have to register for the election, or to actually be members of the National Council. The Federal Council is elected by the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. The largely ceremonial President of the Confederation and the Vice-President of Federal Council are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently.

 In Nigerian the executive branch is divided into Federal Ministries, headed by a minister appointed by the President, who must include at least one member of each of the 36 states in his cabinet. The President's appointments are confirmed by the Senate of Nigeria. In some cases a Federal minister is responsible for more than one ministry (e.g. Environment and Housing may be combined), and a minister may be assisted by one or more ministers of State. Each ministry also has a Permanent Secretary, who is a senior civil servant.

The ministries are responsible for various parastatals (government-owned corporations) such as universities (Education), National Broadcasting Commission (Information) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (Petroleum). Other parastatals are the responsibility of the Office of the Presidency, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Federal Civil Service Commission.

The legislative system

Frnace has a bicameral parliament called the Federal Assembly, made up of: the Council of States (46 seats - members serve four-year terms) and the National Council (members are elected by popular vote on a basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)

The four parties that hold seats in the Federal Council dominate both chambers of the Assembly; they currently hold a supermajority of 171 seats (out of 200) on the National Council, plus every seat in the Council of States except for three most hearings in the parliament are open to everyone, including foreigners.

The National Assembly of Nigeria has two chambers. The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It has 360 members, elected for a four year term in single-seat constituencies. The Senate is presided upon by the President of the Senate. It has 109 members, elected for a four year term in 36 three-seat constituencies (corresponding to the country's 36 states) and one seat in a single-seat constituency (the federal capital, Abuja).

Judicial branch

 In Nigeria the judicial branch consists mainly of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which is the highest court in the land, the Court of Appeal, the High Courts, and other trial courts such as the Magistrates', Customary, Sharia and some specialized courts, with the National Judicial Council serving as an independent executive body, which insulates the judiciary from the executive arm of government. The Supreme Court is presided upon by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and thirteen associate justices, appointed by the President of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

France has a Federal Supreme Court, with judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly. The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals of cantonal courts or the administrative rulings of the federal administration. There is in Frnace only one judiciary which has the power to apply federal and cantonal law. (Though divided into a Flemish and a Walloon section), the main pillar of the Frnace judiciary are the cantonal courts organized by the cantons. The cantonal courts have the power to interpret and to apply federal law as well as the respective cantonal law. The Federal Supreme Court has mainly an appellate function with regard to the cantonal courts.

Administration process

The federal administration of France is the ensemble of agencies that constitute, together with the France Federal Council, the executive branch of the France federal authorities. The administration is charged with executing federal law and preparing draft laws and policy for the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly.

The administration consists of seven federal departments and the Federal Chancellery. The departments are roughly equivalent to the ministries of other states, but their scope is generally broader. Each department consists of several federal offices, which are headed by a director, and of other agencies. The much smaller Federal Chancellery, headed by the Federal Chancellor, operates as an eighth department in most respects.

Nigerian  federation is divided in 36 states and 1 territory*; Federal Capital Territory (Abuja)*, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara

Each state is further divided into Local Government Areas (LGAs). There are 774 LGAs in Nigeria. For each state they are listed in the article for that state. Kano State has the largest number of LGAs at 44, and Bayelsa State has the fewest at 9. The Federal Capital Territory of Abuja has 6 LGAs. The Local Government Areas replaced the Districts that were the third tier administrative unit under the British government.


In France the cantons implement federal law in accordance with the Federal Constitution and federal legislation. In Nigerian the state and local government implement their separate laws and during conflict the federal law supersedes all

Autonomy of the lower level

The Confederation respects the autonomy of the Cantons. It leaves the Cantons sufficient tasks of their own and respects their organizational autonomy. It shall leave the Cantons with they have sufficient power to contribute towards ensuring that they have the financial resources required to fulfillment of their task. In Nigeria more power is vested at the centre the state and local autonomy is limited, especially during the military regimes states were not allowed to implement laws in the concurrent list without seeking the central authority. In Nigeria the regions were stronger during the colonial period because they were larger in structure and size and were also allowed to control up to 50% of their generated revenue. The creation of state by the military regimes made the regions smaller and weaker than before making it easy for the federal government to have control over them.


The constitution of Nigeria is written and rigid in nature. The implication of this is that the amendments processes are of the constitutions are not only difficult but cumbersome and rigorous. Such constitutional amendment requires at least, two third majorities of the members of the house voting in the affirmative. But in Switzerland, the constitution gives the people the final say on the constitutional laws. This is usually done through the process of referendum unlike the Nigerian constitution


In the Nigerian federation, there exist a supreme court which interpreter the constitutions. It also reserves the right or powers of judicial review. But in Switzerland federation, the Supreme Court does not have such powers to declare any federal law unconstitutional as obtains in Nigeria.


Although federations vary considerably in how they are structured there are 3 commonalities to the two federations.

In a federal arrangement, there is a constitutional provision for the autonomy of each level of government. Each federating unit has the freedom to carry out its function without undue influence or interference from the central government, just as local government should equally be allowed to carry out their duties without influences from states. These require that each level of government should have full control over statutory financial allocation to enable it carry out its functions. Nigeria federalism is just written on constitution but in practice is not a true federal state because lower tiers of government suffer influence from the center. Also during the military era, the military head of state created more state from the regions in other to make the weaker and withdrew powers from the regions to the centre and these decrees which were made during the military era have continued to affect the Nigeria federal structure still date.

As we can see from above that federalism is mostly used in states with different ethnical languages, culture diversity, religion and minority groups in other to peace and unity.


Cited at: - official website of Switzerland's federal government and administration

Political Rights in Switzerland ( (official website of Switzerland's federal parliament)

"Government Ministries in Nigeria". Commonwealth of Nations. Retrieved 2009-12-21.

"Permanent Secretaries". Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. Retrieved 2009-12-20.

"BOARDS OF PARASTATALS". Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. Retrieved 2009-12-21.

"Court System in Nigeria". The Beehive by One Economy Corporation. Retrieved July 17, 2012.

"Constitution". The National Judicial Council. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
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