Nigerian roundtable explores intergovernmental relations

Participants at a Nigerian roundtable held recently in Benin Cit, Nigeria pose for a photo.

Members of government, academics, activists and federalism practitioners from across Nigeria met recently to discuss intergovernmental relations in that sub-Saharan nation, the most populous in Africa.

The event was co-ordinated by Eghosa Emmanuel Osaghae, professor at Igbinedion University Okada, and the Forum of Federations, as part of the Forum’s Global Dialogue program on Federalism.

Discussions focused in part on the issue of intergovernmental relations in Nigeria, which participants agreed are still relatively underdeveloped, as Nigeria lacks formal intergovernmental structures and institutions. This was attributed to the current dominant position of the federal government in the federation and the resultant dependency of the states. However, participants also noted that there is sufficient cooperation between the central government and the states to suggest intergovernmental relations will eventually take better traction in Nigeria.

Participants also discussed the issues of states’ rights, local government autonomy and the effects of the centralized electoral system on intergovernmental relations. Participants also questioned whether Nigeria is practicing true federalism given the political and fiscal domination of the federal government and its monopoly of instruments of coercion and security, which have made the states relatively weak constituent units.

The most interesting point of discussion was the topic of the status of local government in Nigeria. The roundtable posed a number of difficult questions on this topic such as:

  • Is local government in Nigeria a third tier or order of power as it has been assumed to be since the local government reforms of 1976?
  • How does local government fit into the broader context of intergovernmental relations?
  • Is local government an extension of the state governments, which are constitutionally empowered to make laws for local government?
  • What is to be made of their constitutionally guaranteed competencies?

The roundtable took place on March 23, 2009 in Benin City, about 240 kilometres east of Lagos.

The participants included Prof. Godwin Onu, Nnamdi Azikiwe University; Dr Ade Isumonah, University of Ibadan; Enaruna Edosa, University of Benin; Dr Festus Imuetinyan, Oredo Local Government Council; Professor Sam Oyovbaire, former Federal Minister of Information; Mr Celestine Ukatu, Insitute of Governance & Social Research; Dr Babalola Owolabi, Commissioner for Health, Oyo State; Solomon Asemota, SAN, Ethnic Nationalities Movement; Barrister Egbe Evbuomwan, Clerk, Edo State House of Assembly; Mrs. Florence Masajuwa, Igbinedion University Okada/Journalist Independent Radio; Mr. Juded Ilo, Forum of Federations; Dr Augustine Ikelegbe, University of Benin; Dr Musa Abutudu, University of Benin; Stephen Okhonmina, Centre for Presidential Studies; Prof Ebere Onwudiwe, Central State University, Ohio/Columnist, Business Day; Mr. Omorowa Jonah, Journalist, ITV Benin; Mr. Ralph Adeghe, Igbinedion University; Prince Jide Ilugbo, Igbinedion University; Dr Gabriel Gundu, Public Service Institute of Nigeria and Professor Eghosa E. Osaghae, Igbinedion University.

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