What is a Federal State, and What are the problems usually associated with a Federal system of government?

A federal state is one in which governmental powers that exist in the state (country) are shared between a
central government that represents the
whole country and government  of
component regions or states, so that each
government is legally and constitutionally
independent and autonomous.


  • Inter-State
    – One of the arguments against federlism is that it causes inter-state or regional friction. This is as
    result of differences in opinion among these component states or regions into which powers are divided. 
  • It Breeds Sectional Consciousness:- Division of a country into different areas as
    is done in a federal state breeds regional or state consciousness as opposed to national consciousness; a good
    example is Nigeria where statism is the order of the day. 
  • Unnecessary Duplication of
    Organs of Govemment
    : A country like Nigeria that
    adopts federal system of government has 37 differents (federal and 36 state governments) with al! the paraphernalia and dissipation of energy
    that go with them. 
  • It Is Expensive To Operate: It costs a lot in terms of material and human resources required to operate a federal system of government
    mainly because of the duplication of
  • Difficulty in Taking Quick Decisions: This is as a result of the consultations
    required before decisions are taken, especially
    in matters that fail into the concurrent list that
    involve both the centra! and the regional or
    state governments. 
  • It Creates Weak Centre: The central government in federation tends to
    be weak in spite of more powers dlocated to it in the
    constitution. This is as a result of many other areas. Powers are di vided when compared with unitary government
    and the fact that citizens tend to show
    more loyalty to the areas of –
    their origin and central government 
    taken as no man’s land. This weak centre jeopardises the country’s
    foreign policy. 
  • Problem of Co-ordination: It is problematic co-ordinating a federal
    state as a result of many areas into which powers
    are divided. 
  • Disparity In The Level of
    Some component regions or states in a
    federation tend to develop faster than others as a result of the fact that they
    have good administrators, more natural resources, may be more favoured by the centre in the allocation of resources and finally lack of uniformity in law. 
  • It Causes Disunity: This is a result of the fact that federalism
    emphasizes more on the areas of differences among the different ethnic groups in
    the country. Example, Nigeria where tribalism and nepotism are the order of the
  • Fear of Domination: In spite of the fact that powers that exist
    in a country that adopts federalism are divided into
    many areas, it still does not remove the fear of one
    group dominating others at the centre. 
  • Encourages Secession: The fear of domination among the various ethnic groups and other defects of federalism lead to threat of secession. 
  • Unhealthy Rivalrv: Another evil of federalism is that it leads to dissipation of time, energy and resources in unnecessary rivalry
    among different
    governments and ethnic groups and these lead to hatred and
    social disharmony. 
  • Leads To Election Rigging And Violence: They can only be curbed if the federal constitution guarantees the
    rotation of key posts in the central government. 
  • Problem of Wealth Snaring: Federalism creates the problem of sharing the
    wealth (national cake) of the conutry
    among different component regions
    or states and the central government, for instance, the problem of revenue allocation in Nigeria. 
  • It Generates Tension: Federatlism generates tension between the
    central and component state governments on the exercise of certain constitutional powers. This is more when the
    central government wants to assume
    more powers like in a unitary state. 
  • Difficulty In Amending The Constitution: This is as a result of lack of flexibility and rigid nature of the
    federal constitution adopted in a
    federation. This does not augur well
    in a time of emergency and does not suit the changing social,economic and political situations of the country. 
  • Leads To Dual Loyalty: The citizens tend to have two different
    governments to demonstrate their loyalty – first
    their state or region government and the central goverment 
  • It Causes Census Problems: In such a federal system especially in a
    multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nation like Nigeria, each component
    region or state tends to inflate its figure in order to secure more seats in the legislature.
  • Enthronement Of Mediocrity: In a federation like Nigeria, in a bid to
    ensure equal particpation on citizens from all states, in the
    central government, i.e admission to institutions of learning, etc, with the use of so-called federal character or
    quota system, mediocrity is enthroned at the expense of meritocracy.

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