Federalism is a system of government in which governmental powers that exists in a country are shared between central government and component region. It is also defined as the system of government in which governmental powers are shared between the central government, i.e. the federal government and its components (state and local government).
Federalism in Nigeria refers to the devolution of self-governance by the West African nation of Nigeria to its federated states, who share sovereignty with the Federal Government.
Federalism has been present in Nigeria since the former British colony was reorganized into a federation of three regions in 1946.
Bernard Bourdillon the Governor-general at that time initiated and laid the foundation of federalism in Nigeria in 1939 by creating three provinces. He later handed over the constitution to his successor Arthur Richards and it became the Richards Constitution of 1946. At the beginning of formal British indirect rule in 1901, Nigeria was divided into two regions: Northern and Southern, both of which were divided into provinces. From 1901 to 1958, the number of regions was increased to three through both acquisition of territories and partition from existing provinces. However, while native-born chiefs and clerks were appointed to govern the provinces, the regions were governed by the British-appointed colonial authorities, and such regions were made dependent upon the colonial authorities for martial law, manpower and management of resources.
With the approach of independence, power over the regions was given to Nigerian-born citizens, and regional legislatures were established. By the time that Nigeria had declared itself a republic and replaced the post of Governor-General with the post of President, a national bicameral parliament was established and the country was considered a federation of the three regions. The Mid-Western Region was formed from the Western Region in 1966, and Lagos, the capital, was effectively governed as an unofficial fourth region outside the bounds of the Western Region.
A much-criticized effect of the current type of federalism, of 36 states from previous pre civil war 3 regions is the creation of a political subclass of state bureaucracies, often headed by governors who are accused of and sometimes successfully prosecuted for, monetary corruption.