Challenges and Perspectives of Intergovernmental Relations in Nigeria

Nuelson Penuel Saturday, October 7, 2023 Basis



Intergovernmental relations refer to the cooperation and interaction between different levels of government within a federal system. In Nigeria, which operates a federal system of government, intergovernmental relations play a crucial role in ensuring effective governance, policy development, and service delivery. Despite its importance, however, intergovernmental relations in Nigeria face numerous challenges that hinder effective coordination, collaboration, and decision-making processes. This article will explore the meaning of intergovernmental relations and delve into the challenges facing Nigeria's intergovernmental relations system.

Definition of Intergovernmental Relations

Intergovernmental relations involve the interaction and coordination among different levels of government, including the federal, state, and local governments, as well as other relevant stakeholders. It encompasses the distribution of powers, responsibilities, and resources, as well as decision-making processes.

Importance of Intergovernmental Relations

The significance of intergovernmental relations and the benefits it offers to society are: 1. Collaboration and Coordination: Effective IGR fosters collaboration and coordination among various levels of government, ensuring that policies and programs are aligned and implemented cohesively. It allows for the sharing of resources, expertise, and experiences, enabling governments to tackle complex challenges more effectively. Through coordinated efforts, governments can pool their resources and expertise to achieve common objectives such as economic development, environmental protection, and social welfare. 2. Efficiency and Cost-effectiveness: IGR promotes efficiency in governance by avoiding duplication of efforts and optimizing the use of resources. It allows governments to identify and address overlapping responsibilities, streamline processes, and reduce administrative costs. By working together, governments can pool their resources, share infrastructure, and combine funds to address common issues more efficiently, resulting in cost savings and improved service delivery for citizens. 3. Policy Alignment and Integration: IGR plays a key role in aligning policies and integrating governance across different levels of government. It ensures that policies and programs are coherent, mutually reinforcing, and supportive of each other's objectives. By coordinating efforts and aligning policies, governments can avoid conflicting regulations, promote consistency in decision-making, and achieve better outcomes for society as a whole. 4. Accountability and Democratic Governance: Intergovernmental relations contribute to accountability and democratic governance by promoting transparency and fostering citizen participation. It enables governments to engage with stakeholders, including local communities, civil society organizations, and private sector entities, in the decision-making process. By involving a broader range of actors, IGR ensures diverse perspectives are considered, leading to more informed and inclusive policymaking. Additionally, it facilitates channels for feedback, evaluation, and monitoring, allowing citizens to hold governments accountable for their actions and outcomes. 5. Resolving Conflicts and Enhancing Stability: Conflict and tension can arise between different levels of government, especially in regions with diverse interests and needs. IGR provides a framework for managing and resolving these conflicts through negotiation, compromise, and consensus-building. By promoting dialogue and cooperation, governments can find common ground, reconcile differences, and maintain stability and harmony within the political system. 6. Sustainable and Balanced Development: Intergovernmental relations are crucial for achieving sustainable and balanced development. It enables governments to address complex issues that require a multi-level and multi-sectoral approach, such as environmental protection, urban planning, or disaster management. By working together, governments can ensure that development efforts are sustainable, equitable, and inclusive, taking into account diverse perspectives, local priorities, and long-term considerations.

Constitutional Framework and Legal Basis

Nigeria's constitution provides the foundation for intergovernmental relations. It assigns certain functions, powers, and responsibilities to the federal, state, and local governments. The constitution also established the National Council of State, the National Economic Council, and other bodies to promote cooperation and coordination among the different tiers of government.

Challenges Facing Intergovernmental Relations in Nigeria

a. Inequitable Resource Distribution: One major challenge is the unequal distribution of resources. The federal government, which controls major revenue sources, often retains a significant share while the states and local governments, which are responsible for service delivery at the grassroots level, receive a limited portion. This fiscal imbalance hampers effective governance and service provision at sub-national levels. b. Overlapping Functions and Responsibilities: The overlapping functions and responsibilities of the different tiers of government often lead to disputes and confusion. This occurs when there is a lack of clarity and coordination in defining the roles and responsibilities of each level of government, resulting in duplication or neglect of critical functions. c. Weak Institutional Framework: Nigeria's intergovernmental framework lacks strong institutional mechanisms for effective coordination and decision-making. Institutions such as the National Council of States and the National Economic Council need to be strengthened to address existing gaps and promote better cooperation and collaboration. d. Political Interference: Political interference is another challenge that hampers intergovernmental relations. Partisan politics often influences decision-making processes, leading to the neglect of critical issues and the perpetuation of conflicts between different levels of government. e. Lack of Adequate Consultation and Dialogue: Effective intergovernmental relations require regular consultation and dialogue among stakeholders. However, the lack of proper channels for consultation and dialogue often leads to conflicts, mistrust, and poor coordination. f. Capacity Constraints: Many state and local governments in Nigeria face capacity constraints in terms of human resources, technical expertise, and financial capabilities. Insufficient capacity undermines their ability to fulfill their constitutional obligations, resulting in weak intergovernmental coordination and service delivery.


Intergovernmental relations are essential for effective governance in Nigeria's federal structure. However, various challenges hinder the smooth operation of this system. To overcome these challenges, there is a need for equitable resource distribution, clarity in roles and responsibilities, stronger institutional mechanisms, reduced political interference, improved consultation and dialogue, and enhanced capacity at sub-national levels. Addressing these challenges will ultimately lead to improved intergovernmental coordination and better governance outcomes for Nigeria.

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