The Nigerian Government Structure Explained

8931 The Nigerian government structure and nigerian politics. The Nigerian government structure and nigerian politics.

The Nigerian government structure has taken on different shapes from 1960, when she gained her independence. It has seen its changes to military regime to democracy era, including the good and bad sides of these regimes.

It has also faced its share of ethnic, religious, and class differences which gave some dents in its structure.

The Nigerian government structure has been resilient; it has jumped back on its feet and modified itself from past experiences.


Nigerian government structure and politics

One feature that has stayed with the Nigerian government structure is its separation of power. The Nigerian government structure is made up of its 3 levels, and 3 arms of government, and leadership structure.

Also Read: The history of Abuja – How it was created

Nigerian Government Structure

Nigeria, my country, blessed with the best brains and rains to grow our grains, operating a democratic system that guarantees political freedom, equality of citizenship, and more..

Yes, political freedom is one of the reasons political parties in Nigeria have been created to give individuals and groups a voice and opportunity to contest for public offices.

The Nigerian government structure is styled into a federal system of government. This system features the 3 tiers of government (also known as levels of government), the arms of government (or branches of government), with leadership structure identifying the top 4 citizens.

Every Nigerian citizen must know about the government structure and to help you grasp the structure of the Nigerian government, this article presents all you need to know as it comes with texts, images and video.

It starts with the three tiers of government in Nigeria.

The 3 Tiers of Government In Nigeria

No matter how diligent a company headquarter is, it cannot reach all corners in the nation, so it creates divisions to oversee activities at various levels in a bid to attain efficient administration.

These divisions are referred to as the 3 tiers of government  and the Nigerian government is divided into three levels which include:

  • The federal government (federal level)
  • The state government (state level)
  • The local government (local level)

The 3 tiers of government - nigerian government structure

Now, let’s quickly talk about these three tiers of government in Nigeria.

The Federal Government or Federal Level

The federal government is the top notch level of government in the Nigerian government structure. It includes bodies such as:

  • The Federal Executive Council,
  • The National Defence Council,
  • The National Security Council,
  • The National Mass Media Commission, and;
  • The National Economic Council.

The Federal Capital Territory is administered only by the federal government. The federal level is presided over by the President.

The president appoints his ministers; and these ministers make up his cabinet.

The policies that govern the country cutting across the states to the lowest level of government are formed at the federal level.

Interesting History: List of all Nigerian presidents from 1960 till date

The State Government or State Level

The state government level of the Nigerian government structure is divided into 36 states and 1 territory. Learn more about the creation of the 36 state and capital in Nigeria

Each state has a governor that can serve for 4 years in a term. Every governor has a deputy governor to help in overseeing the affairs of the state.

The governor is the Chief pilot of the state plane, and has the power to appoint the rest of his cabin crew, which are the commissioners and advisers (unlike the federal level where they are called ministers).

The governor assigns public responsibilities to his commissioners and advisers, to help in serving the state better.

These commissioners and advisers cannot be members of the state house of assembly neither can they be members of the national assembly.

The governor, deputy governor, and commissioners make up the STATE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL.

Quick Interesting Post: The History and Impacts of Military Rule in Nigeria

The Local Government Level

The local government in Nigeria is the third and the last level of government in Nigerian government structure. It is the level of government that is closer to the people and is within the people.

Just as there is division of power in other tiers, so there is at this tier. Each state has its local government areas into which it is divided into. Each local government area is governed by a local government council.

This LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL comprises of the local government chairman, who is the C. E. O of the local government areas (a president at the local government level), and his Councillors, other elected members (like ministers too but at the local government level).

There are 774 local government areas in the Nigerian government structure, with Kano having the largest number of 44 and the smallest number of 9 belonging to Bayelsa state.

Presently, Nigeria has 774 local government councils, hence, 774 local government chairmen.

Also Read: Updated list of 20 local governments in Lagos state and their wards

Nigerian government system

Roles and Functions Of Federal Government In Nigeria

After realizing revenue from various sources, the federal government is responsible for the following basic duties:

  • Provision of amenities which include public education, affordable quality healthcare, electricity, affordable housing, good roads, and other utilities.
  • Provision of security to its citizens’ lives and properties.
  • Developing and maintaining of external relations.
  • Creation of employment opportunities, and friendly environment for businesses to grow.
  • Protection of the country from external and internal threats.
  • Generation of revenues for the country and its states.
  • Establishment of research institutes, educational institutions, health care facilities, etc.

Functions of State Government In Nigeria

States were created to achieve effective administration of resources and to serve as a closer link for the people to access the benefits of the federal government.

The functions of the state government, amongst other functions, include:

  • Protection of lives and properties of its citizens.
  • Provision of basic amenities like education, quality and affordable health care, good water, good roads, etc.
  • Creation of employment opportunities, enabling environment for businesses to thrive at any level.
  • Generation of revenues for the state.

Functions of Local Government In Nigeria

The local governments in Nigeria are not there for fancy neither are they fancy names to rake in public funds. They have the following duties to perform:

  • Registration of birth, death, and marriage certificates (take a look at your birth certificate, now you understand, right?).
  • Construction and maintenance of roads, street drains, parks, open spaces, and other public highways.
  • Establishment, maintenance, and regulation of markets, motor parks, etc.
  • Naming of roads, streets, and numbering of houses.
  • Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, and refuse disposal.
  • Control and regulation of shops, restaurants, kiosks, and other venues for sales of food.

Now, let’s talk about the arms of government in Nigeria.

Arms of Government In Nigeria and Their Functions

The arms of government can be referred to as the branches of government in Nigeria. It is divided into:

  • The Executive branch
  • The Legislative branch, and;
  • The Judiciary branch
The 3 arms of government in Nigeria
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Arms of Government In Nigeria and Their Functions

Let’s talk about each of these arms as they make the pieces of the Nigerian government structure a complete one.

The Executive Branch

The executive arm of the Nigerian government structure is responsible for the implementation and maintenance of law, among other responsibilities. It is led by the President of Nigeria.

Executive branch - nigerian government structure - president on Nigeria

The executive arm, also known as the cabinet, is divided into over 15 federal ministries. The president appoints minister to each of the federal ministries.

These federal ministries are civil service departments responsible for carrying out different types of government services.

The cabinet members include 36 ministers, each chosen from the 36 states of Nigeria by the president.

Even when there are less than 36 ministries, a minister is assisted by one or more minister of state (all in a bid to ensure the 36 states representation).

Each ministry has a permanent secretary, a senior civil servant.

Note: A ministry with a minister and one or more minister of state has only one permanent secretary. But why?

The minister of state is not a different minister on his own but instead an assistant to the minister he is attached to. The president also appoints the Chief Justice of Nigeria and his 13 associates justices.

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Legislative Arm of Government

legislative branch of government - nigerian government structure

The legislature branch of the Nigerian government structure is the law making body of the country. You may want to know about best law firms for legal services.

Nigeria operates a bicameral legislature at the federal level, and a unicameral legislature at the state level.

Let me let you in on the two.


The legislature at the federal level is called the National Assembly of Nigeria. It has two chambers: the upper chamber, and the lower chamber.

The Upper Chamber

The upper chamber, which is known as the Senate, consists of 109 members who are called senators. Every state produces 3 senators, which are elected, from their 3 senatorial districts. nigerian senate - structure of nigerian government by senate president

Lets the do the maths, we have 36 states in Nigeria, these states have 3 senatorial districts each and a senator is elected from each senatorial district, making 36 x 3 = 108 senatorial districts = 108 senators.

The 109th senator comes from the federal capital territory, as only one senator can be elected from there.

The Senate is presided over by a chairman, elected by indirect voting. The chairman is known as the senate president and he is the third in line of succession to the presidential seat.

The senate president is assisted by the deputy senate president in the guidance and regulation of the proceedings in the senate.

Also Read: Nigerian taxation and tax system explained

The Lower Chamber

The lower chamber is known as the House of Representatives. It is presided over by the speaker of the house. The speaker of the house is assisted by the deputy speaker of the house.

house-of-representative nigerian politics and nigerian government

The House of Representative is made of 360 members who are elected in single member constituencies. Unlike the Senate, the seats at the House of Representatives are not equally shared between the states.

The National Assembly serve as check on the executive arm of the government. The National Assembly is also responsible for the approval or disapproval of bills passed into the house, confirmation of appointments made by the president.


It is called the State House of Assembly. It is the legislative branch at the state level of the Nigerian government structure. The unicameral legislature is peculiar to each of the 36 states in Nigeria.

The State House of Assembly consists of representatives from all local government areas within that state. It is the law making body of the state and acts as check on the executive arm of the state.

It has similar functions as the National House of Assembly. The House of Assembly of each state consists of 3 x the total number of seats that state has in the House of Representatives.

The Judiciary Arm

The judiciary branch of the Nigerian government structure is laden with the responsibility of interpretation of the law, and ensures compliance with these laws.

Judiciary arm of government - judicial council of Nigerian system of government

It serves as check and balance on the executive and legislative branch of the Nigerian government structure.

The judiciary branch comprises of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which presides over the Federal Courts (the court of appeal, the sharia court of appeal of FCT, the federal high court, the customary court of appeal and the high court of the FCT), State Courts (the high court, the sharia court of appeal, and the customary court of appeal), and Election Tribunals.

The Supreme Court is presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and 13 associate justices. The Supreme Court is the highest court in Nigeria and its judgement or decision is final.

supreme court of nigeria - nigerian government structure - nigerian politics supreme court building

The Chief Justice of Nigeria also presides over the National Judicial Council, an executive body established by the Nigerian federal government to protect the judiciary branch from the influence of the executive branch.

The Chief Justice is appointed by the president, and cannot be removed from office except by death, retirement (at age 70), or by impeachment by the Senate.

The Chief Judge of each state is appointed by the governor of that state on the advice of the National Judicial Council and the State House of Assembly.

The System of Government Currently Practiced In Nigeria

So, what system of government is Nigeria practicing now?

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)

I think you should know that according to Wikipedia, the major cause of federalism in Nigeria is the demand for the creation of newer states in Nigeria.

This tends to emanate from sub-state groups, often ethnic- or tribal-interest groups, which accuse the current larger state governments of subverting or ignoring the interests and necessities of the more local regions.

Federalism has been present in Nigeria since the former British colony was reorganized into a federation of three regions in 1946. Regionalism was introduced to the Nigeria system by the Richards Constitution.

nigerian coat of arms

Also Read: Cost of Nigerian International passport

Nigerian Politics and Government Hierarchy of Officials

  • Leader: President
  • Main Organ: The Cabinet
  • Legislature: National Assembly
  • Seat: Abuja, FCT
  • Court: Supreme Court
  • Headquarters: Aso Rock Presidential Villa
  • Constitution: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

I’m just going to give a quick list here. The top 5 citizens of Nigeria are:

  • The First Citizen of Nigeria – The President, the commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also commander of her armed forces
  • The Second Citizen In Nigeria – This position is held by the Vice President
  • The Third Citizen In Nigeria – The senate president. He holds the third position in the leadership structure. He’s the head of the National assembly and presides over the upper chambers of the legislative arm
  • The Fourth Citizen – The speaker of the house of representative. He presides over the lower chamber of legislative arm of government and has the title Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

How Governments Raise and Spend Money

Ever wondered how governments raise and spend money?

The federal government raises funds through taxing people and businesses. The state governments receive more than half their money from federal government and also collects taxes.

Nigerian government - how governments raise and spend money

Related: Nigerian Government revenue allocation and sharing formula

Summary Notes On the Nigerian Government Structure

And that’s it. The Nigerian government structure in one piece that every Nigerian citizen should know.

The structure of Nigerian government come in a planned system; the 3 tiers of government (also known as levels of government), and the arms of government (also known as branches of government)

levels of Nigerian government structure

Also Read: The relationship between the three tiers of government in Nigeria

The federal executive arm, legislative arm and also the judiciary are the components in the Nigerian government structure that collectively work together to help achieve a flawless federal system.

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  1. Wow, very detailed, very good work. Thank you. People I’ve done 10yrs studying this, just did in 10mins

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