State(s) of Crisis: Sub-National Government in Nigeria

Nigeria generates about 20% of the total GDP on the African continent. Therefore, this country has the largest economy in Africa. With the presidential election in March 2015, the incumbent peacefully conceded defeat and transferred power to an opposition party for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999. It transfers a far greater proportion of resources to sub-national government than any other country. Yet standards of governance remain extremely low, public services are among the worst in Africa and economic growth has exacerbated inequality rather than creating jobs. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, two out of three Nigerians live in poverty. The federal system of governance in Nigeria is failing to provide the basic welfare for all citizens that the 1999 Constitution prescribes. With the first anniversary of the election victory of President Muhammadu Buhari, this Briefing Note examines the origins and purpose of the federation, state governments’ financial management and responsibilities, governors’ arbitrary power, and the need to increase internally generated state revenue. It suggests practicable reforms that could help change state governments from elected autocracies to agents of social and economic development.