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The Role of State Government in Nigeria

A state can be defined as a people permanently occupying a fixed territory bound together by common habits and custom into one political body. In Nigeria, states enjoy a level of sovereignty, but this sovereignty is within the constraints of the Federal Government as provided for by the constitution.

Each state in Nigeria has its own capital city and it is governed by an elected official known as a governor who serves a maximum of two 4 year tenures (maximum of 8 years). Just like the federal government, the state government has its executive, legislative and judicial arms.

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Nigeria currently has a total of 36 states. This has not always been the case though. After independence, Nigeria was split into three regions for administrative convenience. Between 1960 and 1963, Nigeria had three regions; Northern, Western and Eastern.

See Role of FRSC in Nigeria

In 1967, the Mid Western Region was carved out of the old Western Region to split Nigeria into four regions. This lasted till 1976 when the military government created the following states.

  • Old Northern Region

North Eastern State

North Western State




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Benue – Plateau

  • Old Western Region


Western State

  • Old Eastern State

East Central State

Cross River


The Mid Western Region was not divided. Instead it was renamed Bendel State. This round of state creation brought the total number of states in Nigeria to 12.

The 12 states remained up until 1987 when the North Western states was divided into Sokoto and Niger, North Eastern State was divided into Borno , Gongola and Bauchi, Benue – Plateau was separated into Benue and Plateau States.

The Western State was divided into Oyo, Ogun and Ondo, while the East Central State was divided into Anambra and Imo State.

In 1991, Abuja, the current Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was carved out from Niger State, Katsina was also carved out of Kaduna State and Akwa Ibom carved out from Cross River State.

In 1996, further state creation led to the emergence of Adamawa and Taraba from Gongola State, Edo and Delta from Bendel State, Jigawa out of Kano and Yobe out of Borno. Kebbi and Osun states were created from Sokoto and Oyo respectively. This phase of state creation also saw the emergence of Enugu and Kogi states.

The final phase of state creation which brought the total number of states to 36 was done in 1998 by General Sani Abacha led military administration. The administration created Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Gombe and Ekiti states.

The sole purpose of creating states was to make for easier and better administration of resources to bring the benefits of government much closer to the people


  • Security of Lives and Properties

The primary role of government at all levels is the security of lives and properties of the citizens. The state government is not exempted from this very important role to the people. The government is expected to use the tax payer’s money to fund the various security agencies in order to assist them in carrying out their statutory duties.

To further assist the state government with this function, all governors are allocated funds termed “security votes” which are not subject to any bureaucratic procedures. Some state governors have been known to donate equipment such as vehicles, surveillance gadgets, as well as arms and ammunitions to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in carrying out their task of securing lives and properties.

  • Provision of Basic Amenities

The state government has the responsibility to provide amenities such as good roads and portable drinking water for the people. Although amenities like electricity are the sole responsibility of the federal government, the state government can also complement the efforts of government at the federal level to provide these amenities by embarking on rural electrification projects. Some state governments have been known to purchase transformers, electric poles and cables in order to assist the distribution companies to extend electricity supply to the people.

  • Creating Environment for Businesses to Thrive

Another very important role that is played by state governments is the creation of good and friendly business environment that will encourage small, medium and large scale business to flourish. Some state governments have been known to give loans and tax holidays to small and medium entrepreneurs as well as large scale investors. Provision of security, basic amenities and other infrastructures also encourages businesses. These thriving business will in turn create employment opportunities within the state.

  • Establishment of Educational Institutions

The state government also establishes educational institutions such as primary schools, secondary schools, technical schools and tertiary institutions like colleges of education, polytechnics and universities. Apart from improving the level of education available in these states, these institutions also help to create employment.

  • Establishment of Health Care Facilities

The task of providing quality and affordable healthcare for the people is one which is of utmost importance to any responsible state government. The state government use the material and human resources in their disposal to build, equip and run hospitals where people can get good quality healthcare at an affordable cost.

  • Generation of Revenue

State governments have the responsibility of generating revenue from within their territory. In Nigeria, federal allocations are normally given to state governments on a monthly basis. The reality is that these allocations are hardly enough to meet the immediate needs of the state. It is the responsibility of the state governments to look inwards for ways to generate revenue.

This roles listed above are by no means representative of the entire roles to be played by the state governments in Nigeria. These are just the most basic roles that they play in the everyday life of the average citizen.

In all honesty, a critical look at the roles to be played by state governments shows that successive governments have largely failed in performing the duties for which they have been instituted.

Today, we have private individuals providing for most of their personal security and basic amenities. Businesses are being stifled by difficult operating environment and aggressive tax schemes, government health and educational institutions are mostly in deplorable states.

I am pretty sure that it is the utmost wish of patriotic Nigerians that the state governments step up to the plate and deliver on the purpose why they were instituted.

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Ikponmwosa Aikhionbare

Ikponmwosa Aikhionbare is a Content Developer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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