Virtual Kollage: The features of a Federal system of Government

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The features of a Federal system of Government

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A FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
Definition
A federal system of government is a system in which the powers of government are constitutionally shared between the central government and regional units in such a way that each level of government is independent and autonomous. 
Countries with a federal system of government include the United States of America, Nigeria, Canada, Malaysia, Australia and Germany.

HOW A FEDERATION IS FORMED
A big country is divided into smaller units
A country can be divided into different smaller units to form a federal state. Usually, that country is very big geographically and by population. An example of this type of federation is Nigeria.

Independent states coming together
A federation can also be formed by previously independent entities coming together. An example is the former colonies of the United States of America. 
FEATURES OF A FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
Supremacy of the Constitution
In a federation, the constitution is supreme. The final authority lies in the constitution. Each of the two levels of government can exercise their powers only as determined by the constitution.

Division of powers
The powers of both the central and the component government are divided formally by the constitution and each level of government is given particular roles to play.

Written Constitution
Usually, a federal system of government operates under a written constitution. The constitution is usually rigid. This way, the entrenched clauses cannot be easily amended, it will require the consent of both the central government and the government of the component units before it can be amended.

Bicameral Legislature
There is usually an existence of a bicameral legislature in a federation. This ensures that the second chamber could give equal representation to the units to bring equality. It is also to slow down the making of hasty decisions.

Secession is denied
In a federation, the right of secession is generally denied. Once component states come together to form a unified state, the federal constitution does not allow the units to break away any more.

METHODS OF ALLOCATING POWERS IN A FEDERATION
Exclusive Powers
This method specifies a number of functions to be exclusively performed by either the central government or the unit governments. For example health, education etc. are usually exclusive to the units whilst defense, currency control, immigration, emigration, national budget and foreign affairs are exclusive to the central government.

Concurrent Powers
With this method, both the centre and the component units are expected to compromise on certain defined areas of activity to ensure uniformity and smoothness in the administration of the federal state. In other words, both the centre and the units have power to control. This area may include internal security, internal trade and tariffs.

Residual Powers
These areas are often not clearly defined in the constitution of the federal state. In a number of federal constitutions, such powers could be allocated to either the centre or the units, but usually it is allocated to the regional units.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
1. a. Explain the term Federation.[ 2 marks]
    b. Highlight five features of a federal system of government. [10 marks]
2. Highlight six features of a federal system of government.
3. Define a federal system of government and show powers are shared between the central government and the component units. [12 marks]
4. a. Explain the concurrent functions in a federation. [2 marks]
    b. Outline five features of a federation. [10 marks]
5. a. Explain the residual functions in a federation. [2 marks]
    b. Outline five features of a federation. [10 marks]

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