Niger is divided into 7 Regions (French: régions; singular – région). Each department's capital is the same as its name.
The Regions are subdivided into Departments and communes. As of 2005, there were 36 départements, divided into 265 communes, 122 cantons and 81 groupements. The latter two categories cover all areas not covered by Urban Communes (population over 10000) or Rural Communes (population under 10000), and are governed by the Department, whereas Communes have (since 1999) elected councils and mayors. Additional semi-autonomous sub-divisions include Sultanates, Provinces and Tributaries (tribus). The Nigerien government estimates there are an additional 17000 Villages administered by Rural Communes, while there are a number of Quartiers (boroughs or neighborhoods) administered by Urban Communes.
Prior to the devolution program on 1999-2006, these Regions were styled Departments. Confusingly, the next level down (Arrondissements) were renamed Departments.]
Prior to independence, Niger was divided into sixteen Cercles as second level administration divisions: Agadez, Birni N'Konni, Dogondoutchi, Dosso, Filingué, Gouré, Madaoua, Magaria, Maradi, N'Guigmi, Niamey, Tahoua, Téra, Tessaoua, Tillabéry, and Zinder. Their capitals had the same names as the cercle.
After independence, the 31 December 1961 Law of territorial organization created 31 circonscriptions. The 16 colonial cercles continued to exist, and served as a level of division above these circonscriptions. Four cercles (Dogondoutchi, Filingué, N'Guigmi, and Téra) had only one circonscription. The Law of August 14, 1964 then reorganized the country into seven departments, adopting the French second level administration naming system, in contrast to neighbor Mali, which retained the colonial Cercles and Regions.