The three Arms of Government and Their Functions: Government may be defined as an institution of the state that is primarily concerned with governance and the general well-being of the people within it’s governance. Government cannot function properly unless there exist some structure and organs. Most independent states adopt a structure involving the government existing through different arms and at different levels.
This article gives a succinct analysis of the different arms of the government, the functions they perform and how they operate in the real sense. There are three (3) arms of government involving the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. The powers, functions and general procedures to be adopted by these arms of government are prescribed by the grundnorm operational within a state – The Constitution. These arms perform different responsibilities are aimed at ensuring that governance is attained at a level that is mostly beneficial to the people.
Table of Content
The Three Arms of Government
1. The Legislature: This is the arm of government which is primarily concerned with the law making process within the states. The Legislature ensures that laws are made and reviewed from time to time to ensure that the state is governed in a manner that will ensure respect of law and order within the society. The Legislature also ensures that laws which require amendments and review to bring them in line with prevalent circumstances are constantly reviewed. Also, the legislature controls the finances of the states.
They ensure that the budget of the state is passed as at when due and that money is available to finance the budget. General oversight and check on the other arms of the government is usually carried out by the legislature. This may include the doing of acts like voting on major appointments and approving these appointments into other arms of government, and occasional review of the activities of the other arms.
The Legislature of a state may be unicameral or bicameral. A unicameral Legislature is one that is made up of a single house. There are no tiers to this type of legislature. On the other hand, a bicameral Legislature is one that is made up of two tiers or levels-Senate and House of Representatives. Members of the legislature are usually appointed by the citizens through elections after the state has been delineated into different constituencies.
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Functions of the Legislature
a. Law making: This is the primary responsibility of this arm of government. It ensures that laws are made as at when due, with due regards being given to the Constitution on the law making process.
b. Amendments and Reviews of Laws: Laws are made to regulate the activities of people within the state. People are however constantly changing, so the law must also be in constant flux if it is to be effective. The Legislature makes sure of this by constantly amending and reviewing laws when necessary.
c. Checks on the other arms of government: The legislature also carries out checks on the other arms of government. This is to ensure that the other arms of government work in accordance with the guiding laws and rules and for the benefit of the people.
The Legislature therefore carries out activities like voting on the budget prepared by the executive arm, reviewing ministerial appointments made by the executive arm, reviewing judicial appointments made by the Judiciary among other functions.
d. Deliberative Functions: As the law making arm of the government the legislature has the function to deliberate on any matter or law before it comes into effect in the country. Take for instance, before a bill is passed into law in Nigeria, the legislature must deliberate on the effects of that bill very thoroughly.
This function is very important because when matters are not properly deliberated on before they come into effect, the citizens will suffer more.
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2. The Executive: This arm of government is concerned primarily with the administration of the state. It ensures that the laws made by the legislature are properly executed by its members. The executive arm is headed by the President of the state. It is made up of the Police, Arm Forces and different ministries and parastatals. This arm wields the greatest power within the government because of the role it plays in governance.
The head of this arm is usually elected by the electorates. When the head gets into power, it makes appointments for the different ministries and parastatals and build a cabinet. The President is the head of the Armed Forces. This arm of government carries on ceremonial functions as well in representation of the state.
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Functions of the Executive Arm
a. Implementation of Laws: After laws have been made in a state, these laws must be implemented if they are to have any purpose. The executive is concerned with this function. It ensures that the laws are obeyed and that order is maintained in the society.
b. Diplomatic Relations: It is true that no country is an island of its own. This means that good relations must be established between independent states. These relationships become useful in trade, politics and issues of general concern to these states. It is the duty of the executive to build and maintain good relationships between the State and other independent states. This is a very important function.
c. Checks on other arms of government: The executive also carries out checks on other arms of government. The laws made by the legislature do not become laws until they have been assented to by the head of the executive arm, similarly, the President has the power to make some judicial appointments. All of these serves as ways to ensure that the executive carries on checks on the other arms of government.
d. Appointment-making: Aside from executing laws and policies made by the legislature, the executive organ of government also has the power to appoint ministers for the different sectors of the country. In Nigeria, persons who are appointed by the executive (that is, the president or governor) must be approved by the legislature first.
e. Treaty-making: Apparently, the executive arm of government is also responsible for making Treaties that concerns the country. In signing international treaties into a domestic law, the executive play a very important role.
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3. The Judiciary: This arm of government is concerned chiefly with the interpretation of laws within the state. Laws after they are made may not be very clearly understood, so when disputes arise with respect to these laws, the Judiciary arm of government ensures the interpretation of the law and resolution of these disputes. The Chief Justice is the head of this arm and is supported by other judicial officers who act in their respective capacities as either justices or judges.
This arm of government serve as the custodian of the grundnorm- Constitution. It ensures that it’s provisions are respected to the letter. The Judiciary is made up of different courts with different jurisdictions and hierarchy ranging from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal, to the High Courts.
Functions of the Judiciary arm of government
a. Interpretation of Laws: Whenever the need arises, this arm of government ensures that the laws which have been made by the Legislature are given their right interpretation and implemented fully. This function is not carried out by this arm whenever it wishes, but only when it is called upon to do so by disputants.
b. Settlement of Disputes: The presence of disputes is an integral part of the lives of humans. So it is only natural that disputes are bound to arise from business relationships, domestic relations and even professional relationships. When they arise, the Judiciary is the arm of government which ensures that they are settled amicably.
c. Checks on the other arm of government: In a bid to ensure that no arm of government is given excessive and uncontrolled power, the Constitution provides for checks and balances for the different arms of government. The Judiciary among is not left out. It has the power to review the actions of both the legislature and executive through judicial review and can at the end of the review, declare the said actions legal or void.
In conclusion, we have comprehensive discussed the three organs of the government and their various functions. Hope this article was helpful? If you still have any question or contribution concerning the functions of the 3 arms of government kindly send them to me via the comment section. I will be glad to put you through.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.