Importance of separation of powers: Separation of powers is a very important political concept. It is important because it goes a long way to determine the relationship between the government and the masses in a state. Coupled with that, separation of power is apparently known as a tool used to ensure justice in the state and accountability in the activities of the government.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that Separation of powers is not the only thing that brings justice, equality and fairness in a country. Sometimes, the nature of the kind of people in a state also contribute. This is why countries that don’t actually practice Separation of Powers do very well even till today. So, the argument that Separation ensure justice and avoids abuse of power is not totally true. For me, it is partially correct but not absolute.
In this article, i will be discussing some of the importance of Separation of Powers in a state. You will agree with me that the concept of Separation of Powers has some features that makes it very important. Those importance features will be explicitly explained as we continue. But before going into that, lets quickly see what separation is all about.
Definition of Separation of Powers
Separation of powers is a political concept which postulates that government powers and functions should be shared between the organs of government. I.e the Executive, Legislature and the judiciary.
In a more general sense, Wikipedia defined Separation of powers as a model for the governance of a state. Under this model, a state’s government is divided into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities so that powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches.
It is essential to let you know that the idea of Separation of powers was propounded by Montesquieu in his book, “The Spirit of the Laws (1748)”. Here, Montesquieu stated that in other to avoid dictatorship and abuse of government power, it is important to divide the functions and responsibilities of the government and give those responsibilities to different people so that one man will not have total control over a state.
It has also be argued, however, that a strict Separation of powers is not feasible in any nation. For the principle of Separation of powers to work, there must be some sought of interference in the activities of the Organs of government.
For instance, in Nigeria, the legislature is Constitutional obligated to make every law that govern the country. However, when it comes to making laws governing court proceedings, the legislature cannot make such laws because they are not vast in that area. Thus, the judiciary still makes laws on court proceedings even though they are not Constitutional allowed to make laws in general.
This is apparently an inevitable interference in the functions of the legislature and that is why it is said that a strict application of the concept of Separation of powers is not possible in any nation. Now that you know what Separation of powers is all about, I will now list and explain some of the importance of Separation of powers.
Importance of Separation of powers
Below are some of the benefits of separation of powers in government:
1. Decentralization of Power:
One great importance of Separation of power is the decentralization of the powers of government which is clearly seen in the political system. There are a lot of benefits of decentralization of government control. These include; effective monitoring of the system by each of the division organs of government. It also avoids misuse of power by one person or organ.
To corroborate this, Learned Justice Oputa (A Nigerian Supreme Court Judge), stated in his book “Independence of judiciary in a democratic society” that the concept of separation of power arose from the need to ensure the restraint of governmental power, by dividing that power without carrying that division to an extreme. It is in fact the check and balances that explain the overlapping among three organs of government in actual practice.
This dictum clearly explains why Separation of powers is very essential in a state. The division of government powers brings about check and balances in government activities. This means that the organs of government will be checking on the activities of each other, and by doing this, accountability is ensure too.
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2. Prevention of arbitrary use of powers:
Another importance of the concept of separation of powers is that it prevents arbitrary use of powers. Where absolute power is conferred on one body it is bound to be misused, and that is what separation of powers is meant to stop. Separation of powers ensure that government powers are not concentrated in the hands of a single central authority. This has been supported by the dictum of Chief Justice Taft.
According to Chief Justice Taft in Hampton v United States (1928) 276 US 394, it is breach of the National fundamental law if congress gives up its legislative power and transfer it to the president or to the judicial branches or if by law attempts to invest itself or its members with either executive power or judicial powers.
No doubt, this is one of the importance of separation of powers in US, Nigeria, Malaysia, Kenya, Australia Zimbabwe Zambia, South africa, India and even Ghana. All these countries have been able to prevent arbitrary use of powers through the concept of Separation of powers.
3. Creating a harmonious working relationship:
Separation of powers also create a harmonious working relationship among the organs of the government. When each unit and subunits of all the organs of the governments are aware of their role and duties, there is bound to be respect for each unit’s duties and role, and this will create a good working condition among workers, administrators, civil servants etc.
With regards to this, a legal luminary, Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi said that those who invented the rule believed that the national polity could only attain order and peace through furtherance of the ideals of social justice, an integrated part of which in the non-interference in the structure of the resolution of disputes otherwise the alternative is the pressure Coker friction; deep disrupt, constant instability with periodic chaos and violence.
To obviate divisive tendencies, they advise in their wisdom that those who make laws for societies must be distinct from those laws and each of the two (Makers and executors of law) must be different from those who interpret the laws or adjudicate on them.
Hence in the modern constitutional parlance every civilized society must be governed by lawmakers who are styled legislators to make laws, the executors to carry out those laws and the judiciary to adjudicate on those laws and the judiciary to carry out those laws and the judiciary to adjudicate on some of its imperfections, the rule of law is the only part yet designed by man for political sanity in any nation.
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4. Protection of the Judicial Independent:
One great importance of separation of powers is not only the division of government powers amongst the organs but the protecting and preserving of the judiciary by making sure that neither the legislature nor executive takes away the powers, and the exercise of legislatives powers in particular is subject to control by judiciary.
Section 4(8) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria restates this protection by providing thus:
Save as otherwise provided by this constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of court of law and of judicial tribunals established by law and of judicial tribunal established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that oust or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law.
Accordingly, the US Constitution in Article III protects the office of the Judiciary for life as long as the judicial officer is of good behavior.
The foregoing provisions indicates that the courts of law are independent, protected and preserved under Separation of powers. It is important that the Judiciary is protected by the law because the judiciary is known as the last hope of the common man.
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5. Protection of liberty:
The only mechanism that can protect the liberty and rights of citizens, more especially the minority in the country is when powers to govern are not concentrated in the hands of one person, otherwise the powers will be corrupted absolutely. This is apparently one of the key importance of Separation of Powers.
The idea of Separation of powers into different organs solves the problem of concentration of government powers and protects the liberty of citizens. In “the spirit of the law” Montesquieu said that the secret of civil liberty lays in the separation of these powers in the reserving of each type of power to different person or body of persons.
The result of not separating government powers is the absence liberty. Men will always push what powers they have to the limit and if those who make the laws also enforce them, they can tyranise their fellow men. The result will be the same where either the executive and the judicial or the legislature and the judiciary powers are joined in the hands of the same person.
6. Enhancement of effective government:
Lastly, Separation of Powers enhances and create viable and effective government by administrators. Since the functions and responsibilities of the government has been divided, each of the organs are faced with lesser and more specific responsibilities to attend to. Thus, there will obviously be effectiveness in government activities generally, and where there is an unnecessary interference in the activities of any of the organs of government, the law will come in to put a stop to that.
In support of the above proposition, Justice Nnamani of the Supreme Court of Nigeria commented in the case of Governor of Kaduna state and 2 others v Lawal Kagoma. In this case, the plaintiff who was a supervisory councilor challenged the powers of the Governor of Kaduna state to appoint a commission of Inquiry into the affairs of Kaduna Local Government Council and argued that the inquiry could only be setup by the state executive council, and not by the Governor.
The matter was dismissed at the High Court. At the Supreme Court, the court allowed the appeal and held that the Commissioners and special advisers are mere advisers who assist the Governor. The court looked into the matter and declared the actions of the governor null and void.
From the points raised in this article so far, there is no doubt that the principle of Separation of powers is still yielding many positive developments in countries that practice it. For instance, it helps in strengthening laws made by the legislature and consolidating the power of the judiciary to declare as null any void any law made contrary to the constitution. Perhaps one important thing is that, if these powers were vested in one person or organ there would be an end to everything.
Hope this article was helpful? I believe you now know the importance of Separation of powers in a state. If you still have any question concerning this Important political concept, kindly send it using the comment section. I will be happy to help you out!
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ChMC, 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.