Government is one of the subjects in social sciences that has so many definitions. Nwankwo (In 2002) described ‘government’ as the people and the groups within a society with the authority to make, carry out, and enforce laws and to manage disputes between them. For more understanding of the term government, it can be defined under the following three approaches:
1. Government as an institution of the state.
2. Government as an academic field of study.
3. Government as a process or art of governing.
The first approach defines government as an institution of the state. By this government means a body of persons, institutions or agencies that makes and enforces law in a given state. The word “institution” in the above definition refers to the organs of government namely: Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. The legislature makes law, the executive implements the law while the judiciary interprets the law.
The second approach defines government as an academic field of study called political science which is the study of how to acquire, consolidate and use, state power to attain individual and social goals. Government as an academic field of study has the following branches:
a. Public Administration
b. Political Thought
c. Local Government
d. Government as a teaching subject
e. International relations
f. Comparative politics
The third approach defines government as a process or art of governing. In other words, the process of administering and implementing laid down rules and regulations in government ministries and parastatal. It is through government or its agencies that rules and regulations are made, carried out and enforced for the good governance of a state. Government can also be seen as the study of how people are organized and government, as well as the study of how people are organized and governed, as well as the study of the political behavior of people within a state.
Government may also be defined as a body of people and institutions that make and execute the laws of a state, make and implement its policies, conduct its public affairs and maintain law and order within its territory.
The Functions Of Government
The functions of a government may be defined as those activities which a government may from time to time, commit its resources.
These activities may differ in range and in scope. There are however, three main types of functions which a government may engage in. They consist of:
1. Essential Functions
These are those functions which are absolutely essential for the constituted existence of the state and political system. These functions include:
1. The maintenance of people, order and stability throughout the state.
2. The protection of the state against foreign invasion or domestic violences.
3. The protection of life and property of individuals within the territory of the state.
4. The conduct of foreign relations with other states and international organization.
5. The enactment of laws and decrees.
2. Service Functions
These are the activities which a government may undertake for the promotion of individual welfare and other purposes of the state. Among these are:
1. The provision of essential services such as roads, pipe-borne water and electricity.
2. The provision of education, public parks and recreation centres.
3. The maintenance of hospitals and other aspects of public health such as sanitation, maternity and child welfare clinics.
4. The provision of housing facilities such as low cost housing.
3. Commercial Activities
These include those areas of activities which may be carried out for profit by government agencies such as railways, telecommunications, radio and television stations, airways, shipping lines etc. Government may engage in these activities for the following reasons:
1. To cater for the common interest of the citizenry by providing resources to achieve goals which neither individuals nor private corporations can profitably achieve, for example, postal services.
2. Sometimes national interest such as national defence or the protection of the common interest of the populace may be motivating factor for government ownership of certain activities such as radio and television stations which may be better run by the private sector. In the case of radio and television stations, the interest of the government in disseminating information to the people may overweigh every other consideration. These activities are called commercial activities because the government usually charges nominal fees to cover operating cost.