Government: Meaning, Arms, Symbols Of Authority And Functions

Table Of Contents

1. The Meaning Of Government
2. Arms Of Government
3. Symbols Of Authority Of The Different Arms Of Government
4. Functions And Powers Of The Legislature
5. Functions Of The Executive Arm Of Government
6. Functions And Powers Of The Judiciary
7. The Need For Checks And Balances Of Power In Government
8. The Doctrine Of Separation Of Powers
9. Reasons For Separation Of Powers.

The Meaning Of Government

Government is a mechinery of the state sert up to formulate, express and attain the will of the state. It is that body of persons which gives direction and meaning of life in society, in which human beings behave in various ways. Governmnet arises from the need to co-ordinate the affairs of men, so that they don’t upset docorum and good life. It is a body of peresons empowered to regulate and control public affairs in the interest of the entire citizens. Goverenment is set up to guarantee good life and the development of society.

Government can thus be defined, as a body vested with authorityt and power to make and enforce laws, and to settle disputes arising from such laws, for the good of society.

As an academic subject, government is concerned with the study of the agencies and institutions of the sate, their functions, power reletions and dynamics.

The needs for government is necessitated by the nature of man. It is created to;

i. Check and control the excesses of man.

ii. Reduce and control tension and conflicts in the affairs of man.

iii. Protect the weak from the mighty and

iv. Ensure the welfare of the people.

Arms Of Government:

There are three arms of government.

(i) the executive arm.

(ii) the legislative arm.

(iii) the judicial arm.

Symbols Of Authority Of The Different Arms Of Government

1. Executive Arm:

The symbol of authority of the executive arm government is the Coat of Arms. The Coat Of Arms has been treated in this chapter in a greater detail. It is placed on government properties like buildings. It conntes the authority of government.

2. The Legislature:

The symbol of authority of the legislature is the mace. This has also been treated in this chapter. The mace confers authority and legality to all acts and decisions of the parliament or legislature. All decisions and actions of the legislature must be taken in the presence of the mace. Unless this is done such actions shall be null and void and of no effect. Both the mace and the coat of arms are national symbols.

3. The judiciary:

the symbol of the judiciary is justice and is depicted in this drawing showing a lady holding a balance which symbolizes justice. This symbol is described in latin thus, ubi jus-ubi remedum which means where there is a wrong, there is a right.

Functions And Power Of Legislature

The legislature is the organ of government in a drmocrative sate vested with powers that the rule of law is maintained and upheld by those in authority.

It has power and performs funtions that stabilize the state. It’s power and functions can be explained as follows:

1. Representative Of The People:

The legislature is composed of mambers who are elcted by the people to speak for the people and represent thair intrerest in the affairs of the nation or sate. Therefore the legislature must protect the interest of the people by ensuring that all laws actuons and decisions are in the best interest of those who elected who elected them and who they represent.

2. Law Making:

Law making is the main business of the legislature. The legislature makes law for the good governance of the state, so that the welfare of the citizens are served, and the over all development of the nation is guaranted.

3. Control Of The Executive:

The legislature controls the actions of the executive organ of government through its supervisory powers over the function and conduct of members of the executives.

This supervisory function of the legislature is known as the Oversight Function. By this function, the legislature ensures that government policies and programmes are carried out diligently and in line with due process and the law. By this, it ensures that government contracts are executed in line with the terms of award.

4. Control Of Public Expenditure:

The legislature is responsible for budget consideration and approval. In the process, the legislature can vet budget, agree or disagree with budget proposals. When finally approved, the legislature monitors budget implementation to ensure that ; expenditures are made in line with approvals, that the executive does not deviate from budget paln and that budget is not under implemented.

5. Control Of Executive Appointments:

Certain key appointments by the executive must secure legislative approval. Such apppointments are those of: Ambassadors, Ministers, Commissioners, Chairmen and members of strategic Boards. Commissions, Parastatals and Agencies of government. The legislature screens the nominees to such appointments to ensure that they are qualified for the positions and that the pricniple of the federal. Character is observed in the such appointments.

6. Power Of Probe:

As part of its oversight function the legislature has power toaudit and probe any government ministry, commission or agency as it deems necessary. Examples of such probes by the National Assembly were:

i. The Power Probe, 2010
ii.The Capital Market Probe, 2012
iii. The Oil Subsidy Probe, 2012
iv. The Pension Scam Probe, 2012.

Such probes are meant to track leakages, misconducts, incompetence, abuse of office, graft and corruption by public officers, so as to instill discipline, probity and accountability and enhance productivity and efficiency in public service.

7. Amendment Of The Constitution:

The legislature has power to amend the constitution of the country, to bring it in line with current realities. By this function, the legislature reflects and upholds the wished and aspirations of the people. This function helps to douse tensions, misgivings and correct perceived imbalances in the polity. It was in pursuance of this objective that the National Assembly proclaimed the Doctrine Of Necessity, which ensured a smooth transition of Goodluck Jonathan from the post of Acting President, to president, following the death in officer, of president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010.

8. Impeachment Of The Executive:

The legislature has power of impeachment of the executive. Impeachment is the removal of a political office holder or elected leaders, from office, for acts of serious misconducts. The following elected officers can be impeached for offences against the constitution; the president/Vice President, the Governor Deputy Governor, Deputy Governor, The senate president, Deputy Senate President, the speaker/Deputy speaker, Chairman of the local Government, Deputy Chairman of the Local government. However, the power to impeach could be abused as was done during the 4th Republic when some Governors and speakers of legislatures were impeached for mere political and other spurious reasons.

Examples of elected leaders who were impeached:

i. D.S.P Alamesia (Bayelsa)
ii. Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra State)
iii. Barr Chinwoke Mbadinju (Anambra State)
iv. Chief Ayo Fayose ( Ekiti State).

9. Voice Of The People:

The legislature provides a platform for the people to express their opinion through their elected representatives. The activities and decisions of the legislature reflect the will of the people.

10. Approval Of International Treaties:

The legislature approves treaties between Nigeria and foreign countries. This also includes international conventions and resolution of boundary disputes between Nigeria and other nations, as was the case between Nigeria and Cameron in the disputed Bakassi region.

The Executive:

The executive is the organ of government concerned with the implementation of government policies and programmes in line with the laws made by the legislature. In a democracy, the executive must be subject to the constitution and the principles of rule of law.

In Nigeria, the executive arm of government comprises:
Federal Level; the president and his executive council( cabinet) which includes, Vice President, Ministers, Advisers, Secretary to the Government, Permanent Secretaries, civil and public servants and other political office holders appointed by the president.

At the state level, the executive comprises; the Governor, Deputy governor, Commissioners. Advisers, Permanent Secretaries. Chairman and members of the Board, Civil and public servants and political office holders appointed by the Governor.

Functions Of The Executive Arm Of Government

1. Execution Of Laws:

The executive implements laws which results in good governance of the nation.

2. Maintenance Of Law And Order:

The executive ensures that law and order are maintained in the state through the enforcement agencies like the police, the Law Courts, Customs And Control Standards Organization of Nigeria. Consumers Protection Council, the prisons etc.

3. Security:

The executive should provide security of lives and property of citizens and guarantee security against external aggression and forces of disunity of the nation.

4. Provision Of Welfare Services:

The executive provides infrastructural facilities and social amenities like good roads, water, electricity (power) hospitals and education.

These are necessary for the welfare and happiness of citizens. Related to this is the provision of employment opportunities for the citizens. This includes the provision of an enabling environment for citizens to actualize their talents and potentials.

5. Policy Formulation:

The executive formulates policies for the good governance of the state. Such policies must be people oriented and for public good.

6. Formulation Of Budgets:

Budgets are expenditure plans or proposals during a period, usually one year. The executive prepares budget proposals for legislative approval. When approved the budget becomes guideline for executive action in providing development projects- capital projects and recurrent expenditures. Capital projects are infrastructural projects like roads, electricity, water schemes, industrial complexes, erosion control, building of dams and irrigation projects etc.

Recurrent expenditures are those expenditures on salaries and wages, human capacity building or training, maintenance and overhead expenditures of government offices.

7. Appointments:

The executive appoints key government officials like, ministers, ambassadors, heads and members of boards and commissions and chief executives of para-status, heads of institution of higher learning like, provosts, Rectors, Vice Chancellors, Chancellors of Universities etc. Such appointment however must be ratified and approved by the legislature.

8. The executive initiates bills which are sent to the legislature for approval. Such bills when passed, are given assent by the executive before they become laws.

9. Regulations Of Foreign Trade:

The executive regulates foreign trade ( import and export activities) which is crucial to the economic growth and stability of the nation.

10. Monetary Policy:

The executive regulates the economy through its control and regulation of the monetary policy of the nation.
It must protect the economy from collapse by formulating appropriate economic policies. This is the responsibility of the Central Bank Of Nigeria.

The Judiciary:

It is the arm of government that interprets and applies the law when they are broken or when there is doubt or dispute about its intention.

The judiciary adjudicates in disputes arising between the legislature and the executive, between private citizens and government or among organizations. The judiciary is regarded as the watch dog of the society and indeed, the last hope of the common man. The judiciary is expected to interpret and administer the law impartially.

The judiciary in Nigeria is made up of:

i. The Supreme Court
ii. The Appeal Court
iii. The High Court
iv. The sharia Court
v. The mahlgistrate Court
vi. The Customary Court
vii. Administrative Courts and Tribunals
viii. Industrial Court

Functions And Powers Of The Judiciary

1. Interpretation Of Laws:
This is the main function of the judiciary

2. Settlement Of Disputes:

It settles disputes between the legislative and executive arms of government, among citizens, between citizens and government and between organisations.

3. Punishment Of Offenders Of The Law:

It ensures obedience to the law and punishes those who break the law.

4. Protection Of The Right Of Citizens:

It protects the rights of the citizens and protects the weak from the mighty and adjudicates disputes without fear or favour.

5. It guards against the violation of the country’s constitution hence it puts in check the arbitrary actions of the executive or the legislature.

6. It provides judicial advice to the government as the Attorney General of the federation is the chief law officer of the nation.

7. Election Tribunals:

It presides over elections and to determine the fairness or otherwise of elections and to ensure justice.

The Need For Checks And Balances Of Power In Government

The allure (charm) of power is so strong that deliberate checks and balances must be provided to prevent those who exercise power from tyranny and oppression of the ruled. This is important to forestall abuse of power and curtail the excesses of our rulers. Pursuant to this objective, the doctrine of separation of powers was propounded.

The doctrine of separation of powers

This doctrine was propounded by montesquieu, a French political thinker in 1748. The doctrine seeks to ensure that the power of government are not controlled by one person or body of persons. The reason for this is that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

It is hence dangerous to concentrate the powers of government in one single individual or body. For this reason, the doctrine of separation of power seeks to decentralize and balance power among the three arms of government, (the executive legislature and the judiciary) to prevent dictatorship or oppression or tyranny in the exercise of powers of government.

Reasons For Separation Of Powers are

1. To maintain the rights, liberty and freedom of citizens, so the those in authority would not infringe on them.

2. To avoid confusion, disorder and anarchy in the exercise of government power. The three arms are on their powers and limitations.

3. The encourage division of labour and achieve specialization in administration. Each arm specializes and perfects itself in its area of control.

4. To achieve checks and balances in the exercise of power, because each arm where the buck stops.

5. To ensure judicious application of the resources of government and guarantee accountability by public office holders.

6. To enhance respect for the rule of law by the three organs of government.

7. To enhance administrative efficiency and check abuses by public officials.

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