There are three arms of government namely, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
A. THE LEGISLATURE
This is the arm of government that is assigned the function of law making. The legislature is given different names in different countries e.g. National or State Assembly in Nigeria, Parliament in Britain, Congress in United States.
The National Assembly in Nigeria comprises of Senate with 109 members and House of Representatives with 360 members. The Senate being the upper house is headed by a senate president while the House of Representative (the lower house) is headed by a speaker.
The symbols of authority for the legislative arm of government are the MACE and the GAVEL.
TYPES OF LEGISLATURE
There are two types of legislature.
1) UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE: This refers to a situation in a country where there is only one legislative house or body that makes law. Countries like Kenya, Ghana have once adopted unicameral legislature. Hence, it is more suitable for a country with small population. Composition is based on population.
ADVANTAGES OF UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
i) It is democratically constituted, this is because it reflects the distribution of people in the country.
ii) It is cheaper to run.
iii) It gives room for faster process of law making.
iv) The squabbles in the bicameral legislature as to which house is upper or lower is avoided.
DISADVANTAGES OF UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
i) It does not allow bills to be properly debated before they are passed.
ii) The executive arm can easily pocket unicameral legislature.
iii) It does not make for adequate representation in a country of large population.
iv) It makes room for the emergence of dictatorial leaders.
2) BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE: This is the type of legislature with two legislative houses or bodies. One is called the lower house and the second is the upper house or upper chamber. This type of legislative is adopted in countries like Nigeria, Britain, USA, Australia, Canada etc.
ADVANTAGES OF BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
i) Bicameral legislature allow bills to be properly debated before they are passed.
ii) It makes for adequate representation of the people in a country.
iii) The error committed in the first chamber can be corrected in the second chamber.
iv) The second chamber checks and prevents hasty and ill-considered passage of bills.
v) The interest of the minority groups are protected with bicameral legislature.
vi) It is difficult for the executive arm of government to dominate the two chambers.
vii) The second chamber reduces the work load of the upper house.
DISADVANTAGES OF BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
i) Bicameralism is expensive to run.
ii) It causes serious delay in the process of law making.
iii) It encourages duplication of functions since they perform the same functions.
iv) It leads to unnecessary rivalry as to which of the house is superior to the other.
v) It is not the best in the time of emergency for passage of bills.
FUNCTIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE
i) Making of laws that direct and guide the affairs of the nation and guarantee peace and progress of a country.
ii) Amendment of the constitution. To amend the constitution of the country whenever it is deemed necessary.
iii) To avoid misrule, the legislature is empowered to check and control the executive arm.
iv) Control of public expenditure: The legislative arm of government controls and approves the proposed financial expenditure of the executive arm.
v) Approval of appointment: It approves the appointment of ministers and commissioners.
vi) Impeachment of president: The legislature is empowered to remove the president, governors and their deputies through the process of impeachment.
vii) Probe functions: It has the power of questioning and to probe public officers.
viii) Platform for expression of public opinion: Members of the public express their opinion in the legislature through their elected representatives.
ix) It approves state of emergency and war if the president and Commander in Chief need to declare a state of emergency or war, he must get approval from the legislature.
x) It approves the appointment of Chief Justice of the Federation and states.
B. THE EXECUTIVE
This is the arm of government responsible for the implementation, execution or enforcement of laws, policies and directives made by the legislative arm of government.
TYPES OF EXECUTIVE
i) Single / presidential executives: The control of the executive rests with one individual. He named the ministers and they are dependent on him, they are not his colleagues.
ii) Dual / parliamentary executives: This is the system in which one person is the head of state, while another person is the head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
FUNCTIONS OF THE EXECUTIVE ARM OF GOVERNMENT
i) It executes or implements the laws made by the legislature.
ii) Giving Assent to Bills: The head of the executive arm signs or give assent to bills before they can become laws.
iii) The head of the executive performs crucial military functions as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
iv) It is responsible for formulating policies and programmes to be tabled before the legislature, signs and give assent to bills before they can become law.
v) It is responsible for maintaining law and order.
vi) It decides the country’s foreign policies.
vii) Initiation of bills to the legislature: The executives sometimes initiates and submit bills to the legislature to pass into law.
viii) It is the executive that prepares the total proposed financial expenditure and revenue of the government in every new financial year.
ix) The executive through the powers granted to it by the constitution performs crucial judicial function of pardoning convicted criminals. This is also known as prerogative of mercy.
x) Appointment of judicial officials: The executive appoints the Chief Justice of the Federation and other high ranking officials of the judiciary like judges subject to ratification by the legislature.
C. THE JUDICIARY
The judiciary is the third arm of government responsible for interpretation and application of the laws when they are broken or violated. It is the same as the court system of a country. The judiciary acts as the watchdog of the law by making sure that laws made are obeyed and those who refuse to obey the laws are severely punished. The judiciary is made up of different courts like the Supreme Court, Appeal Courts, High Courts, Magistrate Courts, Customary Courts, Administrative Courts and tribunals.
FUNCTIONS OF THE JUDICIARY
i) Interpretation of laws. The judiciary interprets the law and determines the meaning of provisions in the constitution.
ii) Dispute adjudication: It settles disputes between the executive and the legislature and between government and citizens, organizations etc.
iii) It punishes the law breakers.
iv) It guards the constitution against violation by anybody, no matter how highly placed.
v) Protection of citizens’ rights and liberties. It is in line with this function that the court is referred to as the last hope of common man / oppressed.
vi) It dealt with electoral litigation. It performs this function by setting up tribunals to hear electoral matters.
vii) It advises the president especially on judicial matters.