Welcome! In our Social Studies lesson today, we will be looking at the topic “government”. Do have a great moment studying with us!
Subject: Social Studies
Learning Objectives: By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
- Define the term government;
- State and explain the three arms or organs of government;
- Identify the offices and symbols authority of the arms of government;
- State the reasons or need for balancing of power in government.
Meaning of Government
The word ‘government’ has three meanings;
i. It can be defined as an institution of the state.
ii. An art or process of governing.
iii. An academic discipline or field of study.
(i) Government as an institution of the state refers to a group of people or authority entrusted with political powers to govern or control a country. This group or authority is made up of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
(ii) Government as an art or process of governing means the actual running of the country or state. That is, how this process of ruling is carried out. As a result, we have monarchy, which is a country governed by a king or queen, a democracy, where the people elect those who will govern, an oligarchy, that is a government by a few wealthy people, a presidential system if government and so on.
(iii) Government as an academic discipline or field of study is the school studied in schools, in which students learn about political institutions, forms of government, international relations and so on. In the University, government is known as political science.
The Arms or Organs of Government
The organs of government may be defined as the elements arising from the division of the powers of government into different segments. Usually, for effective and efficient management of the welfare of all citizens of a country, modern governments are divided into three branches known as the organs or arms of government. These are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
(i) The Executive: The executive is the organ of government that is responsible for implementing government’s policies and for the day -to- day administration of the country. The structure and composition of the executive is determined by the nature of government in a particular country. Under the presidential system, like the one we have in Nigeria, the executive is headed by the president and is assisted by different bodies such as the cabinet, ministries and government parastatals. The armed forces and the police are part of the executive arm of government.
In the parliamentary system, the executive comprises a ceremonial president or monarch, prime minister (who is the head of government), the cabinet, the ministries/civil service and parastatals. This was practised in the First Republic in Nigeria and it is the tradition in the United Kingdom.
(ii) The Legislature: The legislature comprises elected representatives of the people who make laws. The legislature is known by different names depending on the country. It is called National Assembly in Nigeria, Parliament in Britain and Congress in the United States of America. In Nigeria, the National Assembly is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
(iii) The Judiciary: The judiciary is the third organ of government. It is made up of lawyers (the Bar), judges (the Bench) and courts that interpret the laws. Thus, the judiciary comprises the system of courts and judges. In Nigeria, as in most countries, there is a hierarchy of courts. The highest is the Supreme Court which is the apex court. This is followed by the Court of Appeal. There is the High Court, Sharia Court and the Magistrate Court. There are also customary courts that deal with customary cases. The judiciary is independent of both the legislature and the executive. It acts as the watchdog of the law by making sure that laws made are in accordance with the constitution and values of government in Nigeria. They also settle disputes in civil cases among citizens.
Offices and Symbols of Authority of the Arms of Government
The Executive: The executive is made up of the presidency, the prime minister’s office (in the case of the United Kingdom), ministers, the civil service, the armed forces, the police, the offices of the governors and commissioners of the states and chairmen/women of local governments. The symbols of authority are the seals of the various offices.
Seal of the president
The Legislature: The legislature is made up of the National Assembly in Nigeria, which is divided into the Senate and House of Representatives. In the states, there are Houses of Assembly. They are headed by speakers of the house. The symbol of authority is the mace.
The Judiciary: The judiciary is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, High Courts, Sharia Court, Magistrate Courts, Customary Courts, Judges, Lawyers and Magistrates. The symbols of authority of the judiciary are the gavel and the wig.
A Judge’s wig
The Need for Balance of Power in Government
i. To prevent the Abuse of Power: Power, they say, corrupts, and if the power to make, implement and interpret laws are concentrated in the hands of one person or a group of people, there is tendency for such powers to be abused. For example, if powers are left in the hands of one person or group of people, laws that are made may be in favour of those making them, and if there is a violation of such laws, the same person of people would be the judge. In such a case, there is the likelihood for such a judge to be biased and unjust.
ii. Efficiency in Government: When power is shared among the three arms of government, the running of government becomes better and wastage of time and resources is minimised.
iii. Guard against Domination: When there is balance of power in government, the tendency for any arm of government to become too powerful and thereby dominate the other arms is reduced. The three arms of government should thereby check one another from becoming too powerful so that any one group would not use it’s powers to oppress the rest of the people of a country. One of the ways of ensuring this in Nigeria is that before any bill becomes law, the president must sign it into law. If he refused to do so, the lawmakers can make the bill become law by voting a second time. The judiciary can also check the legislative and executive arms by declaring a law unconstitutional.
Done studying? Use the following questions to test your knowledge of the lesson topic.
1. State the meaning of government in three ways.
2. Mention and explain the three arms of government.
3. What are some of the offices and symbols of the three arms of government?
4. Mention and explain reasons for balance of power amongst the arms of government.
Were you able to answer those questions? Bravo!!
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