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Arms of Government – Free JAMB Tutorial on Government

This Government Tutorial will focus on the Arms of Government. At the end of the tutorial, you can download it for FREE. Please share this page with your friends who may need it.

The arms of government, also known as branches of government, refer to the three distinct and separate branches that share the powers and responsibilities of a government system.

These arms are typically found in democratic systems and are designed to provide a system of checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power in one entity.

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The three main arms of government are Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.

This tutorial is going to tell you everything you need to know about these arms of government.

For legislature, we will tell you the types, structure, functions, and powers.

Similarly, for executive, we will tell you the types, functions, powers.

Then for judiciary, we will focus on the functions, powers, components.

Finally, we will tell you how the three arms of government are inter-related.

It’s expected that at the end of this tutorial, you should be able to

i. identify the duties and obligations of the various arms of government and their agencies;
ii. relate each arm to its functions;
iii. appreciate how these arms interrelates.

Let’s get on with it already.

Legislature

The legislative arm of government is one of the three main branches of government, responsible for making laws. Its primary function is to formulate, debate, and pass legislation that governs the country.

The legislative branch plays a crucial role in representing the interests of the people, shaping public policy, and overseeing the actions of the executive branch.

Types of Legislatures:

  1. Unicameral Legislature:
    • One-chambered legislature.
    • Example: Sweden.
  2. Bicameral Legislature:
    • Two-chambered legislature.
    • Common structure includes an upper house (e.g., Senate) and a lower house (e.g., House of Representatives).
    • Example: Nigeria, United States.

Structure of a Legislature:

  1. Upper House (Senate, House of Lords, etc.):
    • Often represents regions or states.
    • May have longer terms.
    • Sometimes referred to as the “House of Review.”
  2. Lower House (House of Representatives, House of Commons, etc.):
    • Represents the population.
    • Typically shorter terms.
    • Initiates financial bills.

Functions of a Legislature:

  1. Lawmaking:
    • Primary function is to formulate, debate, and pass laws.
    • Involves the introduction of bills, committee reviews, debates, and voting.
  2. Representation:
    • Represents the interests and views of the people.
    • Elected representatives voice concerns on behalf of their constituents.
  3. Scrutiny and Oversight:
    • Monitors and scrutinizes the actions of the executive branch.
    • Ensures accountability and transparency.
  4. Budget Approval:
    • Often responsible for approving government budgets and expenditures.
  5. Constituent Services:
    • Addresses issues and concerns raised by constituents.
    • Provides a forum for citizens to express their needs.

Powers of a Legislature:

  1. Legislative Power:
    • The authority to make laws and amend existing ones.
  2. Appropriation Power:
    • Authority to approve government spending and allocate funds.
  3. Confirmation Power:
    • Power to confirm or reject appointments made by the executive branch.
  4. Investigative Power:
    • Authority to conduct inquiries and investigations into matters of public concern.
  5. Impeachment Power:
    • In some systems, the power to impeach and remove certain officials from office.
  6. Override Veto:
    • Authority to override a presidential or executive veto in bicameral systems.

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Executive

The executive arm of government is one of the three main branches of government, responsible for implementing and enforcing laws. It is headed by the head of state or head of government, depending on the country’s political system. The executive branch is crucial for the day-to-day administration of government affairs, the execution of laws, and the formulation and implementation of policies.

Types of Executives:

  1. Presidential System:
    • The head of state and head of government are often the same person (e.g., President).
    • The president is elected independently of the legislature.
  2. Parliamentary System:
    • The head of state (e.g., monarch or president) and the head of government (e.g., prime minister) are separate roles.
    • The head of government is typically the leader of the majority party in the legislature.
  3. Monarchy:
    • The head of state is a monarch, such as a king or queen.
    • The actual powers of the monarch may vary, with some constitutional monarchies limiting the monarch’s powers.

Functions of the Executive:

  1. Implementation of Laws:
    • Executes and enforces laws passed by the legislature.
  2. Administration:
    • Manages government agencies and departments responsible for various aspects of governance.
  3. Foreign Policy:
    • Conducts foreign relations, negotiates treaties, and represents the country internationally.
  4. Defense and Security:
    • Ensures the defense and security of the country, often through the military and law enforcement agencies.
  5. Budget and Finance:
    • Prepares and submits budgets to the legislature for approval.
    • Manages government finances and expenditures.
  6. Appointments:
    • Appoints officials to various government positions, including the cabinet, ambassadors, and other key roles.
  7. Crisis Management:
    • Addresses emergencies and crises, making decisions to protect the interests of the state.

Powers of the Executive:

  1. Executive Orders:
    • The power to issue executive orders, which have the force of law, to manage the executive branch and implement laws.
  2. Veto Power:
    • In presidential systems, the power to veto legislation passed by the legislature.
  3. Commander-in-Chief:
    • The power to command the armed forces.
  4. Diplomatic Powers:
    • The authority to conduct foreign relations, negotiate treaties, and appoint ambassadors.
  5. Pardoning Power:
    • The power to pardon or commute sentences for individuals convicted of crimes.
  6. Emergency Powers:
    • Authority to take extraordinary actions in times of crisis or emergency.

Judiciary

The primary function of the Judiciary is to administer justice, resolve disputes, and ensure that laws and regulations are applied fairly and impartially.

Functions of the Judiciary:

  1. Interpretation of Laws:
    • The judiciary interprets laws, including the constitution, to ensure their proper application.
  2. Adjudication of Disputes:
    • The primary function is to resolve legal disputes between individuals, entities, or the government.
  3. Judicial Review:
    • The power to review the constitutionality of laws and government actions.
  4. Application of Precedent:
    • Decisions in previous cases (precedents) guide judges in making decisions in similar cases.
  5. Protection of Rights:
    • Ensures the protection of individual rights and liberties as guaranteed by the constitution.
  6. Ensuring Fair Trials:
    • Guarantees the right to a fair and impartial trial for individuals accused of crimes.

Powers of the Judiciary:

  1. Judicial Independence:
    • The judiciary is often designed to be independent of the executive and legislative branches to ensure impartiality.
  2. Constitutional Review:
    • The power to review and declare laws or government actions unconstitutional.
  3. Contempt of Court:
    • The ability to hold individuals in contempt for disrupting court proceedings or disobeying court orders.
  4. Injunctions and Remedies:
    • The power to issue injunctions and prescribe remedies to address legal violations or prevent harm.
  5. Arbitration and Mediation:
    • Some judicial systems have the power to engage in alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or mediation.

Components of the Judiciary:

  1. Supreme Court:
    • The highest appellate court in the judicial system, often with the authority to hear cases of national importance.
  2. Lower Courts:
    • Intermediate and lower courts that handle a range of cases, including civil, criminal, and administrative matters.
  3. Specialized Courts:
    • Some jurisdictions have specialized courts to handle specific types of cases, such as family courts, tax courts, or administrative courts.
  4. Judges:
    • Judicial officers who preside over cases and make legal decisions. They may be appointed or elected, depending on the legal system.
  5. Juries:
    • In some legal systems, juries play a role in deciding the outcome of trials.

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Relationship Between the Arms of Government

The relationship between the arms of government is based on the principle of the separation of powers, a concept developed by political philosophers like Montesquieu. The idea is to distribute governmental powers among different branches to prevent the abuse of authority and to ensure a system of checks and balances. Here’s how the three arms of government typically interact:

  1. Checks and Balances:
    • Each branch has some measure of influence over the other branches and may choose to block procedures of the other branches.
    • For example, the legislative branch may pass laws, but the executive branch (usually the president or head of government) can veto them. However, the legislative branch may override the veto with a supermajority vote.
  2. Separation of Powers:
    • Each branch is assigned specific powers and responsibilities, preventing one branch from dominating the others.
    • The executive branch enforces laws, the legislative branch makes laws, and the judicial branch interprets laws. This separation is designed to prevent the concentration of power in a single entity.
  3. Judicial Review:
    • The judicial branch has the power of judicial review, allowing it to review and potentially invalidate laws or actions of the other branches that are deemed unconstitutional.
    • This power provides a crucial check on the actions of the legislative and executive branches.
  4. Legislative Oversight:
    • The legislative branch often exercises oversight over the executive branch by scrutinizing its actions, confirming appointments, and investigating matters of public concern.
    • This oversight helps ensure accountability and transparency in the executive branch.
  5. Executive Authority:
    • The executive branch may have certain powers, such as the ability to issue executive orders, that allow for efficient governance. However, these powers are subject to legal and constitutional constraints.

Practice Questions on Arms of Government

  1. What is the primary function of the legislative branch of government?
    A) Execute laws
    B) Interpret laws
    C) Formulate and pass laws
    D) Enforce laws
  2. Which country is an example of a unicameral legislature?
    A) United States
    B) Sweden
    C) Nigeria
    D) United Kingdom
  3. What is the common structure of a bicameral legislature?
    A) One chamber
    B) Three chambers
    C) Upper house only
    D) Two chambers
  4. What is the primary role of the upper house in a legislative system?
    A) Represent the population
    B) Initiate financial bills
    C) Act as the “House of Review”
    D) Execute laws
  5. In the executive branch, who is responsible for implementing laws?
    A) Head of State
    B) Prime Minister
    C) Head of Government
    D) Judiciary
  6. Which country has a parliamentary system?
    A) United States
    B) France
    C) Canada
    D) China
  7. What does the separation of powers aim to prevent?
    A) Concentration of power
    B) Executive dominance
    C) Legislative control
    D) Judicial interference
  8. What is the primary power of the executive branch in terms of foreign policy?
    A) Making laws
    B) Conducting foreign relations
    C) Judicial review
    D) Enforcing court decisions
  9. What is the concept that allows the judiciary to review and invalidate laws or actions?
    A) Legislative power
    B) Executive orders
    C) Judicial review
    D) Constitutional amendments
  10. How does the judiciary protect individual rights and liberties?
    A) By enforcing laws
    B) Through executive orders
    C) Constitutional amendments
    D) Ensuring fair trials
  11. What is the primary function of the Supreme Court in the judiciary?
    A) Interpretation of laws
    B) Adjudication of disputes
    C) Judicial review
    D) Foreign policy decisions
  12. How does checks and balances operate between the branches of government?
    A) By concentrating power
    B) By avoiding separation
    C) By limiting powers of each branch
    D) By executive dominance
  13. What is the purpose of legislative oversight in the relationship between branches?
    A) Enforcing laws
    B) Initiating bills
    C) Scrutinizing executive actions
    D) Judicial review
  14. What power does the judiciary have to issue orders to address legal violations?
    A) Legislative power
    B) Executive orders
    C) Injunctions and remedies
    D) Judicial review
  15. How can the legislative branch override a presidential veto in a presidential system?
    A) Executive orders
    B) Impeachment
    C) Confirmation power
    D) Override with a supermajority vote

Answers to Practice Questions:

Before you check the answers, make sure you have sincerely attempted the questions. This will actually help you understand everything being taught.

  1. What is the primary function of the legislative branch of government?
    • Correct Answer: C) Formulate and pass laws
    • Explanation: The legislative branch is responsible for making laws, which involves formulating, debating, and passing legislation.
  2. Which country is an example of a unicameral legislature?
    • Correct Answer: B) Sweden
    • Explanation: Sweden has a unicameral legislature, meaning it has only one chamber.
  3. What is the common structure of a bicameral legislature?
    • Correct Answer: D) Two chambers
    • Explanation: A bicameral legislature has two chambers, typically an upper house and a lower house.
  4. What is the primary role of the upper house in a legislative system?
    • Correct Answer: C) Act as the “House of Review”
    • Explanation: The upper house often reviews and scrutinizes legislation passed by the lower house, providing an additional layer of examination.
  5. In the executive branch, who is responsible for implementing laws?
    • Correct Answer: C) Head of Government
    • Explanation: The head of government is typically responsible for implementing and enforcing laws.
  6. Which country has a parliamentary system?
    • Correct Answer: C) Canada
    • Explanation: Canada is an example of a country with a parliamentary system, where the head of government is typically the leader of the majority party in the legislature.
  7. What does the separation of powers aim to prevent?
    • Correct Answer: A) Concentration of power
    • Explanation: The separation of powers aims to prevent the concentration of governmental power in a single branch.
  8. What is the primary power of the executive branch in terms of foreign policy?
    • Correct Answer: B) Conducting foreign relations
    • Explanation: The executive branch, particularly the head of state or government, is responsible for conducting foreign relations, negotiating treaties, and representing the country internationally.
  9. What is the concept that allows the judiciary to review and invalidate laws or actions?
    • Correct Answer: C) Judicial review
    • Explanation: Judicial review is the concept that gives the judiciary the power to review and potentially invalidate laws or actions that are deemed unconstitutional.
  10. How does the judiciary protect individual rights and liberties?
    • Correct Answer: D) Ensuring fair trials
    • Explanation: The judiciary protects individual rights by ensuring fair and impartial trials for individuals accused of crimes.
  11. What is the primary function of the Supreme Court in the judiciary?
    • Correct Answer: C) Judicial review
    • Explanation: The Supreme Court, as the highest appellate court, has the primary function of exercising judicial review over laws and government actions.
  12. How does checks and balances operate between the branches of government?
    • Correct Answer: C) By limiting powers of each branch
    • Explanation: Checks and balances operate by limiting the powers of each branch, preventing any single branch from dominating the others.
  13. What is the purpose of legislative oversight in the relationship between branches?
    • Correct Answer: C) Scrutinizing executive actions
    • Explanation: Legislative oversight involves the scrutiny of executive actions to ensure accountability and transparency.
  14. What power does the judiciary have to issue orders to address legal violations?
    • Correct Answer: C) Injunctions and remedies
    • Explanation: The judiciary has the power to issue injunctions and prescribe remedies to address legal violations or prevent harm.
  15. How can the legislative branch override a presidential veto in a presidential system?
    • Correct Answer: D) Override with a supermajority vote
    • Explanation: In a presidential system, the legislative branch can override a presidential veto by obtaining a supermajority vote, demonstrating significant support for the legislation.

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