Three Arms of Government in Nigeria & Their Functions

There are three arms of government namely the legislature the executive and the judiciary. These three arms of government have evolved in order that the goals and business of government may be achieved and carried out effectively.


The legislature is the law making body of the government. It is also responsible for voting of money, approving of budget and carrying out over sight function. The legislators are the representative of the people and are generally regarded as the policy maker. The legislature also amends the constitution, controls the executive officials, carryout impeachment and disciplinary actions on public servants. The legislature also approves appointment of important state officials like ministers and ambassadors. They also approve treaties.

The legislature is usually unicameral or bicameral. A unicameral legislature is one with only one chamber of the legislature while a bicameral legislature is one with two chambers of the legislature.

Nigeria operates a bicameral legislature in which there is the upper house (senate) and the lower house (House of Representatives) both house are generally regarded as the national assembly.

Functions of the Legislature

  • The primary function of the legislature is law making. A bill undergoes a rigorous process in the legislature before it is passed into law.
  • The legislature supervises the executive.
  • They also control public expenditure and the imposition of taxation.
  • It has the power to remove the executive. This is done through a vote of censure in a presidential system.
  • Legislators represent opinions and interest of their constituents.
  • Legislators approve the appointment by the executives of ministers and ambassadors in a presidential system.
  • The legislature ratifies judicial appointments of the executive.


The principle role of the executive arms of government is to carry out the general administration of the country. It is responsible for executing the law of the state. The executive arm of government appears to be the most influential organ. It is the most important organ due to the indispensible role it plays in life of citizens. It draft executive bill and submit to the legislature for deliberation.

It also maintains diplomatic relation with other countries, initiating and signing treaties and carrying out bilateral agreements and engagement with other countries. It is the executive that sign bill into law and also prepares annual budget which it submits to the legislature for confirmation. In parliamentary system, the executive is the cabinet which comprises the prime minister and ministers while in the presidential system, the executive is the president. The president appoints ministers who assist him in this task.

Functions of the Executive

  • The primary function of the executive is to implement government policies and programmes and enforce public laws.
  • The executive formulates policies and laws, which are submitted to the legislature for debate and approval.
  • The executive makes law under delegated legislation. The legislature give power to the executive on well defined matters to make rules that are very complex and technical and require specialist knowledge,  and in matters requiring urgent treatment. Powers of delegated legislation are also exercised by the executive to ease the heavy legislature burden of the legislature.
  • The executive symbolizes the state and performs ceremonial functions such as taking salute during state ceremonies.
  • The executive gives political leadership to the government.
  • The structure sends and receives diplomatic representatives, negotiates international treaties and agreements and formulates foreign policies.
  • The executive is in charge of the armed forces and possess the power to declare and wage war and proclaim a state of martial law.

Types of Executives

There are two types – parliamentary and presidential executives. The 1979 constitution established the presidential system of government in Nigeria, but earlier we had parliamentary system. Each system has its own weakness and strengths.

Thus in the presidential system, a measure of stability is guaranteed the government; since the government does not have to resign if it is defeated in the legislature whereas it has to resign in such a case in parliamentary system.

On the other hand, the parliamentary system largely subordinates the executive to the legislature and this ensures that the executive is under constant checks by the representatives of the people. The cabinet members being also members of the ruling party appreciates that their performance can affect the fortunes of the party one way or the other.


This organ is responsible for interpreting the law made by the legislature to the general public and punishment of offenders. They serve as the custodian of the constitution and safeguard the right and liberties of citizens. They settle dispute between individuals or between an organizations.

The judiciary through it judicial review can declare the executive act non and void or legislative act non and void. They access the gravity of punishment that is suitable for the offense committed. The judiciary is organized hierarchically from the magistrate court, high court, the appeal court and the Supreme Court. The head of the judiciary is the chief justice.

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21 thoughts on “Three Arms of Government in Nigeria & Their Functions”

    1. Nigeria of today would be best described as unitary federal system, even though its meant to be a federal system of government but all the powers that suppose to be decentralized among the federating units are all concentrated at the centre, which is a feature of unitary government.

  1. Please kindly help me to, briefly explain the following basic concept of government. Fascism , feudalism, totalitarian, and authoritarian. Thanks.

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