The Executive Arm of Government: Powers and Limitations

The Executive arm of government is also called the organ or branch of government.

The Executive is a branch of government which implements the laws made by the legislature. Implementation of laws is the major function of the executive branch of government. Although, it still has other functions which we shall look into in the course of this article.

In presidential system of government, the head of the executive is the President. Other members of the Executive are called the ministers appointed by the President. In the parliamentary system, he is called the Prime Minister. Other members of the parliament are called the cabinets.

In Nigeria and America exists presidential system of government such that the president can appoint his ministers. He also has the power to remove any of them. The essence of appointing ministers (in presidential system) or cabinets (in the parliamentary system) is to help the head of Executive perform his functions efficiently. The ministers help the president to run different parastals in the country such as the education, agric, economic sectors etc.

In this article, we shall shall look at what constitutes the executive including their functions.

See Also: Comprehensive WAEC Syllabus for Government 2021/2022 and the Recommended Textbooks (Download PDF)

Major functions of the Executive organ of government

The following are the functions of the executive organ of government.

Implementation of laws

Implementation of laws is the major role of the executive organ in a country. The legislature makes the law while the executive implements it. In other words, as the legislature makes the law, the executive put them in action.

For a better enforcement of the law by the Executive, the activities of the government are divided in to departments usually called ministries. That is why you hear of the ministry of Education, the ministry of health, the ministry of works, etc.

The president appoints a minister to take care of each of these ministries. Any shortcoming in any of the ministries, the minister in charge will be held responsible. In other words, the parliament can invite such minister to the House and ask him to explain his actions.

Each of the minister administers the law pertaining to his ministry. For instance, the minister of works sees that infrastructures in the country are of good standard to avoid endangering users’ lives.

Maintaining Law and Order

It is the duty of the Executive arm to maintain peace and order in the country by enforcing the law. They compel people to obey the law and also punish anyone who violates it. The Executive makes use of the police to arrest and prosecute law offenders. This is exactly the reason the police is counted under the executive branch of government.

Without obedience to the law, the state won’t be in order and nothing will ever move successfully. In other words, they won’t be peace in the country. Therefore, the executive uses the paramilitary (the police) to maintain the law and order.

International Agreement | Executive arm of government

Another function of the executive armExecutive organ of government of government is to enter into international treaties or agreements with other countries or external bodies. However, it is not an absolute function as any intending agreement is subject to approval by the parliament.

Preparation of Budgets

Preparation of budgets is another major function of the Executive. The Executive prepares the expenditure and revenue budgets. The expenditure budget shows the expenditures which the government will make in all the ministries in a financial year. While the revenue budget explains the amount of money expected from each source of the revenue. After preparing the budget, it sends it to the parliament for approval.

Proposition of Bills

The Executive, being in an administrative position sees the need to initiate bills and pass it into law for better governance. Once he sees such need, he initiates a bill and sends it to the parliament. It goes through the stages of passage bill until it’s enacted into law.

Delegated Legislation

The Legislative arm makes laws, especially the major laws and delegate powers to the Executive to make minor laws.

Originally, it is never the role of the Executive arm of government to make laws. However, it makes laws only when the legislature delegates powers to it to make laws.

For this reason, some see it that the organs of government do not have a clear speration of power. Since the executive can make laws through delegation of Powers, the legislature can perform Quasi-Judicial function and the judiciary performs can perform semi-legislative function, then, there is no clear-cut functions of the arms of government.

An example of a minor law which the Executive can make is “making of laws which will assist him run his ministry”. Let me make it clearer. The legislature makes major laws on agriculture, it can delegate powers to the Executive to make minor laws which can help it improve agriculture.

Formulation of Policies | Executive organ of government

Policies are principles thought by the government to be needful in the governance of a country.

It is the duty of the Executive arm to make policies on different topics. For instance, when it comes the formulation of foreign policy, it is the Executive arm the formulates it. It also formulates domestic policies to apply on domestic matters.

Ceremonial Functions

Ceremonial functions are not contained in the Constitution as it is not one of the functions of the Executive. But due to practices, it has become it’s function. Example of a ceremonial function is receiving ambassadors from other countries.

Once the Executive head notices that a notable person is coming for a visit in his territory, he goes to welcome him. The essence of this act is to give the visitor a sense of belonging.

General Functions

Everything relating to administration of government in a country bothers on the Executive. The day-to-day running of government is the responsibility of the Executive. Sometimes, there will be need for quick decision like imposition of curfew or state of emergency, it is the duty of the Executive to make such decision.

See Also: WAEC Syllabus for English (2021) to Read if You Must Pass (Download PDF)

Limitations to the Powers of the Executive arm of Government

All these roles of the Executive came with limitations. In other words, the Executive functions are not absolute as they are impediments to their powers.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. The law understands the nature of human beings that once he gets absolute power, he becomes totally corrupt. For this reason, the law decides the place some limitations. Some of the limitations include:

  1. The Constitution.
  2. The principle of check and balances.
  3. Separation of Powers.

See my post on the limitations of the executive to get the full explanation.

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