The roles and responsibilities of the government is what keeps a whole State or country going. The government is the agent of the state and it is the function of the government to keep the State running. In other words, the government has the sole responsibility of performing some functions in the State.
The government doesn’t just do anything all in the name of executing its duties. Instead, it acts according to the powers given to it by the Constitution. That is to say, all actions of the government are according to the dictates of the grundnorm. And any action which contradicts it’s provision is null and void.
This brings us to this topic, the roles, responsibilities, duties, powers or Functions of the Government. These can be used interchangeably.
Note: When talking of the government, we are generally looking at the three organs of government. So, as we examine the roles of the government, we are actually examining the roles of the organs of government.
Powers and Functions of the Government
In a brief definition, powers of the government refer to those roles and responsibilities which the Constitution confers on the government. Let’s list them one after the other.
It is the duty of the government to make laws for the State. Laws are laid down rules and regulations through which a State is governed.
Law making is exclusively for the Legislative arm of government. No other arm of government does this. Though in some cases, the Judiciary tend to perform a Quasi-legislative function but it cannot gain the credit of making laws for the State.
The law making body, the legislature, makes the law and issues it to the State. However, it doesn’t just make any kind of law that it likes. It makes laws according to the provisions of the Constitution.
Maintenance of Law and Order
The government maintains law and order in the State. This function is exclusively for the Executive branch of government. After the legislature makes the law, it falls into the hands of the Executive to enforce and maintain the law.
It enforces the law and maintains law and order through the police. It also uses other government agencies such as the Road Safety Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, etc.
In the course of enforcing the law, the Executive cannot act beyond the powers provided to it by the Constitution.
Defends the country against external aggression
It is the sole responsibility of the government to secure the whole State. It provides security both internally and externally.
Protection of the territory against any external attack is one of the major functions of the Executive arm. It deploys the military in to the battlefield to fight for the country.
However, the Executive cannot just order the military to embark on such journey without sufficient reason. Secondly, before it deploys the military, the legislature must approve it.
Establishment and Maintenance of International Relations
One of the powers of the government given to it by the Constitution is to establish and maintain international relations. In other words, the government creates and maintains any form of transaction it has with any other country or foreign bodies.
This is the sole function of the Executive arm. But before it enters into any treaty or agreement with another country, the legislature must approve it.
See Also: The Rule of Law: Meaning and Principles
Seeks for the Economic Development of the Country
No other person, group or body can manage a country’s economy as the government does. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure economic growth, development and stability in the country.
Some economic activities may be in the hands of individuals, especially in a capitalist State. But the economic planning of the country must be in the hands of the government.
The reason for such is that, human being are greedy and can monopolize the market. If such happens, it means that the means of production and distribution will be in the hands of a person or few persons, leaving others to suffer. To avoid such, the Constitution provides that it is the function of the government to handle economic activities.
It Provides for the General Welfare of the State
One of the major functions of the government is to ensure the comfortability of the citizens. It does this by providing social amenities such as pipe-borne water, electricity, good roads, educational institutions, hospitals, etc.
Punishment of Law Breakers
The government punishes those that go against the law. This is the function of the Judiciary. It interprets the law and passes judgements according to the Constitution and gives its punishment.
No one has the right to punish anyone except the government. If anyone does, it means such person has taken the law into his hands and may be punished for doing such.
Limitations to the Powers of the Government
The major limitation to the roles and responsibilities of the government is the Constitution. The Constitution actually gave the roles and also curtailed its application. The reason for doing that is to ensure that the government doesn’t go beyond its powers thereby causing tyranny.
Another reason is to protect the citizens from the possible aggressions of the government.
“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. If the government gets powers without limitations, it means the government can do anything and no one can question it. Even though it tramples upon the rights of the citizens, the citizens can’t do anything because there is no limitation to its powers.
Checks and balances also curtail the powers of the government. Checks and balances is a principle which allows the three arms of government to watch themselves to ensure that none over exercises its power. When any arm over exercises its power, the Judiciary will declare it unconstitutional.
Conclusion | Powers of the government
We have now seen that all the duties of the government are within the circle of the Constitution. No one performs more function than given to it. It is one of the major duties of the Constitution to curtail the powers of the government.
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