7 Importance of separation of powers in a state

6  Importance of separation of power in a state

In this post, we will be deliberating on the 7 importance of Separation of Powers in a state. You will agree that, the concept of Separation of Powers has some features that make it very important.

Separation of powers is the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches. Separation of powers and responsibilities is an important principle in the organization of modern government.

It is also the vesting of the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers of government in separate bodies. Constitutional arrangements based on separation of powers.


What is Separation of power?

Separation of powers is the division of government responsibilities into distinct organs to limit any of the organs from usurping and exercising the core functions of another organ. 

The purpose is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.

The primary purpose of the concept is to guard against dictatorial rule by avoiding concentration of all the powers of government in one hand, or more than one person being involved in more than one of the powers of government or one arm of government exercising control over the other.

According to a French political jurist – Baron de Montesquieu, the concentration of the legislative, executive and judicial functions in the same person or body of persons would be dangerous and would cause authoritarianism and despotism.

Hence, the need to separate these powers to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one power became two strong and thus absorb the functions of the other.

However, while the separation of powers is fundamental to the operational effectiveness of the modern government, there is no democratic system where the separation of powers is absolute or completely absent.

Separation of powers among the three arms of government is one of the central issues implicated in the governance of modern democracies and other jurisdictions which aspire to stabilize their governments.

This is one of the devices used by the Anglo-American system of government to protect the rule of law and prevent the exercise of arbitrary power by the sovereign.

From the outset, it is important to note that separation of powers can mean about three different things as follows:

a. That the same persons should not be part and parcel of more than one of the three arms of government. In other words, if a person is a member of the Legislature, he should not simultaneously be a member of either the Executive or the Judiciary.

b. That an arm of government should not interfere in the affairs of any other two arms of government. Put differently, it means, for example, that a member of the executive should do only those things that are within the schedule of duties of the executive, and desist from controlling or interfering with the legislature and the judiciary in the performance of their assigned functions.

c. That one arm of government should not exercise the functions of another arm, that is, the judiciary, for example, should neither perform legislative nor executive roles

7 Importance of separation of powers 

In a more general sense, Separation of powers as a model for the governance of a state. Under this model, a state's government is divided into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities so that powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches.

The main importance of separation of power includes the following:

1. Prevention of Tyranny

2. Specialization and Efficiency

3. Enhancement of effective government

4. Preservation of Liberty

5. Safeguards Independence of Each Organ

6. Protection of the Judicial Independent

7. Decentralization of Power

Lets us discuss them one after the other.

1. Prevention of Tyranny: It reduces the abuse of power because power is not concentrated in one arm of government but rather separated among the three arms. By so doing, the tendency of having an arbitrary rule is very low.

2. Specialization and Efficiency: The theory of separation of powers, which is the political application of the economic theory of division of labor, makes for specialization and efficiency in governance. By concentrating on the same job in a routine like manner, the maxim ‘practice makes perfect’ becomes the order of the day.

For instance, by concentrating on law-making, the legislators will gain expertise in it while the executive also becomes more adept in the task of policy formulation and its execution.

Similarly, the judiciary acquires better erudition and distinction in its duty of interpretation of the law and settlement of disputes.

3. Enhancement of effective government: Separation of Powers enhances and creates viable and effective government by administrators. Since the functions and responsibilities of the government have been divided, each of the organs is faced with lesser and more specific responsibilities to attend to.

Thus, there will obviously be effectiveness in government activities generally, and where there is an unnecessary interference in the activities of any of the organs of government, the law will come in to put a stop to that.

4. Preservation of Liberty: The theory of separation of power also guarantees the rights and liberty of the citizens. If the powers of the three organs of government are placed under one authority there is the likelihood that tyranny and arbitrariness may ensue. According to Lord Acton, “Power intoxicates and absolute, power intoxicates absolutely”.

5. Safeguards Independence of Each Organ: Separation of powers also ensures the independence of each of the organs of government in the functions and also recognizes that the function assigned to each organ by the constitution requires distinct specialties.

For example, a judge must possess the qualities of impartiality and detachment combined with brilliance and erudition for him to succeed.

Separation of powers also create a harmonious working relationship among the organs of the government.

When each unit and sub units of all the organs of the governments are aware of their role and duties, there is bound to be respect for each unit’s duties and role, and this will create a good working condition among workers, administrators, civil servants etc.


6. Protection of the Judicial Independent: One great importance of separation of powers is not only the division of government powers among the organs but the protecting and preserving of the judiciary by making sure that neither the legislature nor executive takes away the powers, and the exercise of legislative powers in particular is subject to control by judiciary.

Section 4(8) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria restates this protection by providing thus: Save as otherwise provided by this constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of court of law and of judicial tribunals established by law and of judicial tribunal established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that oust or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law.

Accordingly, the US Constitution in Article III protects the office of the Judiciary for life as long as the judicial officer is of good behavior.


7. Decentralization of Power: One great importance of Separation of power is the decentralization of the powers of government which is clearly seen in the political system. There are a lot of benefits of decentralization of government control.

These include; effective monitoring of the system by each of the division organs of government. It also avoids misuse of power by one person or organ.To corroborate this, Learned Justice Oputa (A Nigerian Supreme Court Judge), stated in his book “Independence of judiciary in a democratic society” that the concept of separation of power arose from the need to ensure the restraint of governmental power, by dividing that power without carrying that division to an extreme.

It is in fact the check and balances that explain the overlapping among three organs of government in actual practice.

This dictum clearly explains why Separation of powers is very essential in a state. The division of government powers brings about check and balances in government activities. 

This means that the organs of government will be checking on the activities of each other, and by doing this, accountability is ensuring too.
Read On: Delegated Legislation: Types and Control

Conclusion on the 7 importance of separation of powers in a state 

Separation of powers is still yielding many positive developments in countries that practice it. For instance, it helps in strengthening laws made by the legislature and consolidating the power of the judiciary to declare as null and void any law made contrary to the constitution. Perhaps one important thing is that, if these powers were vested in one person or organ there would be an end to everything.

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