NIGERIAN POLITICAL STRUCTURE:

ARMS OF GOVERNMENT AND NIGERIA MASS MEDIA

Political structure refers to parts or arrangements that make for the smooth running of any political system. The Nigerian government practises a presidential democratic system, which is made up of three arms or organs, namely, the legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. These arms are present at all levels of Nigerian government, that is, the Federal, State and Local Government Levels. At whatever level, each organ performs similar functions as the others. For example, the Executive at the Federal level performs the same functions as the Executive at the State or Local Government levels, the same thing goes for the Legislature and the Judiciary.

The Legislative Arm

The Federal Legislature comprises two house; the Senate and the House of Representatives, the combination of which constitutes the National Assembly. At the state level, the Legislature is the State House of Assembly made up of Assembly members. The Local Government Legislative arm is made up of elected Councilors. The Legislative members are usually elected under a purely democratic setup.
The Legislature, being the principal organ for popular or representative government, is the structure that makes rules and regulations for the general welfare of the State or country. It’s functions include enactment of law, which is the primary role of the Ligature in all modern political systems. However, its functions transcend law-making as could be seen from the following:

Main functions of the Legislature

1.                            The Legislature checks on the activities of the Executive in order to ensure that the Executive does not violate the powers vested on it by the Constitution. Hence, removal of the Executive where necessary is an important function of the Legislature. In a presidential system, for example, the president can be impeached by the Legislature if he/she fails to perform according to the Constitution, while in the parliamentary system, the prime minister and his/her cabinet can be removed by a vote of no confidence by theparliament.
2.                            The Legislature has control over finance; that is to say before any money is raised and spent in a particular year, the Legislature must pass it into an appropriation bill. The Executive prepares the budget proposal and presents it to the Legislature for scrutiny and approval.
3.                            Representation  of public opinion  and  interests:   The Legislature in this sense provides fixed institutional link between government and the people keeping one in tune with the other. This represents public opinion and interests
4.                            The legislature rectifiers international treaty in the way it affects its own State. This treaty which is conducted and negotiated by the Executive of the State must of necessity be approved by the Legislature.
5.                            Approval of Appointments:  the Executive  seeks  the approval of the Legislature before appointing higher officers such as special advisers.

The Executive Arm

The Executive is the second arm of government. In a broad sense, the special term is used to refer to the totality of all the functionaries and agencies, which are concerned with the execution, or implementation, of the will of the State. In the Nigerian political system, the Executive at the federal level is composed of the Chief Executive, that is, the president, his ministers and the entire Federal Civil Service, while at the state level it is composed of the state governor, his commissioners and the state civil service, and at the Local Government level, the Executive is composed of the Chairman, his supervisory councilors, heads of departments and all other administrative staff.
The chief Executive at the Federal Level, the Executive governors at the state level and the Local Government Chairman are all elected officials. The Executive structure puts governmental policies into action afterthey have been formulated by the Legislative arm.

Main Functions of the Executive

Main functions of the Executive are classified under three categories as follows:
a.         The Legislative functions;
b.        The Administrative functions;
c.         The Judicial functions
a. Legislative Functions
1.       The  Executive  initiates  bills,  makes  proposals  and presents them to the Legislature
2.        The Executive could also veto any bill passed by Legislature, that is with hold its assent if such a bill is considered not in the best interest of the majority of the citizens of the country.
3.         The Executive has the power to dissolve the Legislature especially where the Constitution does not originally spell out or fix the tenure of the Legislature. (This does not apply to Nigeria because the Constitution has spelt out the tenure of the Legislature as four years).
b.  Administrative Functions
1.     One of the main administrative functions of the Executive is the direction and supervision of the execution of laws. The Executive is vested with the power of appointing and removing higher officers, directing their work, and exercising disciplinary control on them.
2.        The Executive also has control over the instrument of coercion. It has supreme command over the army and the police has the constitutional power to command them to war after seeking the consent of the senate.
3.        The Federal Executive represents the State in foreign relations and conclude treaties after proper consolations with the Senate.
c.   Judicial Functions
1.        The Executive has the power of pardon on convicted persons and to grant clemency to political fugitives.
2.        It can also appoint high level Judicial functionaries and could remove them. For examples, tribunals.

Judicial Arm

In modern democratic governments, the Judiciary is so important that citizens tend to test the efficiency of their government through the effectiveness of its judiciary. People feel secure when they know that they can rely on the Judiciary for an impartial administration of justice. Thus, the Judiciary is the third most important arm of government. It is vested with the powers to interpret and apply the law of the land especially when the said laws are violated. These roles are performed by the Judges and their courts.

Main Functions of the Judicial Arm

1. It is the primary duty of the Judiciary to interpret the laws and settle disputes among the citizens, between the citizens and   the   government and among various levels of governments.
2. The Judiciary acts as watchdog of the Constitution as it can declare as null and void or unconstitutional, any law passed by the Legislature which does not conform to the Constitution
3. The Judiciary also protects individual rights as contained in Chapter IV of the Constitution, which include the individual freedom of movement, expression, religion, right to life and so on.
4. It is sometimes vested with the power to review the act of the Executive for example, if the courts find the president guilty of a criminal office he could be removed from office.
As we have already stated, all modern democratic governments have these important organs or arms, namely; the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. This in essence means that the three arms put together make up the government. In view of this, there should be some degree of cooperation among them for the smooth running of the administration, because one cannot work without the others. Although, there is separation of powers which makes for liberty, the union of powers promotes harmony, while both are essential for efficiency.

The Principles of Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances in Governance

Liberal writers believe that power is dangerous, and argue that it is morally bad for men to enjoy an excessive amount of it. Lord Acton declared that “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” The theory of separation of power simply states that different bodies of persons should administer each of the three departments of government that is, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, and that none of them should have controlling powers over the others.
The idea of splitting up power into separate parts is as old as Aristotle. He spoke of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers corresponding to ancient Greek practices. John Lock also argued that it was advisable in the interest of liberty for powers of government to be separated from each other. Mentesquieu, the French writer and jurist, also opined that it was essential for liberty that the three powers of government-Legislative, Executive, and Judicial should be held in separate hands to prevent abuse of power. The modern functionalists have also taken similar views by formulating the trio of Rule-making Rule-Application and Rule-Adjudication. It is argued that, if the rules are made by one group of people, applied or executive by another, and, interpreted by yet another group; it should be possible to prevent a situation where too much power accumulates in one place. For example, in a democratic presidential system such as Nigeria, the Constitution has provided for a separation of powers among the three anus of government each arm has certain powers of it’s own without interference by the other arms. However, in a parliamentary system, there is no clear separation of powers among these arms because ministers participate in the deliberation of parliament, .which means people who make up the Executive branch are also involved in the Legislative matters. This is peculiar with Nigeria during the first Republic.
In reality however, it is to be noted that there is no where in the modern world where the principles of separation of powers is rigidly adhered to. This is because there are always points of contact and interaction among the three arms of government in many countries practising presidential system of government to arrive at maximum harmony and cooperation for smooth administration.
However, separation of powers could be exercised through checks and balances, which is also clearer in a presidential system than in a parliamentary one. This is because in the latter, the Executive form an integral part of the Legislature, while in the former, the two arms are separate. For example, the Executive could check the activities of the Legislature because the president has the veto power to suspend the bills passed by the Legislature. Similarly, the Legislature could also check the Executive by conducting investigations into governmental policies by inviting the heads of the various departments of the Executive to appear before committees in the house for explanations. The judiciary could also check the Legislature by declaring as null and void or as unconstitutional any law passed by the Legislature, which does not conform, to the Constitution.

PERFORMANCE OF THE MASS MEDIA IN NIGERIA

The greatest ambition of any country is to achieve National Development. The roles of the mass media the radio, television and newspapers in aiding National Development can never be over emphasized. They perform the roles of” informing, educating, entertaining and mobilizing the people.
The history of the activities of the Nigerian mass medial could be traced back to the 1940s during the anti-colonial struggle-where their campaigns led to massive awareness by the people of the evils of colonial administration. This eventually led to the attainment of independence in 1960.
Nigeria now as an independent nation under democratic dispensation, the roles of the mass media are even more important than before. Thus, the importance accorded to the roles of mass media in modern democratic setting places them next to the three arms of government. Indeed, chapter II section (22) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria directs that:
“The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people “.
While chapter IV of the same constitution guarantees an individual’s right to freedom of expression and the press, section (39) sub-section (l) provides that:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
This in essence means that free flow of information and opinion is an integral part of democracy, and that the institution of the mass media is regarded as a powerful agency for the dissemination of this information. However, an over all assessment of the performances of the mass media indicates that it is not satisfactory due to certain reasons, which include:
1. Ownership: Most of the electronic media (radio and television) and some of the print-media are owned by government, as such, journalists who work there tend to report news favorable to the government. This reduces the independence, credibility and the quality of the news reports since it is one-sided and people no longer believe these reports. For example, striking workers sometimes refuse to call off their strike action on the basis of radio and television reports, unless they actually see or hear from their union leaders.
2. Control: The fact that government exercised greater control over even the private media organizations makes it difficult for journalists to disseminate information without fear of harassment by the government. For instance government  can  prescribe  the  publication   of any newspaper or magazine for publishing what it considered “offensive”. The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission can close down any radio or television station at the slightest provocation. Indeed, in the past, a decree was promulgated known as Degree 4 of 1984 by the Buhari administration, which specifically banned the publication of facts which were capable of embarrassing government officials. Many Nigerians are now happy with the contemporary democratic dispensation because Decree 4 no longer exists, but government still exercise control over the media in one way or the other.
3. The Problems of Funding: Lack of sufficient fund to run
the media houses is one of the major problems affecting
their operations. Sufficient money is needed to repair
broken down equipment, to buy new ones and to finance
staff training. The situation has degenerated so much that the worse hit are government owned media houses.
Despite the fact that some of them have resorted to taking certain measures such as retrenchment of staff, this problem still persists.
4. Elite-centered In Coverage: This is yet another short
coming associated with the activities of mass media in
Nigeria. Most of their reports focus on the activities of rich people in the society. News affecting the less privilege receive little coverage when compared with the coverage given to the activities of the rich and powerful in the society.
5. The Problems of Ethnicity: Most of the private media
organizations tend to be ethnic biased in their reports. Professional ethnics demand that journalist should be objective and always try to promote unity and stability in the country. But, it is unfortunate sometimes, instead of being agents of integration they become agents of disintegrating the various ethnic groups which make up Nigeria.
CONCLUSION
Modern democratic countries such as Nigeria operate their government under three arms namely-Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Each of these arms has certain functions to perform which; are separate from the others. Such functions as Law making-Legislature, Law execution Executive and enforcing and interpreting the Law-judiciary. Although these arms are separate, they are expected to work together in a harmonious relationship for the smooth running of the administration. The Nigerian mass media as a powerful agency for the dissemination of information and helping to strengthen democratic principles could not perform up to expectation due to constraints explained above.
REFERENCES
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA (1989): Report of the Political Bureau. Directorate for Social Mobilization “MAMSER”. Abuja
……………………………(1999): The constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria. Federal Government Press, Lagos.
HARRIS, P. B. (1976): Foundations of Political Science. Hutchinson Ltd; London.
LEEDS C.A (1975): Political Studies: Second Edition. Mac Donald and Evans Ltd, Great Britain
OYENEYE, O.. Y. (Eds) (1994): Nigerian Culture and Citizenship Education Maokus Publishers, Lagos

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