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The concentration of powers in one arm of government may lead to dictatorship and arbitrary rule. Therefore there is need to avoid the concentration of power in one arm, of government and each arm of government should be independent of another so that the acts of one arm of government should not be controlled by any other. It means therefore that an arm of government that makes laws, enforces such laws and adjudicates over breaches of such laws will do so to suit its own purposes either politically, economically or socially to the detriment of others. The concept of separation of powers therefore arose from the need to ensure and restrain power of government without carrying the divisions to an extreme incompatible to effective government. The three (3) arms of government, viz: The Legislature, The Executive and the Judiciary, must have distinct functions and must be independent of one another.

In this regards while the Legislature makes the laws, the Executive is charges with the implementation of law, and the Judiciary is for the interpretation of the laws and its adjudication. The main notion of this is to avoid tyranny, anarchy, dictatorship and so on; which results from one person or group of persons handling powers. [1]

Notwithstanding, in the majority of the modern systems of government, the powers of the government can be divided into three different arms, usually referred to as organs of government. However, the doctrine of separation of powers applies in the presidential system of government.

A presidential system of government is a government where all executive powers are vested in a President who is the head of state and of government. The President may exercise the executive powers of government either directly by himself or through the Vice-President, Ministers or other offices in the public services of the country. The powers of the President are to maintain the constitution and to apply all the laws made by parliament for the time being in force and to implement party programmes and generally uphold the interest of the nation and the welfare of the people at all times.

Although some Political Scientists, such as Locke, Rousseay, Jefferson, Bodin and the authors of federalist papers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had the conception of the doctrine of separation of powers in their various writings, the Theory of Separation of Powers was clearly formulated for the first time by a French Political Thinker and Jurist Baron de Monetesquieu in his book entitled “ESPIRIST DES LOIS” meaning, the spirit of the laws-published in 1748. [2] In his book, Montesquien divided the governmental powers into three separate and coordinate branches-the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary. He then argued that, if right, liberty of every citizen is to be fully guaranteed each function must be exercised by a separate and independent organ of government; i.e. an organ must be charged only with the legislative function, another with the executive function and another with the judicial functions.

The above, the doctrine of separation of powers called for the need for checks and balances which help in fighting against tyranny, dictatorship, anarchy and naked use of powers by different organs of government. Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, section 4,5,6, provide for the effective division of the three powers and branches of government. [3]


All over the years, various associations, people, states or countries; have a separate law, or body of rules, which regulate such unit of people, the internal structure of the country, the powers and functions of government and the right and duties of the people.

It should be noted that, the idea of separation of powers is put up in order to separate the three organs of government and for it to work effectively without one interfering with the work of the other(s). In some circumstances however, the three organs of government have been interfering with the work of the other(s).

Notwithstanding the above, there is fusion among the three arms of government because the Executive does interfere with the work of the Judiciary, Legislative with the work of the Executive and Judiciary with the work of Legislative. So if there is a clear separation of powers among the organs of government, rights, liberty and freedom of a citizen will be maintained and guaranteed. In this regard, section 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) make it clear for the three arms of government to operate without interfering with one another. [4]These include:

  1. The legislature-Law making
  2. The Executive – Implementation or execution of laws and
  3. The Judiciary- Interpretation of the laws.


The main objective of this study is to look at the doctrine of separation of powers and its application in Nigeria. This research work will examine total separation of powers in Nigeria as applied in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).


In this research work, the primary and secondary sources are used to achieve the purpose and the objective of this study. The basic or major methods used in this research work are the questionnaire and interview methods.

However, one of the methods also used is from preliminary studies mainly the scope of this research work. 


The study is expected to be adequately and immensely beneficial to the . The significance of the study of this research work is to bring a total separation of powers in Nigeria as provided for, in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. [5]

However, the words “dictatorship”, “tyranny”, “arbitrary” of powers and “naked use” of power by different organs of government should be abolished in the Nigerian society, if rights, liberty, freedom of a citizen is to be maintained and guaranteed to the barest minimum.

It is hereby stressed that, maintaining the liberty of the citizens is the primary and real reason for separation of powers in government. This is the most favourable view in most countries of the world, as the greatest reason for the doctrine of separation of powers. This was formulated as a check against tyranny. No arm of government is to be allowed to be so powerful as to subjugate the other arms of government and the people. Moreover, the organs of government should learn to implement the doctrine of separation of powers, because it is a general safeguard against oppression and their social and political evils, such as legislative exercise of judicial function or more simply, legislative judgment and so. [6]

Finally, future Researchers will make use of this study as a reference material in other related research works.     


This research work would have been conducted in many libraries in Nigeria as to know more about the doctrine of separation of powers and its wide application. However, due to the limitation with regards to time and funds, the scope of this research work is limited to the law library, Benue State University, Makurdi Nigeria as well as the internet.

[1] Johnson Ugoji Anyacle, Comprehensive Government for Senior Secondary School (Lagos: Johnson Publishers Ltd, 1991) page 69..

[2] John Locke, second treatise on civil government chapter 12-20

[3] SS 4,5,6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

[4] S 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999

[5] S 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999

[6] P. O. Oluyele and D. O. Ache, cases and materials on constitutional law in Nigeria (UP UPL publishers Ltd) page 65.

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