fbpx

Let’s give meaning to the principle of Separation of Powers

BY: Daily Graphic
Library photo

The Majority and the Minority in Parliament have made calls for the amendment of the Constitution such that a Member of Parliament (MP) cannot be appointed by the President as a Minister of State.

The 1992 Constitution follows the American presidential system which has formal separation of powers with checks and balances but with a few exceptions. 

It vests executive power in an Executive President elected together with his vice-president for four years and eligible for a second term only.  

Legislative power is vested in Parliament, whose members are also elected to a four-year term, while judicial power is vested in the Judiciary, with a wide measure of independence and the power of judicial review. 

But, according to Article 78(1) of the Constitution, majority of the President’s ministers must come from Parliament. 

In addition, the vice-president and non-MP ministers can participate in parliamentary proceedings, though without voting rights. 

These provisions introduced aspects of the British parliamentary system but without the attendant collective responsibility to Parliament. 

Another provision that upsets the viable system of separation of powers is the limitation expressly imposed on Parliament’s legislative powers by Article 108. 

That article conferred exclusive right on the President to introduce into Parliament bills that have financial or tax implications. This is repugnant to Parliament’s constitutional control of the purse string of the government.

The hybrid type of constitution that the country currently has, to some extent, flouts the principle of separation of powers, as well as that of checks and balances.

The essence of these principles is to ensure that the three arms of government are independent of one another, with none having control, subtly or directly, over the other.

However, as things stand currently, the President has the right to appoint majority of his ministers from Parliament.

Clearly, that amounts to a case of conflict of interest because the MPs so appointed cannot fulfil their mandate of putting the Executive in check.

The Daily Graphic believes our democracy has come a long way and some of these identified bottlenecks have to be fine-tuned as a way of boosting the structures of democracy.

It is also instructive to know that the call for the amendment of the Constitution to ensure a viable separation of powers is a bi-partisan one, an indication that it is not a by-product of sectarian interest but a call in the national interest.

We wish to admonish that as the country gears up for a constitutional amendment, there is the need to give the issue the needed consideration to bolster public confidence in our democratic institutions and give true meaning to the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.