Lesson 2, Topic 1
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Democratic Institutions and their Functions

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There are many institutions established to promote the operations of the democratic process. These institutions are listed and discussed in this topic.

They are;

1. Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.

2. Political Parties.

3. Pressure Groups.

4. Arms of Government.

1. Independent National Electoral Commission INEC:

This institution has the responsibility of organising, conducting and supervising free and fair elections in Nigeria.

As a corporate body, it was established by the 1999 constitution and the electoral act of 2006.

The commission is made up of a Chairman, twelve (12) members who are appointed by the President and approved by the National Assembly.

INEC has legal and constitutional powers to carry out its duties. The Chairman is the electoral officer of the Nation. The decision of INEC on any election can only be challenged at the tribunals and law court.

Functions of INEC:

a. To conduct free and fair elections.

b. To conduct referendums and plebiscites.

A referendum is a direct vote by the electorate on a particular proposal or issue.
A plebiscite is the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution, choice of a ruler or government, etc.

c. To register all political parties and determine their eligibility.

d. Recruitment and training of electoral officials.

e. Printing of ballot papers.

f. Declaration of results.

g. Fixing the date for elections and provision of electoral materials.

h. Issuance of certificate of return to the winner.

i. Registration of voters.

j. Delamination, demarcation of the country into constituencies.

2. Political Parties:

A political party is an organised group of citizens, who act together as a political unit, having distinct aims and objectives, involving political issues in the state, and seeking to control the government.

In Nigeria, before any political party is registered, it must meet the provisions of the Law, Electoral Act.

Functions of Political Parties:

a. Control of Government: Political parties exist to contest elections and control the government.

b. Unity: Political parties unite the people on major issues affecting the state.

c. Machinery for Recruitment: Political parties provide machinery for the recruitment of political leaders.

d. Accountability: They enable the government to become accountable to the electorate through constructive criticism of the government in power.

e. Change of Government: With political parties, contesting elections, change of government is made easy and possible.

f. Political Education: They create political consciousness in the people, through rallies, meetings, electioneering, campaigns, party flag, symbols, posters, programmes and the use of mass media.

3. Pressure Groups:

Pressure groups are defined as organised groups, which influence government decisions, socially, and economically, without necessarily entering into election activities for the control of government.

In doing this, they influence the Executive, Legislative and officials of government to achieve their immediate aims.

The pressure groups employ the use of different means and methods to get their needs met by the government. Some of these methods are negotiation, dialogue, lobbying, sensitisation of the public on issues through mass media, protest marches or demonstrations, hunger, strike, etc.

Examples of Pressure Groups in Nigeria are;

  • Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)
  • Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT)
  • Odua Peoples Congress (OPC)
  • Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
  • Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
  • National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS)
  • Nigeria Medical Association (NMA)

Functions of Pressure Groups:

Pressure groups render the following functions to the society.

a. They serve as checks on the power of the state.

b. Pressure groups promote certain general welfare for example Nigeria Bar Association which sometimes offers free legal services in court.

c. They offer useful suggestions to the government.

d. They help to promote strong links between the government and segments of the society.

e. They act as watchdogs over public policies and demonstrations.

4. Arms of Government:

The activities of the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislature, coupled with their functions are an important aspect of democracy. These three arms of government have evolved, in order that the goals and business of government may be achieved and carried out effectively.

The act of checks and balance also foster and establish democracy.



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