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Fundamental Rights Under the Nigerian Constitution, 1960-1965


This paper, prepared for presentation at a Seminar on Constitutional Problems of Federalism in Nigeria, admirably expresses his interests in constitutional law, raises fundamental questions of human rights. If liberty lies in the hearts of men and women, what is the role of constitutions, laws and courts? How can they sustain liberty, giving it reality and dimension in organized society? Should fundamental rights be incorporated into a constitution as explicitly stated ideals or as general principles, susceptible of adaptation and growth through the creative use of judicial review? And what should be the relationship between the courts and the legislature, so that the courts may protect human rights, without usurping legislative functions?

In the process of answering these questions, Professor Proehl relates constitutional statements of rights to the structure of power in the society, differentiating between decentralized agrarian societies, and urbanized, technologically developed societies with centralized structures of power. He analyzes theories of judicial review in the United States, as a basis for the examination of decided cases in Nigeria, involving constitutional interpretation. Developing a comparative approach to these problems, he is concerned throughout with the role of law, as a great creative force in building a just society; and he concludes that law can be effective if it rests on the peoples' tenacious and uncompromising insistence on fundamental rights and if the judiciary assists the people to an understanding of the full meaning and importance of human rights.

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