CONSTITUTIONAL JUSTICE IN AFRICA: An Examination of Constitutional Positivism, Fundamental Law and Rights in Ghana and Nigeria
Atupare, Peter Atudiwe
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This work explores the idea of constitutional justice in Africa with a focus on constitutional interpretation in Ghana and Nigeria. The objective is to develop a theory of constitutional interpretation based upon a conception of law that allows the existing constitutions of Ghana and Nigeria to be construed by the courts as law in a manner that best serves the collective wellbeing of the people. The project involves an examination of both legal theory and substantive constitutional law. The theoretical argument will be applied to show how a proper understanding of the ideals of the rule of law and constitutionalism in Ghana and Nigeria necessitate the conclusion that socio-economic rights in those countries are constitutionally protected and judicially enforceable. The thesis argues that this conclusion follows from a general claim that constitutions should represent a ‘fundamental law’ and must be construed as an aspirational moral ideal for the common good of the people. The argument is essentially about the inherent character of ‘legality’ or the ‘rule of law.’ It weaves together ideas developed by Lon Fuller, Ronald Dworkin, T.R.S. Allan and David Dyzenhaus, as well as the strand of common law constitutionalism associated with Sir Edward Coke, to develop a moral sense of ‘law’ that transcends the confines of positive or explicit law while remaining inherently ‘legal’ as opposed to purely moral or political. What emerges is an unwritten fundamental law of reason located between pure morality or natural law on the one hand and strict, explicit, or positive law on the other. It is argued that this fundamental law is, or should be, the basis of constitutional interpretation, especially in transitional democracies like Ghana and Nigeria, and that it grounds constitutional protection for socio-economic rights. Equipped with this theory of law, courts in developing African countries like Ghana and Nigeria will be in a better position to contribute towards developing a real sense of constitutional justice for Africa.