AN APPRAISAL OF THE CONCEPT AND PRACTICE OF ECONOMIC INTEGRATION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW: A CASE STUDY OF ECOWAS

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ABSTRACT


The partitioning and subsequent introduction of European colonial governance in West Africa with its policy of legitimate trade in one or two cash crops to serve Europe‘s industrial
needs eroded indigenous industrial skills and the basis for development of sustainable interactive economic activities in West Africa. As a result, by the time most of the new nation states
of West Africa gained independence in the 1960s, they were left with structurally fragile and
highly disarticulated economies with inherent acute and devastating price distortions in the
international commodity markets, as currently being suffered by Nigeria and Ghana in relation to crude oil exports, and Cote d‘Ivoire in relation to its cocoa exports. These challenges
were further exacerbated by issues such as bad governance, political instability, lack of adequate diversification, infrastructural deficit and lack of political will amongst others. It was
this socio-economic disintegration that ECOWAS is designed to reverse, through the mechanism of economic cooperation and integration with a view to fostering sector development of
member states concerned in wealth creation and enhanced standards of living for its citizens.
In spite of this initiative, the hope of the sub-regional body remains largely unrealised owing
to emerging challenges of poverty (which is made manifest in very low literacy levels, inadequate health care services most often reflected in very high maternal mortality, inadequate
shelter, unaffordable goods and services amongst a host of other problems in member states),
intra-state armed conflicts, bad governance, political instability and the global economic recession which are taking tolls on the development capacity of member states. This study answers to the problems of research. It aims at examining the ECOWAS Treaty and its application to the various imperatives of cooperation and integration of the economies of member
states of ECOWAS. The study also focuses on examining the role of law and its implication
on the concept and practice of economic integration, and to provide findings with relation to
problems and prospects of economic integration. The study establishes these findings to include, low level of awareness of integration initiatives which has served to impede effective
implementation of most of the initiatives primarily aimed at deflecting the negative effects of
globalisation especially in the area of trade and commerce, particularly under the ECOWAS
Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS). The study also finds that poor governance and lack of
political and institutional accountability is a common denominator of armed conflicts in most
member states in the sub-region, and accounts in part for the failure of relevant agencies to
perform substantially. An additional find, is the absence of a common supranational legal tool
which constitutes a major impediment to cross border practice and accounts substantially for
the slow pace of intra-regional trade across the sub-region. Flowing out of these findings, the
study recommends the imperative of raising the level of awareness of national authorities,
manufacturers and general public on the various integration initiatives of ECOWAS with a
view to promoting inter-community trade, wealth creation and empowering community citizens, particularly when noted that ECOWAS has a large market that is vital for national and
sub-regional development. It is also recommended that the Protocol on Democracy and Good
Governance should be enforced with a view to sanctioning erring member states that violate
the Protocol through the suspension of such erring members voting rights on all matters relating to the ECOWAS. The study additionally recommends the harmonisation of Business
Laws with the aim of eliminating the existence of different legal systems in ECOWAS. This
would assist in providing a more secure legal environment and provide for certainty of laws,
thereby enhancing the pace of intra-regional trade in ECOWAS.

The scope of the study is determined by the statement of problem and objectives of research.
Accordingly, the research focuses on issues that resolve its problems and advance its objectives, with a view to revitalising ECOWAS with realistic and relevant benefits to its peoples.

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