AN APPRAISAL OF THE CONCEPT AND PRACTICE OF ECONOMIC INTEGRATION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW: A CASE STUDY OF ECOWAS
The partitioning and subsequent introduction of European colonial governance in West Af-rica 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 interac-tive 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 rela-tion 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 ade-quate diversification, infrastructural deficit and lack of political will amongst others. It was this socio-economic disintegration that ECOWAS is designed to reverse, through the mecha-nism 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, inade-quate 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 re-cession which are taking tolls on the development capacity of member states. This study an-swers to the problems of research. It aims at examining the ECOWAS Treaty and its applica-tion 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 in-clude, 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 citi-zens, 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 relat-ing 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. ix 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 objec-tives, with a view to revitalising ECOWAS with realistic and relevant benefits to its peoples.