The success and challenges of ECOWAS as a Nigerian body. Introduction In the world where we live today, isolation and alienation is almost impossible, countries every day grow in the need to integrate for different reasons: economy and trade stand out as the focal points. The world is slowly revolving and where uses to be boarders are slowly fading away. The world is slowly becoming a global village. However, despite the integrations, these states can be self absorbed and jealously guard their territory. That is, their claim to fame, which for states is there independence and sovereignty. (Rourke 2005). Therefore to harmonize between these jealous independent states, grew the needs for international institutions and integration. Basically there existed the independent state, with sovereignty and autonomy; this state has a certain degree of contact between them; they all recognize the need for establishment to a certain institutional structure to mediate and enhance their integration for their benefits; and there is usually a method for regulating actions between these political units. (Rourke 2005). These conditions gave birth to many international institutions, few among them are the United Nations, Common wealth, African Union (AU), European Union (EU) Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) to mention but few. The international institutions are formed at different levels with different goals and targets, some of them are political, Military and most of them are for trade and economy. Some of institutions and firmly established and are strong in executing the reasons of their creations, e.g. EU, while others are mere names of existence with serious challenges. For example Ekenoma Imohe ones wrote that the “Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) mainly act as a state that glorify in name rather than execution and implementation of the proper state policy to aid development” (Imohe 2007:3).This paper will focus on one of the international institutions as a means of integration and it will center on ECOWAS and its challenges as a Nigerian body. Definition of concepts Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) ECOWAS was formed in 1975. It has 15 countries. The 15 comprises of 5 Anglophone countries and 10 francophone countries. ECOWAS Treaty was signed in Lagos on May 28, 1975 to harmonize relationship within member states which was gradually design for the establishment of customs union, harmonization of economic and financial policies. Monetary policies were used to streamline industrial policy and master plan, in addition to provide funds for the poor countries of the region.

ECOWAS was restructured in 1993 to produce a reversionary approach to reflect, a common market integration to optimum, dynamic and common monetary policy, a single currency to be used in the sub-region, West Africa parliament to serve as the legislative, trade liberalization with deregulation (participation of all sector of the economy), development of infrastructure such as road; electricity; dam and telephone to mention but a few and the free movement of goods with persons in the community ( this lead to enforcement of the elimination of visa restriction of member state and the issuance of a single passport to enhance the movement of persons of member state. Nigeria Nigeria is one of the republics in western Africa; it is a member of ECOWAS. It has a coast along the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf of Guinea. Most of Nigeria consists of a low plateau cut by rivers, especially the Niger and its largest tributary, the Benue. The country takes its name from its chief river (Robert 2009). Until 1991, the capital was the largest city, Lagos, on the southwestern coast; at that time, the city of Abuja, in the country’s interior, became capital. Nigeria is by far the most populated of Africa’s countries, with more than one-seventh of the continent’s people. The people belong to many different ethnic groups. These groups give the country a rich culture, but they also pose major challenges to nation building. Ethnic strife has plagued Nigeria since it gained independence in 1960. (Robert 2009) The country has had its shear of crisis since the first civil war in sixties. The United Nation human development says more than 70 percent of the country’s population live in poverty and the World Health Organization (WHO) has it that currently the country has the highest rate of infant mortality in the world. And when it comes to corruption, the country leads: recently Amnesty International, rates Nigeria among the most corrupt nations in the world. Not also neglecting the inter ethnic and religious conflicts that ravage the nation. Many writers and observers have faulted the leadership of the country. A famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe wrote that “the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or in ability of leaders to rise to the responsibility and challenge of personal example which has the hall mark of true leadership” (Achebe 1983:1). Unfortunately, this was written about 30 years ago, but till date things continue to fall apart. Despite these short comings, that threatens the existence of Nigeria as a nation, Nigeria is the major country in the running, hosting and financing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Discuss The emergence of independent African States brought along the issue of economic viability within national borders, like trade continuity or economic policies. Moreover, there are small African countries for which it is much more difficult to enter independently in economic structures. Therefore regional integration seems to be, as is proven in many cases, the solution for rapid economic development in developing

countries. The idea of an economic grouping embracing all the states in West Africa emanated from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The ECA divided Africa into four sub-regions – North, West, Central, and East – regarded as being large enough to be economically viable and were meant to form units of integrated economic development.(Ichim 2006) The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was created with the purpose to become the most important international economic instrument for economic co-operation and development in West Africa. Over the years, there have been continues attempt to advance the agenda of ECOWAS, however, political problems and other economic priorities have slowed down the process. The initiative was nevertheless continued after the election in 1999 of a democratic government and a leader committed to regional integration in Nigeria, the largest economy of the region (Ichim 2006). As every regional organization, ECOWAS had to deal from the beginning with the inherent problems in these cases, like for instance the effective coordination of policies throughout the region, the need to help some countries that may suffer losses in the early stages or the need to surrender some sovereign powers in the decision-making process and as well the struggle for single currency. Since coordination of economic planning and economic policies demand somehow surrender of part of sovereignty, integration problems could arise because states in the sub-region seem to jealously guard their sovereignty. More so, in the states that make the ECOWAS, Nigeria for example, not until recently, political stability has been a major issue. Anti-government demonstration, assassination, constitutional changes, coups, government crisis, purges and riots, election rigging and political thuggery are the order of the day. (Maier 2000) Secondly, the difference in the language will continue to pose a limitation to growth, as in Nigeria with more than 250 ethnic languages. Due to Ethno linguistic fraction, there has been civil war in some Africa nations, the Ghana Civil war in 1957 caused by the ethnic problem and closely followed by the Nigeria civil war in 1966 Thirdly, is the threat pose by the economic factors. It is worst hit and most serious, that needs attention of all stake holders. Mass looting of the state funds is very common in West Africa by political office holders and bureaucrats, who see this as an avenue to make a fortune for the future. Those who steal state money are not punish, either of this now or in the future are catastrophe that can slow development in the community. In addition, economic saboteurs do make things worse, smuggling within the region without the proper custom inspection. There are avenue not to pay tax or underpay (Imohe 2007). Another militating challenge in most of the international organizations is the inability to enforce agreement or fulfillment of financial obligations. ECOWAS for example in 2009 the Niger President Tandja Muhammad wanted to run for the third term in office, as a result he decided to do a constitutional referendum that will give him ticket to contest again. Attempt by all the West African countries especially Nigeria to deter him failed. Until a coup-d’état in the country took him out of office in November 2009.

The challenges are numerous, but not all hope is lost. West Africa Countries continue to show a slight increase in the performance of export revenues usually from a few primary commodities or from a single product mineral commodity. Import of intermediate and capital goods to aid production of goods and services as well as to provide services all times. This sign is shown in most developing nation of the world. (Imohe 2007) ECOWAS has today successfully evolve a single international passports for its members to enhance free movement. However the date for the commencement on the use of single currency is not yet known. Recently the Nigeria central bank governor said, ECOWAS is not ready for a single currency yet.

Conclusion Nevertheless, despite the challenges facing the Regional body, the body may not be seen as a total failure because there is still room for corrections and hope that it will get better. Analysis proves that slow economic development has been mainly political. The government policies are not only misinterpreted, but misappropriation of state funds has been very rampant with those in the political class. Attempt by some past government to address the issue were rather unsuccessful due to changes in the government and government policy. The Nigeria government in 1984 lunches the program war against indiscipline, with the aim to combat corruption and economic saboteur, was later obstructed with the regime change. The community has good economic growth model, the issue is implementation at all level and hence it is necessary to give recommendation not as a lasting solution but be a part to effect a solution to the problems. Borrowing from the words of Chinua Achebe, there is nothing wrong with the West Africans, we can coordinate and perform even better than the European Union.


Achebe, Chinua (1983) Ichim, Octavian (2006)

The trouble with Nigeria, Oxford Publishers, Oxford 1983 ECOWAS, Cédric Dupont, 2006

Imohe, ekenoma e. (2007) Economic development crises in Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS): challenges and controversy. New York 200
Maier Karl (2000) Stock, Robert (2009). Rourke, John T. (2005) This House has fallen: Nigeria in Crisis Penguin group, London 2000 Nigeria. Microsoft Encarta 2009. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008. International Politics on the world stage Mc Graw Hill, New York, 2005

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