AN APPRAISAL OF THE CONCEPT AND PRACTICE OF ECONOMIC INTEGRATION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW:A CASE STUDY OF ECO WAS
1.1 Background of the Study
The concept and practice of economic integration between or among states has an old history.
By literature available to the researcher, it dates back long before the period of the Berlin Conference in 1884, when African nations thrived on cooperation and community life to resolve challenges and develop their communities. Relative to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it is as old as the community itself. Indeed, it is the raison d‘être for the formation of the community. Article 3 of the ECOWAS treaty sets out the aims and objectives which among others are to promote cooperation and integration leading to the establishment of an economic union.
West Africa is the part of Africa that is bounded in the West and South by the Atlantic Ocean, the Sahara desert on the North, and on the East by the eastern boundaries of present day Nigeria. Practically, it is that area of Africa that is encircled in the North by a line running from the Senegal River to Lake Chad, in the East by a line running from Lake Chad Basin to the Cameroon Mountains, and in the south and west, by the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Traditionally, the peoples of West Africa have earned their living from the land which accounts for why agriculture remains the bedrock of all other indigenous economic activity in West Africa. Other occupations such as trade and craft manufacture were rather undertaken on a part time basis, while additional types of productive enterprises were often made possible by the financial surplus from agriculture. The arrival of the Europeans on the west coast of Africa between the 17th and 18th centuries drastically changed the nature of economic activities in West Africa, resulting in a ‗profitable trans-national commercial enterprise‘ which for centuries severely retarded socio-economic development throughout West Africa. Also, the resultant partitioning and subsequent introduction of European colonial governance in West Africa with its colonial policy of legitimate trade in one or two cash crops to serve the industrial needs of Europe further worsened the resultant erosion of indigenous industrial skills and the basis for the development of sustainable interactive economic activities
throughout West Africa.
In consequence therefore, by the time most of the new nation states of West Africa gained their independence in the 1960‘s, they were left with structurally fragile and highly dis articulated economies with inherent acute and devastating price distortions in the international commodity market.
Efforts to co-ordinate economic cooperation on a sub-regional level in West Africa dates back to 1963, with a conference on industrial harmonization in the sub-region in Lagos, Nigeria, followed by the Niamey conference on economic cooperation in 1966. Similarly in 1967, another conference was held in Accra, Ghana where a tentative agreement on the Articles of Association of a proposed economic community in West Africa was signed.
An interim Council of ministers mandated to prepare a Draft Treaty for the proposed community recommended that the inaugural meeting of the proposed community be held at the level of Heads of State and Government. Though the Heads of State and Government actually met in Monrovia in 1968 and signed the protocol for a regional group, neither the Draft Treaty nor the Protocol on customs union submitted by the interim council was adopted.
In 1972, the process was revived by the Heads of State of Nigeria and Togo by mandating their officials to streamline a framework for community cooperation based on the following guiding principles:
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