Julius Emeka Okolo

The eight years (1985-1993) of General Ibrahim Babangida’s presidency in Nigeria were at the same time part of the history of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Indeed, no story of (ECOWAS) from 1985 to the end of the last millennium can be told without turning it into a story of Babangida’s efforts to steer the ship away from the storm and tempest of the time.

Upon Babangida’s assumption of power in Nigeria (a founding member of ECOWAS), he was faced with a number of sub-regional challenges. Fortunately, he was characteristically bold and resolute and ready not only to tackle them but also leave indelible footprints on the sands of ECOWAS’ history. The areas where he believed he had to work hard to strengthen ECOWAS included among others, the revitisation of the community, improving relations with and among ECOWAS neighbours handling the issue of free movement of persons within the sub-region, advancing the seemingly intractable matter of trade liberalisation, contributing financially for ECOWAS promotion, advancing monetary union, and ensuring sub-regional security. The first few years of the eight-year leadership of Babangida, seemed difficult enough, but the apparently continuing lack of the grouping’s desired objectives constituted even more challenges.

Revitalisation of the Community

In the preamble of the treaty of ECOWAS, it is stated that the primary objectives of the community are the promotions of `accelerated and sustained’ `harmonius economic devolopment’ of the member states, the `creation of a homogenous society, leading to the unity of the countries in West Africa’, and enhancing `a fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of cooperation among member states’. Moreover the treaty aims at eliminating all customs and other duties of trade among member countries and establishing more customs tariff and a common commercial policy towards third countries. In the sum, the community will promote `the rapid and balanced development of West Africa’ and expects to achieve the goal `by stages’­

By 1982, there was evidence of disenchantment with these objectives within Nigeria at both official and citizen levels. These attitudes stemmed from economic difficulties the nation was encountering. Nigerians and their leadership elites, felt that for several years their country was making undue sacrifices for ECOWAS at the expense of the home base and that they should not undertake to make more sacrifices. This negative attitude crystallised in the expulsion of illegal immigrants (most of whom where citizens of ECOWAS states) under the Shagari regime in January 1983. The action was justified with the argument that the aliens were occupying jobs which unemployed Nigerians should have taken. `

Moreover, when the Buhari regime came to power in 1984, it showed dis-interest in ECOWAS. Within four months of its ascension to power, it closed all Nigeria land borders to check smuggling of goods and currencies and later carried out another expulsion of illegal immigrants. Furthermore, Buhari’s government declined to host the 1985 ECOWAS summit, postponed for one year the coming into force of the second phase of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of citizens and only reluctantly accepted election as chairman of the community. This show of lack of official enthusiasm affected and conditioned the Nigerian public perception of ECOWAS.

Babangida worked to regenerate enthusiasm in the community by reaffirming the unflinching commitment of Nigeria to the aims, objectives and aspirations of ECOWAS and by reversing several actions of his immediate predecessors that were contrary to the `spirit of ECOWAS.’ For example, he reopened Nigeria’s borders closed in April 1984 and commenced the implementation of the second phase of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Right of Residence with effect from June 1986.

In addition, he saw to it that Nigeria fulfilled its promise to provide some residential accommodation to some senior staff of the community outside its statutory obligation by completing the renovation of nearly three dozen housing units allocated by the federal government and handing them over to the ECOWAS Executive Secratariat. He provided land in Abuja where the federal capital was being movdd, for the construction of the headquarters of the community, and his government donated N5 million ($4.5 million at that time) to augument the amount approved by the ECOWAS authority for the implementation of the project.

In the wake of the sub-regional economic crises and the need for concerted action to reverse the continuing difficulties, ECOWAS adopted the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) for the period [1986-1990] to evolve a system for the effective and speedy realisation of the potential gains to be derived from the creation of conditions favourable to the expansion of collective productive capacity.’ “Babangida directed debates toward the transformation of the sub-regional economy. In this respect, he took into consideration the assessment of the economic situation by the Executive Secretary, Munu, and the report of the ECOWAS managing director M.B. Fall. Noting that the external debt of the member states of the community stood at $50 billion, Munu, denominated debt­servicing one of the factors `that have frustrated most of the attempts made by the government of the `sub- region to reduce the structural imbalances inherent in the West African economy”. Fully reported that as at January 1988, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had concluded 14 standby structural and rescheduling agreements with 10 ECOWAS members, Nigeria’s adjustment was in collaboration with the IMF, while the other countries have started economic reform programmes. For Babangida, therefore, it was `obvious that our salvation lies in our individual and collective will to transform our economies by ourselves.’

Before 1988 came to an end, some initiatives had been put in place: notably ECOWAS leaders had accepted in principle the restructuring of the funa enhance its resources. Under the auspices of the Fund, the backbone of the ERP, 136 projects were involved in the programme. Out of the figure, total funding was secured for 19 projects, while 31 projects were selected for funding by the fund, 76 were submitted to donors who expressed interest in 31 of them, and 10 were not submitted to donors because of incomplete studies on them. By March 1988, 7 percent of the first tranche of paid-up capital launched in 1977 was still outstanding and only 11 of the members had fully honoured their commitments. The second tranche of the paid-up capital was declared due for payment in July 1987, but one year later, no payment was received at the Funds headquarters in Lome, Togo. Inspite of Babangida’.s inexorable efforts to push the ERP to success, he was still short of reaching his goal in this area of ECOWAS activity.


Improving Relations with and among Neighbours

ECOWAS has in the past been hampered by several intra-regional problems. Indeed, there were a number of frontier disputes such as that between Mali and Burkina Faso which in 1974/ 75 claimed many lives. In January 1976, Togo had, in an advertisment in the London -.Times, called for the adjustment of its boundaries with Ghana. Ghana, in turn, accused Togo of supporting the secessionist movement in Ghana’s Volta region. Although Togo denied the accusation, it was repeated by Ghana in September 1977 with a warning about the possibility of an outbreak of war between the two countries. Senegal also had some disagreement with Guinea Bissau over their maritime border believed to have oil deposits.

There were also endemic political disputes among West African states. When Cotonou, capital of Benin Republic, was a victim of mercenary attack in January 1977, President Kerekou accused some African countries, particularly three ECOWAS members-Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo of complicity and pressed its charges at the United Nations in the following July. The then president of Guinea, Sekou Toure, siding with Kerekou, further claimed that Cote d ‘Ivoire and Senegal were “the springboard for anti-Guinea activities”, declaring that Africa would soon be rid of “the puppetism of Houphouet-Boigny and Senghor.” In September 1976, he levelled a similar accusation on Guinea Bissau which resulted in the closure of the Guinea Embassy in Bissau.

Considering these background problems and the lingering negative impact of Nigeria’s expulsion of illegal aliens, the Babangida regime promised an early improvement in relations with neighbours and among neighbours of the sub­region. The strategy Babangida devised for dealing with the problem was aimed at assuring Nigeria’s West African sister states of his sincerity and creating an atmosphere of cooperation and understanding. In 1986, Babangida became the first Nigerian Head of state to pay an official visit outside Nigeria to neighbouring Niger Republic, another ECOWAS country, demonstrating Nigeria’s good neighbouliness and ECOWAS mindedness. It has being noted that during his second term as ECOWAS chairman, the atmosphere was quite and relatively peaceful ‘explicit rows between any two or more of the member states’.

Babangida was committed to promotion of peace and tranquillity as a way to reduce the conflicts and tensions that worked against integrative and cooperative regionalism. A typical example of his action in this area of activity was his mediatry role between Ghana and Togo. Under his leadership, Nigeria persuaded Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to make his first visit to neighbouring Togo since he came to power. This statesmanlike gesture of yours, Babangida told Rawlings, `will forever be cherished by all who desire to see the dreams of ECOWAS become a reality.’

He also praised Presdient Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo for welcoming Rawlings in a gesture that apparently amounted to `forgiveness’ for wrongs done to Togo. “In 1986, too, Nigeria, under the leadership of the Babangida regime and Guinea were asked by the summit of ECOWAS Authority to mediate in the dispute between Liberia and Sierra Leone” caused by the invasion of the former by the latter. The issue was successfully resolved.

Moreover, Babangida assured member-states of Nigeria’s commitment to the community, he took bold steps ahead of the 1986 summit of the Authority scheduled for June 30 to July 2, which he was to chair for the first time. On June 18, his regime announced that it had ratified the protocol, and would allow citizens of ECOWAS member-countries to live and work in Nigeria without visas and work permits. Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs clarified that only immigrants in six professional categories, namely doctors, health personnel, architects, engineers, surveyors, teachers, and bilingual secretaries, whose certificates must be verified by government agencies and who must find jobs within six months or be expelled, would enjoy the right of residence, the gesture was considered encouraging by ECOWAS member-states.

During the summit, Babangida was happy to inform his colleagues that `Nigeria has also commenced the implementation of the second phase of the protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Right of Residence with effect from June 1986. At the same time, he reminded them that `we all have collective responsibility to educate our citizens about the requirements of this protocol and the relevant national laws and regulations under which it will operate. This we must do to help our people and community’. The protocol was formally adopted at the summit and signed by the Heads of State and Government. No matter the qualifications attached to putting it into operation, its approval by Nigeria was a major token of continued commitment to ECOWAS, and Babangida must be credited with making the outcome possible.

Advancing Trade Liberalisation

At the time Babangida came to power, internal barriers standing in the way of agricultural and industrial trade had not been eliminated despite the decisions made within the framework of programmes of free trade for industrial and agricultural products. The result was that neither the free trade zone, common external tariff, nor Customs Union existed.

Indeed, the ECOWAS treaty envisaged trade liberalisation through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers which were to be phased out over fifteen years subsequent to the coming into force of the treaty. Intra-community trade liberalization was to be accomplished in two stages. The first stage, devoted to organization issues and the collation of information about customs duties, was to have been completed by 1977. The second stage, which would have required member-states to reduce and ultimately to eliminate import duties over the following eight years in accordance with a schedule drawn up to avoid disruption of revenues of member-states, was to have been accomplished by 1985. By 1990, a common external tariff was to be established and duties on imports from third countries were to be eliminated.

However, in their meetings between 1976 and 1979 member-countries were unable to agree on a trade liberalization scheme or to establish a common external tariff. Differences between the tariff preferences of individual countries and those of the Francophone Communaute Economique de I’Afrique de 1’Ouest (CEAO) and the Mano River Union (MRU) delayed the implementation of the community’s trade liberalization programme. Indeed, announcement of the programme had to wait until the summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in May 1980.

The Authority distinguished products manufactured by enterprises accorded community status, products manufactured in a member state already accorded preferential treatment within the CEAO or the MRU, and all other products. Tariffs on the first group were to be eliminated by 28 May 1981. Tariff liberalization for the second group of products was to start on that date, the four industrially more advanced members (Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal) were to eliminate all these barriers by 28 May, 1985, but the less industrially developed members (the rest of the member-states) had eight years (until 28 May 1989) to lift them. The third category, the largest product group to be affected by the ECOWAS tariff schedule, was subjected to a more gradual process of intra-regional tariff reduction. Tariffs on these products were to be completely removed by the industrially more advanced countries over a period of six years beginning on 28 May 1981; less advanced members had eight years starting from the same date. Intra-regional tariffs on all categories were therefore supposed to be completely eliminated by mid-1989. The removal of non-tariff barriers in the sub-region, also scheduled for elimination by May 1985, was left to the discretion of member-states, raising serious doubts about the likelihood of their eventual abolition.

However, rather than coming into effect in 1981 as originally intended. “Certain practical difficulties which had been encountered” meant that the freeze on customs tariffs only began in May 1983. A new tariff liberalization time-table was then prepared showing the periods over which different countries must end tariff on goods of community origin. Member-states were divided into three groups on the basis of their relative levels of industrial development, and industrial products were divided into priority and non-priority goods.

On priority industrial products, tariff elimination was spread over eight years on the basis of 12.5 percent reduction per-year for group one countries six years on the basis of 16.66 percent reduction per year for group two, and four-years on the basis of 25 per cent reduction per year for group three. On non-priority industrial products, the elimination of tariffs was fixed for group one at a 10 percent reduction each year for ten years, for group two at 12.5 percent reduction each year for eight years, and for group three at 16.66 per cent reduction each year for six years. Under this scheme which would start simultaneously in all member­states total elimination of tariff barriers on priority goods would be completed two years faster than non-priority goods, and complete elimination of tariffs, on the basis of the linear reductions depending on the country category, would be effected in group three two years earlier than in group two, while group two would accomplish the task two years ahead of group one. By 1993 tariff barriers for all categories of products and in all groups would be eliminated, four years later than originally scheduled.

As well as liberalization of trade in industrial product, ECOWAS also adopted plans to liberalize trade in both unprocessed goods and traditional handicrafts. On 19 November 1979, the Council of Ministers decided to abolish immediately all duties and taxes on unprocessed goods and to eliminate all non-tariff barriers to their circulation within the community. On 29 May, 1981, a similar action was taken by the Authority in respect of traditional handicrafts, and a list of traditional handicrafts recognised by the community as eligible for preferential treatment was issued.”

The decision to liberalise trade on unprocessed goods grew out of a recognition that such goods formed the basis of the small trade that already existed with the sub-region and also that the free flow of these products would encourage further trade, because some of the unprocessed items provided the basic materials for the budding industrial sector. Free trade in traditional handicrafts arose from the desire to encourage small rural-based enterprises to expand and to increase their efficiency in order to build up their earning capacity.

This description or the trade liberalization programme depicts the situation existing at the time Babangida took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria. As ECOWAS Chairman in 1986, 1987, and 1988, he expressed unhappiness about the situation and endeavoured to do something about it. At the Abuja 1986 summit of the Authority, he reminded his colleagues that “… the level of trade between our various countries remains abjectly low even after so many years of our existence as a community.” He lamented that “we set for ourselves the achievement of a Customs Union in the Community by 1990 but four years to this target date, there is little concrete proof of movement in that direction.’ He, therefore, urged that “we must resolve here in Abuja to achieve a significant increase in the level of legitimate trade amongst the ECOWAS member-states by 1988,’ and that `All obstacles to the achievement of our trade liberalization objectives must be properly identified and removed if the ECOWAS is to make any appreciable impact on our inherited pattern of trade flows and accelerate the overall pace of our economic integration.’

At the 1987 summit also held in Abuja, he emphasized his plea that “appropriate measures within our respective countries’ should be taken towards the “implementation of the Single Trade Liberalization Scheme” and that more positive action would need to be taken on the issue of common external tariff. During the 1988 summit held in Lome, Togo, Babangida drew attention to “the prominent role flourishing intra-Community trade could play in our economic recovery process and the need for us to put into effect the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme.” But he lamented that, “It does appear to me that no significant change for the better has taken place in this direction.

Babangida’s tireless pleas ultimately bore fruit when ECOWAS member-states rekindled their impetus for the implementation of the trade liberalization scheme, and at the Burkina Faso summit of 1989 approved the commencement of the scheme, as it affected industrial products, to take off from January l, 1990. When it actually took-off on that date, Babangida happily and- proudly requested all members to give specific policy directives for thorough implementation in their member states

Contributing Financially for Promoting ECOWAS

Like the trade liberalization issue, contributing to the budget of the Community constituted a problem for member-states. It made the financial situation of ECOWAS institutions, the ECOWAS Fund and the Executive Secretariat, precarious. The Fund established in 1977 started operation in 1979. It is charged with the tasks of assembling financial resources for a wide range of community development projects, especially in the less-developed states, and administering financial compensation to poorer states in the framework of trade liberalization. The Executive Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the community. To undertake these responsibilities, three categories of contributions are discernible, statutory financial contributions which is obligatory; voluntary contributions to ECOWAS; and voluntary assistance to individual member-states of ECOWAS.

At the time he took up the chairmanship of ECOWAS, Babangida found the organization in grave financial difficulties. Some thirteen member-states had prolonged arrears in contributing their financial obligations to ECOWAS. Babangida’s dilemma was to find a way to induce countries to settle their arrears and meet their future obligations. Some countries in arrears could have paid but their political will to commit themselves to the goals and objectives of the Community was weak, while others were unable to pay because of mammoth internal economic difficulties and devastating external conditions, including heavy external debts.

Nonetheless, Babangida took steps to tackle the problem. In 1986, he personally addressed messages to member-states whose countries were in arrears of their financial contributions. He despatched a delegation which was accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the ECOWAS to these states to hold discussions and reach some understanding on a time-table for meeting the outstanding obligations. The Authority later agreed at the 1986 Summit on a time-table for member-states settling arrears up to 1983 by 31st October 1986 and the outstanding balance by 31st March 1987. “A situation,” Babangida commented, “where we-have over US$15 million outstanding against member-states does not offer encouragement to our organization and will adversely affect the ability of” our institutions to implement approved programmes.”

In fact, beginning in 1990 the Fund had been unable to carry out any appraisal of the various projects the Community was implementing on account or much loan repayment arrears. Direct financial contributions were to be made by member­states to the operational budget of the Secretariat, the conpletion of the refund of loans disbursed by the Fund. The construction of the headquarters in Abuja and Lome was estimated at 500 million pounds each.

Of the sixteen member-states of ECOWAS, only three member states Cote D’ Ivoire, Nigeria, and Togo – had made regular contributions and had no record of accumulated arrears. Sanctions were proposed and applied against some of the defaulting members. Babangida showed little enthusiasm about application of sanctions, but he simply had to concur with the imperative decision of the Authority.

To the Community itself and to the less-advantaged member-states, Babangida saw the necessity for a combination of such efforts, and critics hardly accused him of shying away from, doing his financial duties to the sub-regional body.

Advancing Monetary Union

The treaty of ECOWAS makes elaborate provisions for the harmonization of the monetary and fiscal policies of members of the Community. Responsibility on the matter and on ensuring the maintenance or a balance of payments equilibrium and examination of developments in the economies of member-states is placed by the treaty with the Trade, Customs, Immigration, Monetary and Payments Commission (TCIMPC). The Commission is required to make recommendations to the Council of Ministers on the establishment, in-the short term, of bilateral systems for the settlement of accounts between the member states, and in the long-term, of a multilateral system for the settlement of such accounts. A committee or West African Central Banks consisting of the Governors of the Central Banks of member states or such other persons who member-states may designate is established to recommend to the Council of Ministers from time to time on the operation of the clearing system of payment and on other monetary issues of interest to the Community.

The particular provisions of the treaty constitute the base for the harmonization of the various existing monetary systems of the West African sub-region and the adoption of a common currency. But the ECOWAS founding fathers recognized some difficulties, hence rather than make definitive commitment in placing the harmonization responsibility on the TCIMPC, they employed a hortatory expression “as soon as possible”. In effect, treaty envisages a gradual rather than a rapid process toward the goal. Nonetheless, the treaty clearly spells out the machinery for the achievement of the objective. Recommendations of the TCIMPC as well as those of the Committee of West African Central Banks are deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers which may make further recommendations for final decision to the Authority.

Positive moves towards monetary union in the West African sub-region did not actually begin until the-second year of Babangida’s chairmanship of ECOWAS in 1987. Babangida was convinced that lack of monetary union hampered ECOWAS activities, not the least of them intra-ECOWAS trade, and that monetary union was, therefore, a paramount issue for the community. During the 1987 summit of the Authority, Babangida stated:

“I am happy to note that concrete steps have now been taken to realise our cherished hope of having a single monetary zone for the sub-region. The non convertibility of our various currencies explains to a large extent the present low level of intra-ECOWAS trade. At this juncture, I should inform you that the recommendations of the Committee of Governors of the ECOWAS Central Banks have been considered by Finance Ministers of the ECOWAS and subsequently by the Council of Ministers. The blueprint for the establishment of a single monetary zone for the 44 ECOWAS member states will be placed before us at this Summit.”

Babangida was actually referring to a proposal by the governors of ECOWAS central banks at a meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in May, 1987 heralding a common currency in five years. It was planned that there would be a five-year transitional period to 1992 in which adjustments would be made in exchange rates and-fiscal policies, with a strengthening of the West African Clearing House. Following the five years, the situation was to be reviewed to see if conditions were right for the key moves towards a full monetary zone with convertible currency and pooled reserves.

The communique of the 1987 summit recorded “a welcome to progress in preparations towards the creation of a single monetary zone. But the steps to its realization were not going to be easy. With some nine different currencies existing in the ECOWAS sub-region, harmonizing them would have to take strong commitment by member-states. 1992 gained considerable support as the year for the creation of the union, but serious problems loomed ahead in the form of the reluctance of heads of state to give up some immediate national interests in favour or the Community, franco-phone countries and Nigeria seeing advantages in the currency arrangements offered them by the former colonial metropoles, and the absence of strong economies which hampered the sub-regional possibilities for a monetary union.” Therefore, as much as Babangida desired to push for the realisation of the union, he had difficulties pushing the matter through.

Indeed, during the 1989 summit of the Authority held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, he complained of “slow progress” made in advancing monetary union and urged the governors of ECOWAS central banks to “redouble their efforts to achieve results in this direction”. At the time he left as President of Nigeria in 1993, not much had “been achieved by the community in the area of monetary union, but he had set the stage for advancing it that the Community would follow in the years ahead.

Ensuring sub-Regional Security

The crisis in Liberia led to a fratricidal war and brutal killing of Liberians by Liberians and wanton destruction of property. The situation brought Nigeria into a closer working relationship with ECOWAS member-states. It also ultimately enabled all the other countries in the sub-region to join in the effort to restore peace and tranquility in Liberia. Babangida was at the forefront of the peace initiatives. Working under the mandate of the ECOWAS defence pact of 1981, he and his colleagues established a standing committee to mediate in the Liberian crisis. The mediation committee of which Nigeria was a member and spring-board then proposed that, given the complete state of anarchy in Liberia, an ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) be established with troops contributed by Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Togo however, declined to contribute troops.

ECOMOG suffered other initial setbacks. Babangida was criticized within and outside Nigeria for unnecessarily meddling in the affairs of Liberia by smuggling assistance to the embattled President Samuel Doe whose misrule and recklessness had brought about the crisis. Cote d ‘Ivoire and Burkina Faso backed out from contributing troops to the peace initiative. Charles Taylor, leader of National Patriotic Front of Liberia, one of the warring factions, refused to cooperate with ECOMOG and was poised to fight ECOMOG troops if they should set their feet on Liberian soil.

But Babangida was undeterred. He committed Nigeria’s resources: men, material and finances to the struggle. Indeed, when the Mediation Committee met in Freetown, Sierra Leone, for its first summit in August 1990, he was personally there, and he participated in approving ECOMOG ‘ s strategy of limited offensive, the basic objectives of which were accomplished in November 1990. When fighting intensified and there were attacks on ECOMOG troops, Babangida supported the right of ECOMOG as a peace-keeping force to defend itself against armed attacks from any of the warring factions.

And when ECOMOG was forced in October 1992 to change from peace-keeping to peace-enforcement in the face of the intransigence of the NPFL, Babangida despatched additional battalions, including a tank battalion into Liberia from Nigeria. Aircraft was put in place, ferrying men and ammunition to sustain the battle until the NPFL was forced to a negotiating table.

At the beginning, some of the ECOWAS member-states were not fully convinced of the importance or the intervention in Liberia. But Babangida was certain of the pragmatism of the decision to intervene. To his critics, he asked a very pertinent question: “should Nigeria and other responsible countries in this sub-region standby, and watch the whole of Liberia turned into one mass graveyard? Today, his Liberian initiative even if at a huge undisclosed financial costs (estimates have put them at about $6 billion), and the peace enjoyed by that country, is an eloquent testimony of” Babangida’s diplomatic doggedness. No Wonder that his initiative received praises from many quarters. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for example, commended ECOWAS efforts, and suggested that `OAU should examine itself in terms of its efficacy and capabilities to help sustain the sovereignty of states which have been threatened by so much internal strife that it is no longer within a particular people’s capability to control the strife or bring it to an end.”

In effect, Babangida’s steadfastness bore good fruits. His political battles to persuade other member-states of ECOWAS that Liberia was a challenge for sub­regional security and that if the country’s crisis was not arrested, it might spill­over to other countries and engulf the entire sub-region, ultimately won support, following zestful diplomatic lobbying and high level contacts. The result is the relative peace in Liberia. Observers have pointed out that President Babangida would have taken his ECOWAS initiative, even if he was not then the ECOWAS chairman. “This was the characteristic of the man who was very concerned and sensitive to the needs of the Liberian people and the development and security of the ECOWAS sub-region.


President Babangida brought a strong sense of commitment and devotion to his work that ultimately gave a direction to ECOWAS. He was unshaken in his conviction that the Community existed to improve the lives of its people and that one way to do it effectively was to promote its security.

His diplomatic forays in Liberia were some explication of his concerns. Critics may still continue to argue about the need to spend billions of dollars away from the home base faced by severe economic problems.

Nonetheless, the final judgment on Babangida’s ECOWAS legacy will rest on historians after they have gone through a plethora of documents including diplomatic exchanges that would throw more light into why the man acted the way he did at a particular point and time. What cannot be argued is that Babangida took over the leadership of ECOWAS at a time when Nigeria and other member­-states of the sub-regional body enthusiasm for the organization was very low and he transformed it. His ability to direct affairs properly set the current zeal and heightened interest in ECOWAS among member-states and will continue to harness their political will towards developing a stable and verile integrative and co-operative regionalism in the future.


  1. ECOWAS,. Development of the Community – The First Five Years 1977­1981 (Lagos, 1981), p. 11. See Julius Emeka Okolo, “ECOWAS Regional Cooperation Regime,” German Year book of International Law, vol. 32 (1989), p.113.
  2. Okolo, op. cit See also Treaty of Economic Community of West African States, Art. 2. Summaries of the Treaty are found in Colin, Legum (ed.), Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Documents 1976-197. London, 1977), pp. 96-199. West Africa.

16 June 1975, p. 679 and 23 June 1975, p. 720; and E.O. Ebiefie,

“Central Provisions of Treaty of ECOWAS’in A.B. Akinyemi, S. B. Falegan, and I. A Aloko (eds) Readings and Documents on ECOWAS: Selected papers and Discussions from the 1976 Economic Community of West African Singles Conference (Lagos, 1984). Pp. 109-117

  1. For an Examination and this subject see Julius Emeka Okolo Free Movement of Personal in ECOWAS and Nigeria’s Expulsion of Illegal Alliens,’ World Vol. 40, no. 10 (October 1984), pp.428-436.
  2. ECOWAS: Braving …..Waters’ West Africa, 30 June 1986, p. 1363.
  3. Reaffirming the ….D’etre of the ECOWAS’ Address by Major-General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, President, Commander-in-Chief of the R Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS at the Opening Session of the 9th Meeting of the Authority Holden in Abuja, Nigeria, June 30 July 2, 1986 in General Ike Nwachukwu et al., Nigeria and ECOWAS since 1985: Towards a Dynamic Regional Integration (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd, 1991), p. 42.
  4. See Julius Emeka Okolo, “Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, 1990: Costs and Benefits,” Paper presented at the National Political Science Association South-Eastern Zone Conference on thirty years of Nigeria’s participation in international organizations arid institutions, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 4th November, 1991, pp. 14-15.

For an examination of ECOWAS monetary union and its problems and prospects, see Julius Emeka Okolo and Nkiru B. Okolo, “Intra-ECOWAS

Monetary Union Problems and Prospects”, Scana.inavlan Journal 01: Development Alternatives, vol. X, nos. 1 and 2 March-June 1991, pp. 232­27.

42Ib. – 237-235. See la, 37 and 38.

also Treatx, Arts. 36(1) ,

43 ECOWAS Treaty, 36 (I) and Okolo and Okolo, “Intra-ECOWAS Monetary ,” p. 238.

Nwachukwu, op.cit., p. 54. 45 Africa, 20 July 1987, p. 1381. 4IEi2.

47 Okolo and Okolo, Qp. cit. pp. 242-243.

4 Nwachukwu, op. cit., p. 92.

49 For a good background end discussion of the Liberian crisis, see Lieutenant-Colonel Mustapha Jumare and Mr. Victor Elaigwu, ‘The Evolution of International Peace-Keeping and the ECOMOG Operation, “Defence Studies, vol. 6, no.2 (September 1996), pp.1125.”

  1. Ibid p.37
  2. West Africa, 4 July 1988, p. 1196
  3. Ibid, p. 1197
  4. Julius Emeka Okolo, `Securing West Africa: The ECOWAS Defence Pact,’ World Today, Vol. 39, no. 5 (May 1983), p. 178
  5. See also Collin Legum (ed.), Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Document 1977-78 (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1978) p. B-616.
  6. West Africa, 4 July 1988, p. 1g196
  7. Ibid
  8. Bagangida and West Africa,’ West Africa, 6 July 1987, p. 1275.
  9. West Africa, 7th July 1986, p. 1412
  10. For a…… discussion of the protocol and issues pertaining ….see Okolo, World Today (October 1984), pp. 428-436.
  11. Ibid, pp
  12. West Africa, 30 June 1986, pp. 1363-1364.
  13. Nwachukwu, op. Cit., pp.42-43.
  14. West Africa, 30 June 1986, p. 1364
  15. Part of this section is culled from Julius Emeka Okolo, `Obstacles to Increased Intra-ECOWAS Trade,’ International Journal, Vol. XLIV….. (Winter 1988-9), pp. 171-214 which is hereby acknowledged.
  16. The Members of CEAO are Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and of the MRU Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. All nine countries are also members of ECOWAS. Benin joined the CEAO later and is not covered in the discussion here.
  17. See Okolo, `Integrative and Cooperative Regionalism,’ pp. 141 and 142 and Julius- Emeka Okolo, `The Development and Structure of ECOWAS, in Julius Emeka Okolo and Stephen Wright (eds.) West African Regional cooperation and Development (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1990).
  18. Okolo, `Integrative and Cooperative Regionalism,’ pp. 141-142. For details see also Official Journal of ECOWAS, vol. 2 (June 1980), pp 6-7. All references to the official journal are to the English Edition.
  19. Making Progress Slowly’ West Africa, 27 May 1985, p. 1049.
  20. Ten Years of ECOWAS 1975-1985 (Lagos: ECOWAS, June 1985), pp. 22, and Official Journal of ECOWAS Vol. 1 (June 1979), p. II.
  21. Okolo ‘Obstacles to Increased Intra-ECOWAS Trade,’ pp. 176-177; official Journal of ECOWAS. Vol. 2 (June 1980), pp I 1-12, and vol. 3 (June 1981), pp. 3-5 and 14-15.
  22. Ten Yeas of ECOWAS 1975-1985, pp. 24-26; Official Journal of ECOWAS, Vol. 2 (June 1980), pp. 6-8.
  23. Nwachukwu, op. Cit., p. 38. For an analysis of the obstacles to trade, liberalization see Okolo, `Obstacles to Increased Intra-ECOWAS Trade,’ pp. 185-210.
  24. , p 53
  25. Ibid, p. 77
  26. Ibid, p. 99
  27. Ibid, pp. 39, 79, and the quoted statement is on p. 91 see also West Africa,7 June, 1986, p. 1412
  28. West Africa, 28 May 3 June, 1990, p. 885
  29. Nwachukwu, op. Cit. P 60
  30. See Julius Emeka Okolo, `Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, 1975-1990: Costs and Benefits,’ Paper presented at the National Political Science Association South-Eastern Zone Conference on thirty years of Nigeria’s participation in international organisations and institutions, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 4-6 November 1991, pp. 14-15.

For an examination of ECOWAS monetary Union and its Problems and prospects, See Julius Emeka Okolo and Nkiru B. Okolo, `Intra-ECO”KAS Monetary Union: Problems and Prospects,’ Scandinavian Journal of Development Alternatives,.

  1. X, nos. 1 and 2 (March-June 1991) pp. 232-247.
  2. Ibid, pp. 237-238. See also ECOWAS Treaty, Arts. 36(1), 37 and 38. 557
  3. ECOWAS Treaty, Art 36 (1) and Okolo and Okolo, Intra-ECOWAS Monetary Union,’ p. 238
  4. Nwachukwu, op. Cit., p. 54
  5. West Africa, 20 July, 1987, p 1381
  6. Ibid
  7. Okolo and Okolo, op. Cit., pp 242-243
  8. Nwachuwku, op. Cit. P. 92
  9. For a good background and discussion of the Liberian crisis, See Lieutenant-Colonel Mustapha Jumare and Mr. Victor Eliaigwu, `The Evolution of International Peace-Keeping and the ECOMOG Operation,’ Defence Studies, Vol. 6, no. 2 (September 1996), pp. 11-25
  10. Ibid, pp. 20-21
  11. Nwachukwu, op. Cit, pp. 105-106.
  12. Ben Ephson, `Right to Intervene,’ West Africa, 4-10 February 1991, p. 141
  13. The IBB Formula,’ West Africa, 26 August – 1 September, 1991, pp 1414­1415.