Masters Dissertation

Nigeria’s Role in the Integration of West African States

Nigeria’s Role in the Integration of West African States (International Relations Project Topics)




One motive that influenced the creation of almost all the West African International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) is the unity which has its origin in the Pan-African movements (UNECA 1983). According to Essien (2006) efforts at regional and sub-regional integration in Africa go back to the immediate postcolonial period. It was seen as an extension of the liberation movements and an effort to construct geographic entities that were economically viable and politically united. It also reflected the prevailing European experience with its emphasis on free trade within a Common External Tariff area. Thus, Anadi (2012) observed that, “by the 1960’s when most of the West African states gained their independence, the realities of the enormous distortions inherent in the colonial economy came to the fore.

First, they were utterly left with highly fragile and structurally truncated economies based on the export of one or two agricultural commodities with inherent price distortions in the international commodity market. Also, the fact that none of these states’ national currencies were convertible further worsened the already destabilizing balance of payments problems in both their trade within the region and in their trade with other regions of the world” (Anadi 2005). The founding fathers of ECOWAS were quite aware of the huge challenges that confronted them at independence, following the years of unbridled exploitation and utter neglect of the basic needs of the citizens by the colonial masters; Britain, France and Portugal. Consequently, successful nation building has remained the biggest challenge for them because their economies are small, weak and highly competitive.


Nigeria resorted to economic diplomacy to enable her have a strong foundation for the integration of the states in West Africa. Nigeria has upheld the principle of non-interference at the same time being the regional Hegemon confers certain roles on her in the affairs of neighbouring West African countries while stabilizing and bringing peace to trouble spots like Sierra Leone and Liberia, Nigeria has sank a lot of money to keep ECOWAS alive in seeking to maintain cordial relations and enhancing mutually beneficial ventures in ECOWAS. Oputu (2006) notes that Nigeria has contributed so much in terms of human and material resources for the integration of the states in ECOWAS, yet it hasn’t brought significant results. Consequently, Owoeye (2002) observed that “It is more prudent for a nation to assume a high profile in international politics only as an imperative for its economic achievements”. However, some nations, inclusive of Nigeria, would appear to put politics before economics thereby assuming expensive political roles in their regions or globally, though the domestic economic structures are not strong enough to support such political missions abroad (Owoeye, 2002:159).

In furtherance of its foreign policy objectives, Nigeria adopted economic integration as another dimension for the promotion of its African centrepiece diplomacy which is why Nigeria deployed enormous wealth and energy to enhance West Africa’s integration. Since it is assumed as a manifestation of its destiny to be the natural leader of Africa, it is the concern of this research to look at the advantages and disadvantages of these roles Nigeria has undertaken in enhancing the integration of West African region and whether it is to the country’s benefit.


The general and overall aim of the study is to evaluate Nigeria’s role in the regional integration of the West African region. However, the specific objectives are to,

  1. Review Nigeria’s role in setting up the ECOWAS;
  2. Evaluate the different dimensions of Nigeria’s role in the regional integration of the West African region;
  3. Identify the specific roles Nigeria has performed to attain the objectives of integration in the West African region;
  4. Identify the challenges Nigeria faces while performing its role to enhance the regional integration of the sub-region; and
  5. Proffer suggestions on how Nigeria can further deploy its enormous resources towards achieving the goals of integration in West Africa.


Nigeria has assumed important roles in the regional integration of West Africa. This research seeks to find answers to the following questions:

  1. Why did Nigeria participate in establishing up of ECOWAS?
  2. What are the different ways Nigeria has employed to promote the integration of the West African Region?
  3. What are the specific roles Nigeria has performed to attain the objectives of regional integration in West Africa?
  4. What are the challenges which Nigeria has faced in achieving the objectives of integration in the West African Region?
  5. What steps should be taken to improve on Nigeria’s role in promoting sub-regional integration?


The researcher relies on the secondary method of data collection. Data were collected from published and unpublished works, including books, journals, conference papers, articles, magazines, newspaper publications and internet sources. Therefore, for the purpose of this research, content analysis method was employed to analyse the results of the subject under study. The research will summarize the information generated in the work from the secondary sources such that deductions can be drawn and interpretations made.

In undertaking the research, repositories of relevant literature were consulted. Libraries and the internet were a veritable source. Particularly, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, the ECOWAS secretariat, the University of Jos library, the National and State libraries in Jos have been good sources of materials. Also, this study benefitted from discussions with some of my lecturers including my supervisor.


The study will cover the period from 1999 to 2010. This delineated period is of consequence because it marks the period of inception and uninterrupted civil rule and the accentuation of economic imperatives which came to the fore of Nigeria’s foreign policy. Thus, the period covers eleven years of Nigeria’s continued active leadership in the promotion of regional integration under civilian Heads of States.


The researcher was particularly constrained in this study by lack of adequate funding. This is why I could not consult as many scholars as I would wish at the Nigerian Defence College (NDC), the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, (NIIA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) The ECOWAS secretariat etc. Also, I could not gain access to materials written in French because of language barrier. However, the research was conducted with utmost rigor to ensure a good result.


This study is a relevant source of knowledge for students and policy makers dealing with Nigeria and West African states. The outcome of the study would be of primary benefits to the Federal Government of Nigeria in the area of foreign policy relating to the integration of ECOWAS member states. Also, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ECOWAS, policy makers of Nigeria and other ECOWAS States will find this work useful. This study will add to existing literature and also stimulate further research on the subject.


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Adetula V.A O (1996): AEC and the ‘New World Order’: the future of Economic Regionalism in Africa; Centre for Development studies, University of Jos.

Adetula. V.A.O (2009) The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Challenges of Integration in West Africa in U. Joy Ogwu and W. O. Alli (eds) ECOWAS Milestones in Regional Integration Lagos, NIIA.
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