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By Bayo Arowolaju
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I read Dr. Kayode Fayemi's interview from The Guardian of Sunday March 18, 2012, captioned, “Why Southwest Needs Economic Reintegration”.

The Ekiti State Governor's views were written by Alabi Williams of The Guardian Newspaper. However, I think it is reasonable to credit the content of the write-up to Governor Fayemi who is one of the Governors of the South-West Geopolitics who recently met at Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, to “sign” a MoU to establish or proposed to establish a new relationship between the states of the South-West of Nigeria.

My first problem is in identifying what exactly the governors wanted to achieve as there are different kinds of economic relationships, which if appropriately entered into and implemented may foster improved trade and economic developments. These may include: Economic Reintegration, Economic Integration, Regional Integration, and Regional Cooperation, all of which has been used variously and indiscriminately in the write up but none of which is applicable to the political and economic wellbeing of the South-West Region of Nigeria.

This is why the deeper I read the interview, the more lacking in understanding of what they are up to. This may not be unconnected with my own knowledge of internationally acceptable standards, pre-requisites, modes and operations of standard Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) otherwise known as 'Trade Pacts'. I am more confused because anywhere you talk of Economic or Regional Integration; there are always issues that are imperative to tax, tariff, and economic commitments and investments guaranteed by groups or signatories to such agreements.

Governor Fayemi is said to have generated the title of the write; 'why the Southwest needs Economic Reintegration'. I want to speak for him that he must have been misquoted because he is too educated in my view to be associated with such misused words and concepts. Reintegration is an abused and misused of word that is not applicable to anywhere in Nigeria and not the South-West for that matter.

According to the International Association for Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (AISBL) (2007-2008), “Reintegration is a process focused on creating the conditions that can enable returnees and the communities they return to or after war reside within to reconcile, (re)build infrastructure and institutions of good governance, develop productive livelihoods, and ultimately exercise their social, economic, civil, political and cultural rights in a manner that allows them to experience peaceful, productive and dignified lives. This is a key component of post-conflict peace-building; until this happens, economic recovery cannot take hold, and the transition from war to peace cannot be consolidated it may even be reversed”.

So, reintegration is a return to the status or where the community was before the upheaval of war or conflict, the returnees or the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in most cases return to isolated or pockets of areas with semblance of peace but with chronic poverty and instability. We can now say that reintegration is a strategic process of post-war rebuilding of communities economically and socially leading to economic recovery and sustainable peace with the cooperation and collaboration of all hands.

Fayemi is also quoted as saying that Regional Integration got its push as a “means of securing a shared basis for growth and development”

made easy by the coming to power of the progressives in the South-West. He then gave the example of the 'Western Region's achievements between 1952 and 1959' and those of Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Bendel and Ogun states between 1979 and 1982. That is an eloquent and lucid but bereft of economic pragmatism. A first year student of Nigerian political history should know that the fundamentals have changed.

Let's first talk of Regional Economic Integration. According to Curyvers (2002), there are four types of regional economic integration, yet the governors have not told us which of these universal formats or modes they want to implement in the South West.

They are:
a. Free Trade Area (FTA): This is where countries agree to remove

tariffs from trading goods and services but each retains tariffs on goods and services from non-members countries.

b. Custom Union, where there is free trade in members' products but a

common tariff regime for non-member countries.
c. Common Market, where there is also a free trade, common external

tariffs for non-members with all barriers to free movement of labor and capital removed between members; and

d. Economic Union, which is the highest form of economic integration

where there is a common market and integration of economic institutions, coordination of economic activities and policies in the member states.

The European Economic Union is a creation of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the Treaty of European Union of 1992, and the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997 and other agreements aimed at achieving economic integration; Article 2 emphasizing the creation of a Common Market and later a Custom's Union by Article 3. In spite of the enormous wealth and independence of member-states, the European Economic Union is still work in progress (WIP) today. The Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) since 1975 Treaty of Lagos remained a tall dream of the founding fathers. The North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) hosting United States of America, Canada and Mexico remains the most successful of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs).

We can see from the above that each of the four regional economic integration modes and the examples given have a common denominator of each members being independent sovereign nation with defined international and enforceable boundaries, trades, economy and autonomy. So, with all due respect, the plans of the South-West governors have no place in the contemporary economic postulations of Regional Economic Integrations.

The reference to western regional government under the first Republic is equally misplaced. Nigeria then operated a federal system of government where each region has a republican status. That was when each region has its own constitution, coat of arms as the symbol of regional autonomy. Each region has its bi-cameral legislature that made law for order and good government of the regions enforced by the Premier as the head of government and governor as 'president' of the region backed by a powerful Regional Police Force. The beauty of the legal autonomy is that any law made by the federal parliament did not carry the force of law unless ratified by the regional legislature. I remember vividly the British Government High Commissioner's office in Ibadan then. Unfortunately, none of these exists today. In fact some scholars tagged Nigeria as another variant of Confederalism.

It also amuses me to see Edo State listed as part of South-West, whereas we all know that Edo state is geographically part of the South-South geopolitics of Nigeria with Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom. So, what are our brothers really up to?

The concept of regional integration or regionalism was so loosely used as if they are expecting the Western region of Nigeria to have regional economic integration. Again, this falls into the category of misconceptualization. Let it be clear, Regionalism is in the purview of international relations and is one of the components or constituents of international trade or commercial system along with multilateralism and unilateralism. We will have to use the example of Europe in the 1950s and 1960s as the beginning of a coherent regional initiative that resulted in the European Community, which grew out of

40 years of economic integration using the ECC as a spring board. This is regarded of old regionalism (Ethier, 1998). Again this is about economic and political integration. The new regionalism began with the failed 2001 Doha Round of WTO ministerial meeting (Hanrahan, and Schnepf, 2007).

From the above, how can the integration of the South-West operate without its autonomy, independence and defined boundaries? How are they going to handle the issues of intra and inter regional trades and tariffs? Where are they going to have legal and constitutional framework to establish the integration? These and many more questions need the clearest answers before embarking on what cannot be achieved.

The little resources from Ekiti state should not be dumped in the Lagos Lagoon in the pursuance of a fleeting illusion which White Elephant projects and empty Jamborees are.

Bayo Arowolaju BSc, MA., PhD., MSc. is the former Special Adviser to Governor Segun Oni on Due Process and Pioneer Director General, Ekiti State Bureau of Public Procurement. He's a Candidate for the Masters' of Science Degree in Operations and Supply Chain Management (Sourcing and Procurement) University of Liverpool, UK.

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