Corruption in Nigeria by Afuye Akinyemi

Political corruption is not a recent phenomenon that pervades the Nigerian state. Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official misuse of resources for personal enrichment.

Corruption in Nigeria

Afuye Akinyemi

The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events seen to have led to a litany of ignoble corrupt practices in the country. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average human being. A Nigerian political leader, Obafemi Awolowo raised a salient issue when he said, since independence, our governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, Under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others.

The pervasive corruption has been blamed on colonialism. According to this view, the nation’s colonial history may have restricted any early influence in an ethical revolution. Throughout the colonial period, most Nigerians were stuck in ignorance and poverty. The trappings of flash cars, houses and success of the colonists may influence the poor to see the colonist as symbols of success and to emulate the colonists in different political ways.

Involvement in the agenda of colonial rule may also inhibit idealism in the early stage of the nascent nation’s development. A view commonly held during the colonial days was that the colonists property (cars,houses,farms etc.) is not “our” property. Thus vandalism and looting of public property was not seen as a crime against society. This view is what has degenerated into the more recent disregard for public property and lack of public trust and concern for public goods as a collective national property.

Petroleum in Nigeria
Some writers have posited about the different potential causes of flagrant and pecunious graft that exists in the country: many blame greed and ostentatious lifestyle as a potential root cause of corruption. To some, societies in love with ostentatious lifestyle may delve into corrupt practices to feed the lifestyle and also embrace a style of public sleaze and lack of decorum. The customs and attitudes of the society may also be a contributing factor. Gift giving as expressions of loyalty or tributes to traditional rulers may be fabrics of the society.

Also, a political environment that excludes favors towards elites or wealthy citizens may also be influenced by corruption. Wealthy elites may resort to sleaze in order to gain power and protect their interest. However, the bottom line surmised from the views of most Nigerians is that corruption is a problem that has to be rooted out. In Nigeria another major cause of corruption is ethnicity called tribalism in Nigeria. Friends and kinsmen seeking favor from officials may impose difficult strains on the ethical disposition of the official. Many kinsmen may see a government official as holding necessary avenues for their personal survival or gain.

The culmination of use of official resources for private gain may lead to further pressures on incoming officials from other kinsmen. However, the fact is, the importation of modern rules on inter-ethnic political relationships is a recent colonial and western initiative that may take time to become the norm, deep allegiance to other ethnic groups for administrative decisions early on was sometimes viewed suspiciously, and an early institutionalization of a unitary system in the country, may also have led to a further familiar groupings induced corruption. Nevertheless, a modern practical approach to leadership and relationships has gradually taken a prominent role in the political process. The necessity for practical inter-dependence and cooperation is at the forefront of yearnings for good governance in the country.

Past president of Nigeria

History and Cases

Pre-Independence and the First Republic

Corruption, though prevalent, was kept at manageable levels during the First Republic. However, the cases of corruption during the period were sometimes clouded by political infighting.

Azikiwe was the first major political figure investigated for questionable practices. In 1944, a firm belonging to Azikiwe and family bought a Bank in Lagos. The bank was procured to strengthen local control of the financial industry. Albeit, a report about transactions carried out by the bank showed though Azikiwe had resigned as chairman of the bank, the current chairman was an agent of his. The report wrote that most of the paid-up capital of the African Continental Bank were from the Eastern Regional Financial Corporation.
In western Nigeria, politician Adegoke Adelabu was investigated following charges of political corruption leveled against him by the opposition. The report led to demand for his resignation as district council head.
In the Northern region, against the backdrop of corruption allegations leveled against some native authority officials in Bornu. The Northern Government enacted the Customary Presents order to forestall any further breach of regulations. Later on, it was the British administration that was accused of corrupt practices in the results of elections which enthroned a Fulani political leadership in Kano, reports later linking the British authorities to electoral irregularities were discovered.
Gowon Administration

Corruption for the most part of Gowon’s administration was kept away from public view until 1975. However, some informed officials voiced concerns, Gowon critics labeled his governors as misguided individuals acting like lords overseeing their personal fiefdom. He was viewed as timid, in terms of being decisive against corrupt elements in his government.

In 1975, a corruption scandal surrounding the importation of cement engulfed his administration. Many officials of the defense ministry and the central bank of Nigeria were involved in the scandal. Officials were later accused of falsifying ship manifests and inflating the amount of cement to be purchased.
During the administration, two major individuals from the middle belt of the country were accused of corruption. The Nigeria government-controlled newspapers: the Daily Times and the New Nigerian gave great publicity to denunciations of the administration of Gomwalk, and Federal Commissioner Joseph Tarka by the two critics. A situation which may signal a cause for exigent action on corruption.
In 1975, the administration of Murtala Mohammed later went on and made reformist changes. After a coup putsch brought him into power, the government sacked a large number of government officials and civil servants, many of whom had been criticized for the misuse of power they wielded under the largely uneducated military of Gowon.

Shagari Administration

Corruption was deemed pervasive during the administration of Shagari.

A few federal buildings mysteriously went on fire after investigators started probe on the finances of the officials working in the buildings.
Late 1985, investigations into the collapse of the defunct Johnson Mathey Bank of London shed some light on some of the abuses carried on during the second republic. The bank acted as a conduit to transfer hard currency for some party members in Nigeria. A few leading officials and politicians had amassed large amounts of money. They sought to transfer the money out of the country with the help of Asian importers by issuing import licenses.
In 1981, a Rice shortage, led to accusations of corruption against the NPN government. The shortages and subsequent allegations were precipitated, by protectionism. After his election the Nigerian government decided to protect the local rice farmer from imported commodities. A licensing system was created to limit the amount of rice import. However, accusations of favoritism and government supported speculation was leveled against many officials.

Buhari Administration

In 1985, a cross section of political gladiators were convicted of different corrupt practices under the government of General Buhari. However, the administration itself was involved in a few instances of lapsed ethical judgment. It is on record that the General himself was on his way to removing a Nigerian colonel from the army before his exit from power, though the removal may signal a hard-line on corruption, it is a far cry from the 10-22 years of imprisonment, politicians under Shagari were sentenced to.
Babangida Administration

The regime of general Babangida is seen as the body that legalized corruption. His administration refused to give account of the gulf war windfall, which is estimated to be $12.4 billion. He rigged the only successful election in the history of Nigeria on June 12 1993 and lives in a very exquisite mansion in his home state (Niger-state) in the Northern part of the country.

Abacha Administration

The death of the general Sani Abacha revealed the global nature of graft. French investigations of bribes paid to government officials to ease the award of a gas plant construction in Nigeria revealed the global level of official graft in the country. The investigations led to the freezing of accounts containing about $100 million United States dollars.

In 2000, two years after his death, a Swiss banking commission report indicted Swiss banks for failing to follow compliance process in allowing family and friends of Abacha access to accounts and depositing amounts totaling $600 million US dollars into the accounts. The same year, a total of more than $1 billion US dollars were found in various accounts throughout Europe.
Public institutions perceived as corrupt

The following list contains the institutions perceived as the most corrupt. It is culled from the Nigeria Survey and Corruption Survey Study, Final Report (June 2010) Institute for Development Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (IDR, ABU Zaria)

Nigeria (as of 2010)
1Nigerian Police
2Political Parties
3National and State Assemblies
4Local and Municipal Governments
5Federal and State Executive Councils
6Traffic police and FRSC

Afuye Akinyemi, is law graduate and a part qualified Chartered insurer. His string point is politics and law.


3 thoughts on “Corruption in Nigeria by Afuye Akinyemi

  1. CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA AND FEASIBLE PANACEA. Every basic need in our country and society has assumed or risen to a point of crisis. Is it electricity, water, food supply, healthcare, roads? You be the judge! Every politician who comes to power will promise to solve these problems. They turn out to be empty promises. Our leaders, for these many years, have taken us for a ride to the cleaners, and they have done a damn good job. It is long overdue for us, the citizens, to shine the light of truth on them. The only weapons we have to fight this war are our PENS and VOICES. The drumbeat is getting louder and louder. We have to expose these thieves for what they are before they sell the country, and all of us, to the highest bidder. We have to hold their feet to the fire and demand transparency and accountability from them. We cannot continue to fold our hands and close our eyes and allow them to lead us to our graves. It is not going to be business as usual. When you campaign and ask us to make you a custodian of our national wealth and resources, you are asking for a contract to execute your promises honestly and faithfully. When you breach that Solemn Trust, do not try to run from the long arm of justice. You can run but you cannot hide. Know that your time is up!

    The EFCC should know that all eyes are on them to do the right thing, and that is to mete out justice accordingly without fear or favor no matter where the axe falls. If EFCC should muddle things up this time, it will send a resounding wrong message to generations to come, and the result will be very destructive for the whole country. It is indisputable that bribery and corruption has permeated our society in Nigeria. A corrupt leader will breed a corrupt society. If we, as a people, are very serious about fighting this sickness in our society, we should be ready to apply both the right type of medication and the correct amount of dosage to it. We should not only be reactive, we should be proactive too. This fight will involve the participation of all Nigerians. I am therefore suggesting to the Federal government, the States government and all Nigerians to do the following:

    1. Embark on all out campaign to fight bribery and corruption in all places in the country. Use the slogan “DON’T GIVE AND DON’T TAKE BRIBES” or simply say “NO TO BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION.” Announce these slogans on TVS, RADIOS, INTERNETS, NEWSPAPERS etc. Print and paste the slogans in the Offices, Highways, Billboards, Hospitals, Universities, Buses, Cars, and many public places. Also, involve Diplomats and foreign companies operating in Nigeria, in this campaign.

    2. Take very good care of our leaders and politicians by compensating and paying them generously for their services to our country. I hope that this will dissuade them from embezzling our money.

    3. To in-corporate into our legal system a minimum amount of money anybody will embezzle,misappropriate, or loot from the government coffer and that individual, after conviction, that not only will refund the loots, but will also face the penalty of death by hanging. I will suggest ONE MILLION NAIRA conviction will result in a total ban of such an individual from participating in any politics or holding any civil service position in our country. While anybody convicted of looting more than ONE BILLION NAIRA will face a firing squad.

    4. All our leaders and politicians, including the President, VP, all Governors and Administrators, who are responsible for disbursing or appropriating public funds, must not only declare their assets before they assume their offices, but will make such a declaration every year they continue to serve the public.

    5. In order to avoid conflict of interests in performing their duty, all of our Crime Watchdogs, like EFCC and ICPC should operate independently of any Political Party. They should enforce the laws in the book without fear or favor.

    6. All major contracts and financial transactions should be made public records and open to a serious debt that will involve the participation of our experts and opposition parties in the field before approval. All major contracts must be completed in a given period, supervised and audited scrupulously too. This will help to ensure transparency and accountability in the system.

    Fellow Nigerians, I personally believe that if we implement the above recommendations, we should be on the right course to solving our worst problems in our country. Only the right people with good conscience, who have the interests of our country and citizens on their minds, will serve Nigeria.


  2. With the rapid advancement in Information Technology (IT), the present generation of Corrupt Nigerian leaders and politicians should know that they are now dealing with new breed of educated, well-informed and more sophisticated citizens, both overseas and in Nigeria. The citizens know their rights and are ready to play a hard ball if you continue to mess with them.

    In the recent past, Information Technology was not quite as advanced as it is today. There were few Newspapers in circulation to report the events of the day. Only those fortunate Nigerians who lived in the metropolitan cities had access to daily Newspapers. Those in the villages counted themselves very fortunate when they received old Newspapers from friends or relatives who came to visit home from the metropolitan cities. Even though the news was belated and staled, they still cherished them because they were still news to them. In those days, radios and televisions were unthinkable in the villages. People used to cluster around the house of an influential chief or petty trader who had a battery operated radio, with an antenna hoisted on a bamboo pole almost as tall as Empire State building in New York. Nigeria was not quite as rich as it is today. Agricultural products like cocoa, palm oil and kernel, kola nuts, groundnuts and rubber constituted about four-fifth of our exports and foreign-exchange earnings. Foodstuff was more than adequate for everybody. Those were the good old days!

    Politicians, local chiefs and leaders played thin gods. Most of them were corrupt, and bribery was still in practice. During the campaign season in this epoch, the politicians would knife their way, on either horseback or bicycles to reach the market squares and promise poor villagers good roads, pipe-borne water, electricity and whatever, to earn their votes for the various offices they wanted to occupy. These were empty promises. Next campaign seasons, they would show their ugly faces again to deceive the poor villagers (our parents and loved ones) with more empty promises to win their votes again. Sadly, these thieves were re-elected to second, third and fourth terms to serve the same people they were milking like a cow. The poor villagers did not know better. They did not know their rights; they never demanded for it. They were not educated and sophisticated; and the politicians intimated them with bribes.

    Although Nigeria’s resources and wealth was not as buoyant as it is today, our leaders and the politicians looted them and enriched themselves to the detriment of the poor and illiterate citizens they were supposed to serve and protect. The politicians had big houses, big cars and businesses. Nobody ever demanded for accountability and transparency from them. They could get away with murder. Only their children and relatives had the opportunities to go overseas to study with hopes to come back to continue the legacy or perpetuate the atrocities started by their fathers.

    With the era of oil discovery in Nigeria, in the 1970s and 1980s, petroleum overtook agricultural products as the source of government revenues for the country. Then came a new generation of politicians and leaders with misplaced priorities for the country and the citizens they swore to govern. These present breed of politicians and leaders are ruthless, heartless, greedy, callous and not smart. They raid the nation’s wealth with impunity. They abuse their offices with such recklessness that they will even question and challenge the existence of God. I say the modern day politician is not smart because, more often than not, he or she still think that the citizens are our uneducated and unsophisticated parents and citizens of the sixties. It should be put to them that with the improvement in Information Technology ( Internet, TVS, Radios, Newsprints etc), they are now dealing with a new generation of educated and more sophisticated Nigerians (both overseas and in Nigeria) who not only know their rights, but are ready to play hard ball if you mess with them. Now the citizens have more avenues to express their opinions. They are going to demand transparency and accountability from their leaders and politicians too.

    Our leaders do not like educated and bright minds. Has anybody ever wondered why our Universities and other institutions of learning have been much neglected, ill equipped, and under-funded by our leaders? Nigeria ceased to offer scholarships to study abroad to our bright minds, I believe, since the early 90s. I am not quite sure about the domestic scholarships. Could it be because Nigeria does not generate enough wealth to fund our institutions of higher learning and award scholarships to our smart sons and daughters? However, there is sufficient fund for them to embezzle and enrich themselves to the tune of billions of dollars. No! Our leaders will rather dumb our minds and render our children and us impotent so that they will not face challenges from the educated and bright minds. The educated and well-informed generation will pose a threat to their corrupt leadership and might even displace them from their god’s anointed positions of leadership.

    When our leaders and politicians travel to other developed countries like the USA, England, Japan, Switzerland etc, they enjoy 24/7 electricity and water supply, good network of roads, efficient healthcare system, and banking facilities where they can lodge their loots. I wonder what they think when they come back from those trips and compare their experiences with what they see in the country they govern. Could it be that Nigeria cannot afford to build good roads? No! Could it be that Nigeria cannot afford to build plants that will ensure 24/7 electricity and water supply with little or no disruptions? No! I can only make a smart presumption. Under their administrations, they approve substandard works, purchase inferior equipments, and continue to award contracts to their surrogates to repeat the same job they have not properly executed the previous years, thereby creating an avenue or lope holes to justify stealing our money. I challenge you to look at our Federal and State budgets every year to provide these amenities.

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