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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.