Corruption in Nigeria

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Political corruption is a persistent phenomenon in Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari defined corruption as the greatest form of human right violation. Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official misuse of funds and resources.[1] The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events seen to have led to the increase in corrupt practices in the country.[2] However, some analysts have also blamed colonialism for the amount corruption. According to this view, the nation's colonial history may have restricted any early influence in an ethical revolution; "the trappings of flashy cars, houses and success of the colonists may influenced 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.[3]

The government has aimed at containing corruption through the enactment of laws and the enforcement of integrity systems, but success has been slow.[4] As at 2012, Nigeria is estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence.[5]


Main article: Petroleum in Nigeria

Some writers have posited about the different potential causes of flagrant 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.[6] A 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-depedence and cooperation is at the forefront of yearnings for good governance in the country.[7]

History and Cases[edit]

Pre-Independence and the First Republic[edit]

Corruption, though prevalent, was kept at manageable levels during the First Republic.[8][9] 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.[10]

Gowon Administration (August 1966 – July 1975)[edit]

Corruption for the most part of Yakubu Gowon's administration was kept away from public view until 1975. However, informed officials voiced concerns. Critics labeled Gowon's 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 many officials of the defense ministry and the central bank of Nigeria. Officials were later accused of falsifying ships manifestos and inflating the amount of cement to be purchased.[11] During the Gowon administration, two individuals from the middle belt of the country were accused of corruption. The Nigerian government controlled the newspapers, so 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.[12]

Murtala administration (1975 – February 1976)[edit]

In 1975, the administration of Murtala Mohammed made reformist changes. After a military coup brought him to power, the new government sacked a large number of prior 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.[13]

Obasanjo administration (February 1976 – September 1979)[edit]

The first administration of Olusegun Obasanjo was a continuation of the Muritala Mohammed administration, and was focused on completing the transition program to democracy, as well as implementing the national development plans. Major projects including building new refineries, pipelines, expanding the national shipping and airlines as well as hosting FESTAC was done during the administration. A number of these national projects were conduits to distribute favors and enrich connected politicians. The famous Afrobeat musician sang variously about major scandals involving the international telecommunication firm ITT led by Chief MKO Abiola in Nigeria, which the then Head of State, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo was associated with.[14] In addition to this, the Operation Feed the Nation Program, and the associated land grab under the Land Use Decree implemented by the then Head of State was used as conduits to reward cronies, and his now famous Otta Farm Nigeria (OFN) was supposedly a project borne out of this scandal.[15]

Shagari Administration (October 1979 – December 1983)[edit]

Corruption was deemed pervasive during the administration of Shehu Shagari.[16] A few federal buildings mysteriously went on fire after investigators started probe on the finances of the officials working in the buildings.[17] In late 1985, investigations into the collapse of the defunct Johnson Mathey Bank of London shed 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.[18] In 1981, a rice shortage led to accusations of corruption against the NPN government. Shortages and subsequent allegations were precipitated by protectionism. After its 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.[19]

Buhari Administration (December 1983 – August 1985)[edit]

In 1985, a cross section of political gladiators were convicted of different corrupt practices under the government of General Muhammadu Buhari. However, the administration itself was involved in a few instances of lapsed ethical judgment. Some cite the suitcases scandal which also coincidentally involved then customs leader Atiku, who later became Vice President in 1999 and was indicted for various acts of corruption. "The 53 suitcases saga arose in 1984 during the currency change exercise ordered by the Buhari junta when it ordered that every case arriving the country should be inspected irrespective of the status of the person behind such. The 53 suitcases were, however, ferried through the Murtala Muhammed Airport without Customs check by soldiers allegedly at the behest of Major Mustapha Jokolo, the then Aide-de-Camp, ADC, to Gen. Buhari. Atiku was at that time the Area Comptroller of Customs in charge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport."[20]

Babangida Administration (August 1985 – August 1993)[edit]

The regime of general Ibrahim Babangida or IBB, has been seen as the body that legalized corruption. His administration refused to give account of the Gulf War windfall, which has been estimated to be $12.4 billion. He rigged the only successful election in the history of Nigeria in June 12, 1993. He lives in a very exquisite mansion in his home state(Niger-state) in the Northern part of the country.[21]

During IBB's tenure, corruption was elevated to the policy of state.[22] Vehicles and cash gifts were routinely disbursed by the Presidents irregularly to the rank and file to earn loyalty, and the discipline of the military force eroded. The term "IBB Boys" emerged, and was synonymous to fronts for the head of state in business realm to transact dirty deals from drug dealing to money laundering. The President was reportedly deeply involved in drug dealing through the first lady, Maryam Babangida and Gloria Okon (his girlfriend) and the near revelation by Dele Giwa triggered the assassination of the journalist by the Presidential death squad using letter bomb.[23]

IBB used the various push by his government for liberalization of the economy through privatization to reward friends and cronies,[24] which eventually gave rise to the current class of new-rich in Nigeria. From banking to oil and import licenses, IBB used these favors to raise cash for himself and his family, and is regarded as one of the richest ex-rulers of Nigeria supposedly with significant investment in Globacom[25]- one of the largest telecom operators in Nigeria, regarded as a front for his empire.[26]

Abacha Administration (Nov 1993 – June 1998)[edit]

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.[27]

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.[28]

Abdusalami Administration (June 1998 – May 1999)[edit]

The government of Gen. Abdusalami was short and focused on transiting the country quickly to democracy. Albeit, suspicion remains that quite a huge of wealth was acquired by him and his inner circle in such short period, as he lives in quite exquisite mansion of his own adjacent IBB's that exceeds whatever he might have earned in legitimate income. Indeed, the major Halliburton scandal implicated his administration, and this might have financed his opulence.[29]

Obasanjo administration (May 1999 – May 2007)[edit]

Various corruption scandals broke out under Olusegun Obasanjo's presidency, including one of international dimension when his Vice President was caught in cahoot with US Congressman with cold hard cash (literally) in freezers. In addition to this, the KBR and Siemens bribery scandals broke out under his administration, which was serially investigated by the FBI and led to various international indictment that indicated high-level corruption in his administration. According to reports,[30] "while Nigeria dithered, the United States Department of Justice had on January 18, 2012 announced that a Japanese construction firm, Marubeni Corporation, agreed to pay a $54.6 million criminal penalty for allegedly bribing officials of the Nigerian government to facilitate the award of the $6 billion Liquefied Natural Gas contract in Bonny, Nigeria to a multinational consortium, TSKJ". It involved the payment of bribes to Nigerian government officials between 1995 and 2004, in violation of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Some other acts of corruption tied to Olusegun Obasanjo included the Transcorp shares scandal that violated the code of conduct standards for public officers, and the presidential library donations at the eve of his exit from power that pressured associates to donate.[31] Obasanjo was also said to widely facilitate his failed campaign to alter the constitution to get a third term by actively bribing the legislature,[32] further deepening corruption at the highest levels.

Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration (May 2007 –May 2010)[edit]

Yaradua ascent and stay in power was short, albeit with a fair share of corruption scandals from previous administration coming to light under his tenure and going without investigation due to lack of political will and poor health. Yaradua various acts of political corruption included the use of his Attorney General to frustrate ongoing local and international investigations of his powerful friends like Governor Ibori, Igbinnedion and Odili which led to massive losses to their states. Indeed, AG Aondakaa was legendary in his inability to obtain conviction in Nigeria even as UK and foreign courts successfully tried Nigeria's deeply corrupt governors from the Obasanjo era that helped Yaradua emerge as president. In addition to these, WIkileaks revealed that the Supreme Court Justices were bribed to legitimize the corrupt elections that saw to his emergence as president through massive rigging.[33] WIKILEAKS documents also revealed the staying power of corruption under Yaradua that saw illegal payments from NNPC to Presidents continue unabated.[34]

Goodluck Jonathan Administration (2010-2015)[edit]

In 2014, Nigeria's rank improved from 143rd to the 136th position on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.[35] In late 2013, Nigeria's then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi informed President Goodluck Jonathan that the state oil company, NNPC had failed to remit US$20 billion of oil revenues, which it owed the state. Jonathan however dismissed the claim and replaced Sanusi for his mismanagement of the central bank's budget. A Senate committee also found Sanusi’s account to be lacking in substance.[36] After the conclusion of the NNPC's account Audit, it was announced in January 2015 that NNPC's non-remitted revenue is actually US$1.48billion, which it needs to refund back to the Government.[37] Upon release of both the PwC and Deloitte report by the government at the eve of its exit, it was however determined that truly close to $20 billion was indeed missing or misappropriated or spent without appropriation.[38] In addition to these, the government of Goodluck Jonathan had several running scandals including the BMW Purchase by his Aviation Minister, $250 million plus security contracts to militants in the Niger Delta, massive corruption and kick backs in the Ministry of Petroleum, Malibu Oil International Scandal, and several scandals involving the Petroleum Ministry including accusations of sweetheart deals[39] with select fronts and business people to divert public wealth.. In the dying days of Goodluck Jonathan's administration, the Central Bank Scandal of cash tripping of multilated notes also broke out, where it was revealed that in a 4 days period, 8 billion naira was stolen directly by low level workers in the CBN. This revelation excluded a crime that is suspected to have gone on for years and went undetected until revealed by whistleblower. The Central Bank claim the heist undermined its monetary policy.[40]

New Allegations of corruption have since began to emerge since the departure of President Jonathan on May 29, 2015 including:

1. $2.2 billion illegally withdrawn from Excess Crude Oil Accounts[41] of which $1bn supposedly approved by President Jonathan to fund his reelection campaign without the knowledge of the National Economic Council made up of State Governors and the President & Vice President[42]

2. NEITI discovered $11.6 bn was missing from Nigeria LNG Company Dividend Payments[43]

3. 60 million barrels of oil valued at $13.7bn was stolen under the watch of the national oil giant, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from 2009 to 2012.[44]

4. NEITI indicates losses due to crude swaps due to subsidy and domestic crude allocation from 2005 to 2012 indicated that $11.63bn had been paid to the NNPC but that “there is no evidence of the money being remitted to the federation account.”

5. Diversion of 60% of $1bn foreign loans obtained from the Chinese by the Ministry of Finance [45]

6. Massive scam in weapons and defense procurements, and misuse of 3 trillion naira defense budget since 2011 under the guise of fighting Boko Haram[46]

7. Diversion of $2.2 million vaccination medicine fund, by Ministry of Health [47]

8. Diversion of Ebola fight fund up to 1.9bn naira [48]

9. NIMASA Fraud under investigation by EFCC, inclusive of accusation of funding PDP and buying a small piece of land for 13 billion naira [49]

10. Ministry of Finance led by Okonjo Iweala hurried payment of $2.2 million to health ministry contractor in disputed invoices [50]

11. NDDC scams and multifarious scams including 2.7 billion naira worth of contracts that does not confirm to Public Procurement Act[51]

12. Police Service Commission Scam investigated by ICPC that revealed misappropriation of over 150 million naira related to election related trainings. ICPC made refund recommendations, but many analyst indicated prosecution was more appropriate.[52]

Public institutions perceived as corrupt[edit]

A world map of the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International

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 2003) Institute for Development Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (IDR, ABU Zaria)[53]

Nigeria (as of 2003)
Rating Institution
1 Nigerian Police
2 Political Parties
3 National and State Assemblies
4 Local and Municipal Governments
5 Federal and State Executive Councils
6 Traffic police and FRSC
9 Nigeria Customs

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Storey Report. The Commission of Inquiry into the administration of Lagos Town Council
  2. ^ Africa, London, April 1979, p 25
  3. ^ see Nigeria: Corruption Perception Index
  4. ^ "Nigeria Corruption Profile". Business Anti-Corruption Portal. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Wraith, R, and E Simpkins, Corruption in Developing Countries. Tribalism might as well remain the greatest obstacle to tackling official corruption in Nigeria. The Journal of Modern African Affairs 1983
  7. ^ Varda Eccker, On the Origins of Corruption: Irregular Incentives in Nigeria. The Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol. 19, No. 1 Mar., 1981.
  8. ^ Chinua Achebe. No Longer at ease New York, 1960
  9. ^ Chinua Achebe, A Man of the People, New York, 1966
  10. ^ Robert L. Tignor. Political Corruption in Nigeria before Independence, The Journal of Modern African Studies > Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jun., 1993)
  11. ^ Turner. The Nigerian Cement Racket, Africa Guide, 1976 Pg 6
  12. ^ Keith Panter Brick. Soldiers and Oil: The Political Transformation of Nigeria, ISBN 0 714630985 Pg70
  13. ^ Olajide Aluko. Nigeria and Britain after Gowon, African Affairs. Vol. 76, No. 304 Jul., 1977
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Leon Dash, Mysterious Fires Plague Nigerian Investigations, The Washington Post, February 27, 1983
  18. ^ "British banks linked to import swindles", The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 3, 1985
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Hector Igbikiowubo, "TSKJ SAGA: SWISS GOVT FREEZES $ 100M ACCOUNTS", Vanguard, Nigeria, December 6, 2004
  28. ^ David Pallister, "Comment & Analysis: Pennies from heaven: Many of Nigeria's missing millions were laundered through greedy banks in London", The Guardian (London), September 7, 2000
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^!topic/usaafricadialogue/QtWCrbYOKHk
  35. ^ Chima, Obinna (4 December 2014). "Nigeria Records Improvement, Ranked 39th on Corruption Index". This Day Live. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  36. ^ Tim Cocks and Joe Brock (6 February 2015). "Special Report: Anatomy of Nigeria's $20 billion "leak"". Reuters. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  37. ^ "NNPC Audit: No Missing $20 Billion". Nigerian Bulletin. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
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  52. ^
  53. ^ Reports & Statistics > Research Reports