Corruption in Nigeria
Corruption is an anti‐social attitude awarding improper privileges contrary to legal and moral norms, and impairs the authorities’ capacity to secure the welfare of all citizens. Corruption is a constant phenomenon in Nigeria. In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since the independence. In 2018, the country ranked 144th in the 180 countries listed  in Transparency International’s Corruption Index (with Somalia, at 180th, being the most corrupt, and Denmark the least).
Nigerian politicians find themselves in a strong position of power and wealth due to their connections with the oil and gas industries in Nigeria. These gas industries are under the control of the State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Oil and gas exports account for over 90% of all Nigerian export revenues. While many politicians own or have shares in these industries, tax revenues from the energy sector are diminished and the benefits of Nigeria’s energy wealth is not evenly distributed throughout the country with Lagos State benefitting disproportionately. Oil and gas revenues therefore account for the vast majority of the federal budget and the salaries of government officials. Vote rigging by political parties in elections is widespread and corruption is endemic within government. Business arrangements and family loyalties dominate governmental appointments paving the way for politicians, officials and their business associates who together make up the ruling elite to ensure that they all become wealthy through behind the scenes agreements and the awarding of profitable contracts to favoured supporters. In 2018 many Government employees received annual salaries in excess of $1 million. Corruption runs through every level of Nigerian government. From massive contract fraud at the top, through petty bribery, money laundering schemes, embezzlement and seizing salaries from fake workers, it is estimated that corruption within the state apparatus costs the country billions of dollars every year.
History and cases
The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events believed to have led to the sustained increase in the incidence of corrupt practices in the country.
Efforts have been made by the government to minimize corruption through the enactment of laws and the enforcement of integrity systems but with little success.
Greed, ostentatious lifestyle, customs, and people’s attitudes are believed to have led to corruption. Another root cause is tribalism. Friends and kinsmen seeking favor from officials can impose strains on the ethical disposition of the official as these kinsmen see government officials as holding avenues for their personal survival and gain.
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.
In the Northern region, against the backdrop of corruption allegations leveled against some native authority officials in Borno. 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 (August 1966 – July 1975)
Corruption for the most part of Yakubu Gowon’s administration was kept away from public view until 1975. However, informed officials voiced their concerns. Critics said Gowon’s governors acted like lords overseeing their personal fiefdom. He was viewed as timid, and faced with 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 ship manifestos and inflating the amount of cement to be purchased.
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 that may signal a cause for exigent action on corruption.
Murtala administration (1975 – February 1976)
In 1975, the administration of Murtala Mohammed made reformist changes. After a military coup brought it 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.
Obasanjo administration (February 1976 – September 1979)
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 this administration. A number of these national projects were conduits to distribute favors and enrich connected politicians. The famous Afrobeat musician, Fela Kuti, 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. 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.
Shagari administration (October 1979 – December 1983)
Corruption was deemed pervasive during the administration of Shehu Shagari. A few federal buildings mysteriously caught fire after investigators started to probe the finances of the officials working in the buildings. 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.
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 local rice farmers from imported commodities. A licensing system was created to limit rice imports. However, accusations of favoritism and government-supported speculation were leveled against many officials.
Buhari administration (December 1983 – August 1985)
In 1985, a cross-section of politicians was convicted of corrupt practices under the government of General Muhammadu Buhari, but the administration itself was only involved in a few instances of lapsed ethical judgment. Some cite the suitcases scandal which also coincidentally involved then customs leader Atiku Abubakar, 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 a customs check by soldiers allegedly at the behest of Major Mustapha Jokolo, the then aide-de-camp to Gen. Buhari. Atiku was at that time the Area Comptroller of Customs in charge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport.”
Babangida administration (August 1985 – August 1993)
The regime of general Ibrahim Babangida or IBB, has been seen as the body that legalized corruption. His administration refused to give an 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 on June 12, 1993. He lives in a very exquisite mansion in his home state of Niger.
General Ibrahim Babangida’s tenure, corruption became a policy of the state. He routinely disbursed vehicles and cash gifts to people to earn loyalty, and the discipline of the military force eroded. The term “IBB Boys” emerged, meaning fronts for the head of state in the business realm, someone who will transact dirty deals from drug dealing with money laundering.
General Ibrahim Babangida used various government privatization initiatives to reward friends and cronies, which eventually gave rise to the current class of nouveau riche 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 — one of the largest telecom operators in Nigeria, regarded as a front for his empire.
Abacha administration (Nov 1993 – June 1998)
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 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 the compliance process when they allowed Abacha’s family and friends access to his accounts and to deposit amounts totaling $600 million US dollars into them. The same year, a total of more than $1 billion US dollars were found in various accounts throughout Europe.
Abdusalami administration (June 1998 – May 1999)
The government of Gen. Abdusalami was short and focused on transiting the country quickly to democracy. Albeit, the suspicion remains that quite a huge amount of wealth was acquired by him and his inner circle in such a short period, as he lives in quite an 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.
Obasanjo administration (May 1999 – May 2007)
Various corruption scandals broke out under Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, including one of the international dimensions when his vice president was caught in cahoots with a US Congressman stashing cold hard cash (literally) in freezers. In addition to this, the KBR and Siemens bribery scandals broke out under his administration, which was investigated by the FBI and led to international indictments indicating high-level corruption in his administration. According to reports, “while Nigeria dithered, the United States Department of Justice 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”. They paid bribes to Nigerian government officials between 1995 and 2004, in violation of the.
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 the power that pressured associates to donate. Obasanjo was also said to widely lobby for his failed campaign to alter the constitution to get a third term by actively bribing the legislators. further deepening corruption at the highest levels.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration (May 2007 – May 2010)
Yaradua’s ascent and time in office were short, although a fair number of corruption scandals from previous administrations came to light under his tenure and went uninvestigated due to lack of political will and poor health. Yaradua’s various acts of political corruption using his attorney-general to frustrate ongoing local and international investigations of his powerful friends like Governors James Ibori, Luck Igbinnedion, and Peter Odili which led to massive losses to their states. Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondakaa was unable to obtain a conviction in Nigeria even as the UK and foreign courts successfully tried Nigeria’s deeply corrupt governors from the Obasanjo era that helped Yaradua emerge as president. In addition, Wikileaks revealed that the Supreme Court Justices were bribed to legitimize the corrupt elections that saw to his emergence as president through massive rigging. Wikileaks documents also revealed the staying power of corruption under Yaradua, with illegal payments from NNPC to presidents continuing unabated.
Goodluck Jonathan administration (2010–2015)
Nigeria corruption rating by TI improved from 143rd to the 136th position in 2014. In late 2013, Nigeria’s then Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi informed President Goodluck Jonathan that the state oil company, NNPC, had failed to remit US$20 billion in oil revenues owed to 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. After the conclusion of the NNPC’s account audit, it was announced in January 2015 that NNPC’s non-remitted revenue is actually US$1.48 billion, which it needs to refund to the government. Upon the 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.
In addition to these, the government of Goodluck Jonathan had several running scandals including the BMW purchase by his Aviation Minister, to the tune of N255 million naira and security contracts to militants in the Niger Delta, massive corruption and kickbacks in the Ministry of Petroleum, the Malabu Oil International scandal, and several scandals involving the Petroleum Ministry. In the dying days of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the Central Bank scandal of cash tripping of mutilated notes also broke out, where it was revealed that in a four-day 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 a whistle-blower. The Central Bank claims the heist undermined its monetary policy. In 2014, UNODC began an initiative to help combat corruption in Nigeria.
New allegations of corruption have begun to emerge since the departure of President Jonathan on May 29, 2015, including:
$2.2 billion illegally withdrawn from Excess Crude Oil Accounts, of which $1 billion 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 and vice president.
NEITI discovered $11.6 billion was missing from Nigeria LNG Company dividend payments.
60 million barrels of oil valued at $13.7 billion was stolen under the watch of the national oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, from 2009 to 2012.
NEITI indicates losses due to crude swaps due to subsidy and domestic crude allocation from 2005 to 2012 indicated that $11.63 billion had been paid to the NNPC but that “there is no evidence of the money being remitted to the federation account”.
Diversion of 60% of $1 billion foreign loans obtained from the Chinese by the Ministry of Finance 
Massive scam in weapons and defense procurements, and misuse of 3 trillion naira defense budget since 2011 under the guise of fighting Boko Haram
- Diversion of $2.2 million vaccination medicine fund, by Ministry of Health 
- Diversion of Ebola fight fund up to 1.9 bn naira 
- NIMASA fraud under investigation by EFCC, inclusive of accusation of funding PDP and buying a small piece of land for 13 billion naira 
- Ministry of Finance led by Okonjo Iweala hurried payment of $2.2 million to health ministry contractor in disputed invoices 
- NDDC scams and multifarious scams including 2.7 billion naira worth of contracts that do not conform to the Public Procurement Act
- Police Service Commission Scam investigated by ICPC that revealed misappropriation of over 150 million nairas related to election-related training. ICPC made refund recommendations, but many analysts indicated prosecution was more appropriate.
Muhammadu Buhari administration (2015–present)
The presidency of Muhammadu Buhari has seen major action against corruption in Nigeria. In 2016, the Senate ad hoc committee on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East” led by Senator Shehu Sani indicted the then secretary to the Government of the Federation appointed by Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Babachir Lawal in a N200 million contract scandal for the clearing of “invasive plant species” in Yobe State by Rholavision Nigeria Limited; a company he owns.
On October 30, 2017, President Buhari sacked Lawal based on the report of a three-man panel led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo that investigated him and one other.
In 2016, Buhari was reportedly presented evidence that his chief of staff, Abba Kyari, took N500 million naira bribe from MTN to help it slash the $5 Billion dollar fine slammed against it for violation of Nigeria telecommunications regulations bothering on national security. MTN fired the staff involved in the bribery scandal. But Abba Kyari was left intact in his position as chief of staff to national outrage forcing Buhari to announce the probe of Kyari. The findings of the investigation was never made public.
Abdulrasheed Maina was the head of the task force on pension reforms during the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration but fled Nigeria in 2015 after claims that he embezzled two billion naira ($5.6 million, 4.8 million euros). Despite the fact that an Interpol arrest warrant was issued, he still managed to return to Nigeria, where he was said to have enjoyed protection from the Buhari government. Maina had been fired from his position by Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and was put under investigation for corrupt practices but was reinstated and given double promotion by Buhari administration.
According to the senate through its committee on public accounts, 85 government parastatals under the present government under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari are yet to submit their audit reports since the inception of this government.
The flag bearer of the corruption fight in Nigeria, the EFCC has responded to the senate committee on public account’s claim on the nonsubmission of her account report by the institution and 84 others. The Economic and financial crimes commission denied the report issued by the committee claiming it was not true.
Despite criticism, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced in May 2018, that 603 Nigerian figures had been convicted on corruption charges since Buhari took office in 2015. The EFCC also announced that for the first time in Nigeria’s history, judges and top military officers including retired service chiefs are being prosecuted for corruption. In December 2019, the country’s controversial ex-Attorney General Mohammed Adoke, who was accused of being bribed to grant oil licenses to Shell, was extradited back to Nigeria from Dubai and was immediately arrested. In January 2020, however, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) still gave Nigeria a low ranking of 146 out of 180 countries surveyed.
By October 2020, however, End SARS protestors alleged that Nigerian police officers, despite being employed by what has long been perceived as being the most corruption institution in Nigeria, were no longer paid adequately and, despite calling out police brutality, called for an increase in police salaries as one of their five demands.
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 2003) Institute for Development Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (IDR, ABU Zaria)
|Nigeria (as of 2003)|
|3||National and State Assemblies|
|4||Local and Municipal Governments|
|5||Federal and State Executive Councils|
|6||Traffic police and FRSC|
In February 2019, it was reported that Nigerian Police Force officers commonly gained extra money by extorting local residents. On July 30, 2019, three Nigeria Police Force Officers from Anambra State were arrested on charges of extorting three residents. On March 9, 2020, a Nigeria Police Force officers from Lagos, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Adebayo Ojo and Sergeant Adeleke Mojisola were both arrested on charges of extorting a woman. The next day, another Nigeria Police Force officer from Lagos, Inspector Taloju Martins, was arrested after being caught on camera exhorting a motorist.
In Nigeria, there is a very big gap between the rich and the poor. Due to this, there is space in politics for richer people to manipulate results and candidates. The BBC did an article in February 2019 detailing how much of an effect ‘godfathers’ can have on the outcome. For example, it was reported, “They are political sponsors, who use money and influence to win support for their preferred candidates.” It is explained that these ‘godfathers’ groom a candidate that they trust can implement the policies they want”.