History Of Corruption In Nigeria

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy. It is also the largest oil producer in the continent. With all these numbers, it is fair to say Nigeria has been blessed with so much human and natural resources to make it the envy of any nation. But it is not. Why? It suffers from endemic corruption and the history of corruption in Nigeria.

Corruption has contributed immensely to the failure of good governance in Nigeria. It has been impossible for the country to implement policies to facilitate the development of the democratic process due to existing high and low-level corruption which can be found in both the political and bureaucratic sectors.



With the high levels of corruption in Nigeria, one will be forgiven for thinking it was invented by Nigerians, but that is definitely not the case. Most analysts have blamed colonialism for the endemic corruption in Nigeria. You see, Britain’s colonization of Nigeria left it with an abundance of political, economic and social issues that are yet to be resolved. A view normally held by Nigerians in the colonial days was that the colonists’ property is not “our” property. Thus, looting was not seen as a crime to society. This has lead to the disregard for public property and lack of public trust that we currently witness in the nation today.

During the first republic, though corruption was prevalent, it was kept at manageable levels. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first major political figure to be investigated for questionable acts. In 1944, his firm bought a bank in Lagos. A transaction report by the bank showed that Azikiwe had resigned as chairman and the current one was an appointee of his.

History Of Corruption In Nigeria
History Of Corruption In Nigeria

In the north, it was the British administration that was accused of corruption after a Fulani political leadership was enthroned in Kano. Evidence was discovered linking the British authorities to the election irregularities. From 1966 to 1975, corruption in Yakubu Gowon’s government was unknown to the public but in 1975, the administration of Murtala Mohammed made reforms. After the military coup which brought it to power, the administration sacked a large number of government officials for misuse of power in Gowon’s administration.

The first coming of Olusegun Obasanjo was filled with scandals as well, it even leads to the late Afro beats maestro Fela singing the famously acclaimed ITT (international thief thief) song. The operation feeds the nation program and the land grab associated with the then Head of State was just a conduit for rewarding his cronies and his OTTA farms were likely borne out of this scandal.

The administration of Shehu Shagari only succeeded in making things even worse. He was ousted from office in a bloodless coup.


A lack of pride and sense of responsibility towards Nigeria is one of the factors responsible for the promotion of corrupt practices in Nigeria. It is almost like the government exists to serve just a privileged few. A lot of people see revenues as “national cake” waiting to be shared. Nigeria will be heading for self-destruction if people don’t change this erroneous mindset. In the first republic, politicians were not corrupt, because a lot of them were in politics due to the ideologies and values they possess.  

Things began to go downhill for Nigeria during the highly uneducated and corrupt military regime. Many of the military presidents of the country were very corrupt in their dealings. The civilian regime to has failed to rid Nigeria of corruption, developing a lack of sincerity in the fight against corruption.

Corruption doesn’t exist only in Nigeria. It is a global issue with deep historical roots. In Nigeria, corruption can be traced back to the colonialist rule. The trappings of flashy cars, exotic houses and the rich lifestyle of the colonists may have influenced the minds of poor Nigerians to emulate the colonists in different political ways. Involving in the colonial agenda also meant idealism was accepted at the early stage of the nation’s development. If a report by pricewatercoopers is anything to go by, if Nigeria had a corruption level that was comparable with that of Ghana’s, the country would have been worth a lot higher.


Colonization of Nigeria forcefully integrated different ethnic nationalities into one state. And the perception that one group was favored over the others created the ethnic tensions we witness in Nigeria to date. Colonialism also brought with it the creation of a modern military and the centralization of power. The military used the centralization of power as a tool to effectively control Nigerians and their resources. As far as I’m concerned, the military birthed corruption in Nigeria political sector. By independence, Nigeria could boast of a modernized military.

And just six years later, it had its first coup. Since then Nigeria has been ruled mostly by the largely unaccountable military. To make things worse, the policies of these governments, some of which were forced on them by international institutions in exchange for economic assistance, in addition to political corruption over time, created the tragic scenario we find in Nigeria today. It is safe to say that, the only thing every government since 1966 has been able to successfully pass on to the next is gut-wrenching, high-level corruption.



Corruption in Nigeria has been allowed to fester on and on. It has not been effectively combated in the way it needs to due to a lack of political character and will. There is a saying that, it is not only the taker of corrupt proceeds that is corrupt, the giver is also. But the Augean stable that we witness today has tentacles covering the entire country. Almost everybody in Nigeria today is a willing participator in corrupt activities, as long as it will enrich him greatly. National pride or belief has been thrown into the gutter.

Corruption goes beyond elected public officials. a lot of civilians too are also corrupt, especially those appointed into ministries, departments, and agencies. It is believed by many that corruption may never go away. To the extent that, the few trying to be different are insulted and mocked by family members and friends, forcing them to engage in the practice of taking public funds. Corruption spreads too because of a lack of patriotism towards Nigeria. Many Nigerians even the coming generation are looking to what Nigeria can do for them instead of the other way round.

Many of those in government do not even have a sense of responsibility in guaranteeing the safety of lives and properties of people living in Nigeria. Instead, they are looking to get their hands on the “national cake” that is waiting for everyone to get their hands on as much as they can.

The end result of all these negative activities is massive underdevelopment and poverty. There is a direct relationship between corruption and lack of infrastructure in the country. According to data released by NBS, infrastructure in Nigeria has deteriorated in Nigeria since democracy emerged and oil revenues increased. Every Nigerian today, knows that if the electricity situation is stabilized, it will have a multiplier effect in the growth and development of the country. But since 1999, over US$20 billion has been invested in the power sector with little or nothing to show for it. Education infrastructure has also decreased as well. The lives and well being of Nigerians are not getting any better. Despite anti-corruption reforms since 1999, inequality still remains at the same level while the percentage of people living in poverty has increased by more than 10 percent.

People look at the 21st century with a sense of hope in the future because people are becoming more open to accept change but nevertheless, with over 250 different ethnic groups, languages and diverse cultures making up Nigeria, many of us still identify primarily by ethnicity instead of nationality.

Loyalty is to kin first and nation after. Just like in the former Yugoslavia, disunity is commonplace in countries that are constructed by Imperial powers and can lead to disintegration. In this case, this is because national unity can’t be imposed against one’s will. The bad economic and social tragedy facing Nigeria for over half a century is caused by the inability of the society to come together as a consequence of its colonial history. Religion is also a divisive factor. There has been a lot of religious tension between Christians and Muslims.


With the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, it was hoped that an end will finally draw nearer in regards to corruption in Nigeria, but that has not been the case. Buhari’s government, even though it has shown some kind of resolve to fight corruption has been accused of using the corruption fight to witch hunt members of the opposition party while freeing those loyal to his APC party. Though recently, the secretary to the government of the federation was sacked for awarding contracts to the tune of N200 million his own firm.

It is hoped that in the coming elections, more credible candidates declare their interest to run so that light can finally be seen at the end of the tunnel.


History corruption in Nigeria has been traced down to the root, how different personality that came in power amount more to the portion corruption was eating already, and also how it got to all and sundry, how colonization plays more roles in corruption in Nigeria, so do take your time to read enjoy the write.


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