150 of 180 countries: Is Nigeria a corruption-prone nation?

Nigeria ranks 150th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI), making it one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

All nations and regions’ economies suffer greatly from corruption. Nigeria ranks 150th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI), making it one of the world’s most corrupt nations. According to the most recent (2022) Corruption Perception Index results, Nigeria has dropped four positions on the list. The relationship in Nigeria between corruption and sustainable development has an impact on the nation’s future course.

Today we all know that corruption has an impact on each of the five pillars of sustainable development—people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships. It also undermines the legitimacy of democratic institutions and the rule of law, obstructs social equality, and endangers economic growth. This effect has been particularly severe and is still present in Africa’s sustainable development. Several reports on corrupt activities across Nigeria have surfaced after the return of the current democratic system (from 1999). Due to the pervasiveness of corrupt activities in Nigeria, both politicians and senior civil servants have come to accept them as morally indisputable acts of character. The views expressed several decades ago about corruption being able to grease the wheels and potentially contribute to economic development are no longer valid and have been thoroughly debunked. Meanwhile, several studies provide evidence of the negative correlation between corruption and the quality of government spending, services, and regulations.

In 2015, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicates that corruption, bribery, theft, and tax evasion cost some $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. The environment also suffers: the costs of water infrastructure are increased by corruption by as much as 40 percent, which equates to an additional US$12 billion a year needed to provide worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation. Also, bribery costs between USD1.5 and USD2 trillion every year, an amount roughly equivalent to 2 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and because companies that shoulder extra costs for purposes of bribery often make up for it by using inferior materials, their inferior products often lead to reduced consumer patronage and, ultimately, decreased profits in the long term. While poverty is a product of corruption, when a country mismanages the resources meant for the majority as a result of corruption, jobs will be difficult to create with scarce resources while the available jobs will be under threat due to a decline in financial obligations by the employer of labour.

In the West African nation, there are different vocabularies used to describe corruption, social scientists say, as some of these are bribery, extortion (money and other resources extracted by the use of coercion, violence, or threats), and embezzlement (theft of public resources by public officials). When a state official steals from the public institution where he or she works, it is referred to as: betrayal of trust, unfair advantages, financial malpractices, egunje, dash, gratification, brown envelopes, tips, emoluments, grease, softening the ground, inducements, sub-payments, side payments, irregular payments, payment under the table, undocumented extra payments, facilitation payments, mobilisation fees, “routine governmental action,” “10% rule” (bribe surcharge), “50% rule” (sharing bribe within the hierarchy), “let’s keep our secret secret,” “highly classified” transactions, “customary gift-giving,” “tribute culture,” “nepotism” (a special form of favouritism in which an office holder prefers his/her kinfolk and family members), According to scholars, “corruption manifests itself in Nigeria through abuse of positions and privileges, low levels of transparency and accountability, contract inflation, bribery/kickbacks, misappropriation or diversion of funds, under and over invoicing, false declarations, advance fee fraud, and other deceptive schemes known as “419,” the collection of illegal tolls, commodity hoarding, illicit smuggling of drugs and arms, human trafficking, child labor, and illegal oil extraction.”

However, the country’s government is making active and difficult-to-measure efforts to fight corruption. The regime of Olusegun Obasanjo in the Fourth Republic introduced the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The four key strategies of the reform are: reforming government and institutions, implementing a social charter, growing the private sector, and reorienting values. In an attempt to realise the above objectives, there were reforms in the major sectors of the economy like pensions, energy, and power. Yes, this reform led to the privatisation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), banking reform that allowed for merger and acquisition, the setting up of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offenses Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, etc. With the inauguration of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, Obasanjo graphically summed it all up when he said: “With corruption, there can be neither sustainable development nor political stability.” By breeding and feeding on inefficiency, corruption invariably strangles the system of social organization. “In fact, corruption is literally the antithesis of development and progress” (Adedire, 2014).

Does Nigeria still have a problem with corruption?

While the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claims that attempts to measure corruption are intended to reveal the nature and impact of corruption and are necessary for developing anti-corruption responses, measurements of corruption can be used to identify trends and illustrate the scale and scope of particular types of corruption. They can help policymakers, analysts, and scholars develop tools to reduce corruption effectively. Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Country Representative in Nigeria, stated at the “Strategic Vision for Nigeria 2030” unveiling last year in Abuja that “corruption and illicit financial flows enable crime and terrorism,” and that “impunity perpetuates these challenges and undermines public trust.”

Transparency International has been publishing the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of the world since the turn of the millennium. The CPI is an indicator of perceptions of public sector corruption, that is, administrative and political corruption. If a country has a CPI of 100, that country is very clean; if the score is 0, that country is highly corrupt. Similarly, the CPI ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. It combines polls, surveys, and assessments drawn on corruption-related data collected by a variety of reputable institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis, e.g., the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the World Justice Project, the World Economic Forum, and Political Risk Services, just to mention a few. The index reflects the views of observers from around the world, including experts living and working in the countries and territories evaluated. Transparency International tries to show how effective prosecutors, the courts, or the media are at investigating and exposing corruption (Osuji, 2015). A CPI report by Transparency International (TI) released on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, showed Nigeria among the most corrupt countries in the world, as the country took the 150th position out of 180 countries. The ranking showed that Nigeria dropped four places on its latest Corruption Perception Index ranking.

Lai Mohammed, the minister of information for Nigeria, criticized the report, claiming that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is not fighting corruption to impress Transparency International. He declares, “We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we don’t fight corruption, there’ll be no growth, either in terms of the economy or even political.” As a result, what we do and have put in place to combat corruption is not motivated by a desire to be rated by anyone. Mohammed claims that fighting corruption isn’t just about how many people you’ve arrested, tried, or convicted.

In a similar vein, Abubakar Malami, who has held the positions of Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in Nigeria for almost eight years, spoke with Premium Times, a media outlet located in Abuja, Nigeria’s administrative and political center, in an interview and rated President Muhammadu’s government highly in combating corruption, just like Lai Mohammed. Even by international standards, the fact that Nigeria is achieving successes associated with the fight against corruption cannot be disputed, Malami asserts. This has been bolstered by the African Union’s (AU) recognition of President Muhammadu Buhari as the champion of the fight against corruption. Consequently, he said, “So, these are international acknowledgements of the fact that, as a government, we are doing well both in terms of accountability and transparency of what we do and in the direction of the fight against corruption.”

In addition to finishing in 150th place, Nigeria received 24 out of a possible 100 points, according to the report. Africa’s most populous nation is listed among those that have “made no significant progress against corruption or have declined since 2012,” according to the report. Nigeria maintained its score from the prior year, according to the results. Nigeria previously received 26 points in 2019, 25 in the 2020 evaluation, and 24 in 2021.

Combating corruption in Nigeria

Because eradicating corruption is critical to achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions), UNITAR, a United Institute for Training and Research organization, stated that there is widespread international agreement on the importance of combating and preventing corruption due to its negative effects on employment, leadership, and decision-making at all levels, among other consequences. Therefore, the creation of spaces to raise awareness represents an opportunity to enhance capabilities and share good practises towards a culture of learning, which are extremely important to achieve the Agenda 2030 in a cross-cutting manner, in particular SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 10 (reduce inequality), SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).

Experts propose that:

1. The legal framework for tackling corruption must be strengthened. The current situation, where corrupt government officials exploit legal loopholes and technicalities to cover their corruption charges and thereby escape justice, must be seriously redressed. The legislature should amend such legal loopholes in the constitution that corrupt officials often hide under to evade justice.

2. The executive should strengthen the existing agencies fighting corruption, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), in order to make them more functional and effective. These agencies should be more innovative by preventing officials from stealing public funds through the use of information technology (IT), rather than making last-minute arrests and bringing prosecutions.

3. The government should have the political will to tackle corruption head-on. There should be no sacred cows; the government should have the political will to prosecute any official found wanting in the discharge of his or her official duties, irrespective of their status. There should be judicial reforms aimed at improving the capacity of the judiciary to speed up the dispensation of justice as far as corruption cases are concerned. If possible, special courts can be established to try corruption cases so as to conclude them quickly.

4. In addition, there is a need for value reorientation among Nigerians, aimed at changing the attitude and psychology of the people towards corruption as well as making the social problem an unethical practise in their minds.


Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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