Top Five Causes of Corruption in Nigeria

Causes of Corruption in Nigeria

Summary: Corruption is a worldwide problem which has been with societies throughout history. In Nigeria, corruption has retarded economic development, undermined democratic institutions, and has contributed to the present-day insecurity. In this article, we examine some of the causes of corruption in Nigeria. It is necessary to understand the causes so that we can begin to address them. Some of the factors responsible for corruption in Nigeria include greed, poor salary and wages, bad governance, lack of strong institutional framework to fight corruption, etc.


There is no single definition of corruption that captures its many multifarious manifestations because. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 2002 described corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gains”. Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts, solicits or extorts a bribe.

It is also abused when private agents actively offer bribes to circumvent public policies and processes for advantage and profit. Public office can also be abused for personal benefit even if no bribery occurs, through patronage and nepotism, the theft of state assets or diversion of state revenue.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) Act 2000 maintain that corruption includes bribery, fraud and other related offenses.

Corruption means much more than public officers taking bribes and gratification, committing fraud and stealing funds and assets entrusted in their care. Corruption means the deliberate violations, for gainful ends, of standards of conduct legally, professionally, or even ethically established in private and public affairs.

Corruption undermines our democratic institutions, retards economic development and contributes to the current socio-political instability. This is so, because corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions in society by distorting electoral process, and creating bureaucratic bottlenecks whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes.

Actually, no economic growth or political stability is possible unless the cancer of corruption is tackled and overcome.

Categories of Corruption

We have different categories of corruption. First, there is grand corruption which occurs at the highest level of government usually in the contract process and involves enormous monetary value. This form of corruption often impacts heavily on government budget and growth prospects.

Second, we have political corruption which involves the subversion of the political process. This form of corruption is aimed primarily at capturing power to determine the rules of economic and political engagement.

Third, we have petty or bureaucratic corruption which occurs at the level of government bureaucracy and often involves perversion of laid-down rules of due-process. This form of corruption usually aims at private monetary gain through wrongful inducements and illicit payments for rendering public service and involves only small amount of money involved.

Fourth, judicial corruption which takes place when judicial officers fall short of the standard of integrity and the course of justice is perverted for personal gains.

Fifth, there is moral corruption which covers all immoral behavior that is socially unacceptable to the generality of people.

Types of Corruption

In this section, we outline six different types of corruption in Nigeria. These include the following: looted funds and wealth kept secretly abroad; misappropriation of public funds; money laundering; gratification; abuse of office; nepotism and favoritism.

Causes of Corruption in Nigeria

In this section, we identify some of the factors responsible for pervasive corruption lingering in Nigeria and other third world countries.

1. Culture or Cultural Practices:

Culture is something we learn through socialization. It defines what we grow up to consider as immoral. Through socialization, we develop our values and beliefs. An example of culture that encourages corruption is the “spraying” of money at parties or marriage and burial ceremonies. Such practices make the Nigerian culture to be a fertile ground for corruption. Giving gifts to clients and others for services rendered, or, as a show of gratitude is normal in society. In traditional society, gift items were farm produce. Today, politicians now play some of the roles of clients and gift with money.

2. Greed and Ostentatious Lifestyle:

Unfortunately, our culture encourages selfishness and greed. Rich and influential people are worshiped and not subjected to the normal due processes obtainable in other cultures. The wealthier you are the more honour is bestowed on you regardless of how you accumulated the wealth.

Since our society loves ostentatious lifestyle, people delve into corrupt practices to support the lifestyle and embrace a style of public sleaze and lack of decorum.

3. Poor Salary and Wages:

Nigeria is one of the least paying countries in the world. The poor salary and wages give room for workers to make ends meet by compromising their duties to meet up with the exigencies of their daily obligation.

4. Lack of Strong Institutions to deal with Corruption Issues:

Corruption has eaten deep into the legislature, judiciary, police, law enforcement agents and so that they usually treat cases of corruption with lackadaisical attitude. As a result, majority the investigations of corrupt practices in Nigeria, instances fizzle out.

5. Lack of Accountability and Transparency:

Corruption flourishes in Nigeria partly because office holders are not required to account for their stewardship.

All government ministries and organizations lack a transparent system of administration. The biggest corruption deterrent is when civil servants, ministries and all senior management in government corporations know that they are under scrutiny.

Again, none implementation of budget by the government is a serious problem that encourages corruption and breach the principle of accountability.

Considering the negative impacts of corruption on the social, economic, and political life of the nation, it is necessary to identify some ways we can possibly reduce corruption in Nigeria.

1. There is the need for a total change in education of the public. There is need for reformation, orientation and re-orientation of the minds of Nigerians, for them to see that corruption is the enemy of development.

2. There is the need to improve workers’ salaries as this will reduce the tendency of public servants to demand and take bribes and get involved in other corrupt practices.


Corruption continues to impact negatively on Nigeria’s development and has become a stumbling block in the process of nation building and entrenchment of functional democracy in Nigeria. Some of the adverse effects of corruption on social and economic development include: diversion of development resources for private gain; misallocation of talent; lost tax revenue; negative impact on quality of infrastructure and public services; and slowing of economic growth.


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