Causes and Effects of Corruption in Nigeria

Causes and Effects of Corruption in Nigeria

Summary: The aim of this article is to consider some of the social, economic, and cultural factors responsible for corruption in Nigeria. Furthermore, we take a look at some of the negative effects of corruption on politics, economics, and other aspects of the country. Some factors such as widespread poverty and socioeconomic inequalities, and systematic maladministration contribute to the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria. Furthermore, corruption has a harmful effect on administrative performance and economic and political development, for example, corroding public confidence, perverting institutions’ processes, favoring the privileged and powerful few, and use of non-rational criteria in public decisions.

Corruption in Nigeria

Corruption is known to be widespread Nigerian (and many African nations) that it has become a part of everyday life. Based on available documents, a kickback of 10-20 percent for government contracts is commonly expected.

Ruling political party indeed raise millions of dollars by means of kickbacks, most of which are used for personal expenses. Indeed, those who refused to cooperate with corrupt officials were barred from receiving government contracts. As a result, people found it necessary to bribe public officials in order to carry on business. Indeed, in Nigeria, corruption has an impressive record. It runs rampant in Nigeria.

Analyses of the bureaucracy in Nigeria concluded that the most salient features of the country’s public administration system are its massive poor productivity, the absorption of the administration by party concerns and priorities, and the “privatization” of the entire state machinery. This privatization of the public bureaucracy has converted the public sector into an instrument for self-enrichment. Those at the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy have institutionalized corruption and locked their subordinates into corrupt practices in a systemic way.

The most frequent types of corruption encountered in Nigeria reportedly include bribes to have compromising documents removed from files, fraudulent use of official stationery, kickbacks for hiring, two salaries, neglect of public service obligations for outside business, and outright embezzlement of public funds.

Administrative officials in charge of implementing economic regulations systematically use their position as ‘bureaucratic capital’ that can be converted into a steady flow of income from corruption.

Thus, corruption in Nigeria runs rampant and has spread throughout the entire political and bureaucratic apparatus, permeating ultimately all aspects of social life.

Some Causes of Corruption in Nigeria

Uncovering the underlying causes of corruption in Nigeria is important.

In this article, we identify sets of conditions, the interplay of which is conducive to bureaucratic corruption in Nigeria and other developing countries:

Social and Economic Factors:

Some of the socioeconomic factors contributing to corruption in Nigeria include high unemployment, widespread poverty, and widening social and economic inequalities.

Poverty forces individuals not only to tolerate corruption, but also to initiate it where none exists and to take advantage of it where it is present.

Sometimes favors are extended to other individuals, particularly relatives and friends, because of the desire to alleviate their poverty. At other times, favors may be extended with the objective of exacting certain future benefits from the recipients.

In Nigeria (and other developing countries), where employment opportunities in the private sector are very limited and the government is the main employer, a great many opportunities arise for systematic bribery, patronage, and nepotism.

Under these conditions, unqualified, incompetent, inept, and even corrupt but influential individuals are drawn into the ranks of the civil service.

Cultural Factors:

Bureaucrats in Nigeria frequently seem to be faced by two sets of values: having been trained in the norms of modern organizations, they publicly adhere to these standards of recruitment and selection; but privately, and to a significant degree, they subscribe to traditional norms.

The weight of tradition is such that, even when the bureaucrat himself does not profess a belief in traditional values, he is nevertheless subjected to constant pressure to give in to those values.

Consequently, parochial loyalties and kinship ties tend to influence the behavior of bureaucrats in Nigeria and most other African countries. This system of relationships has encouraged the development and institutionalization of attitudes of disrespect for formal regulations among both civil servants and the public.

It has been observed that in order to avoid accusations of ingratitude, politicians and top civil servants must surround themselves with their fellow tribesmen as well as their more immediate relatives.

Low Salary:

Salary levels among middle-and low-level civil servants in Nigeria has been found to contribute to corruption. At present, some civil servants in the country cannot afford three balanced diet, regardless of whether they spent their entire income on food. On the other hand, the lifestyle expected of middle-level bureaucrats demands an income far in excess of their salaries, which bureaucrats supplement by extracting payments and kickbacks from clients.

Underpaid civil servants may illegally spend a substantial amount of office time on money-earning activities, thus detracting from their appointed duties and diminishing productivity.

Negative Effects of Corruption in Nigeria

The effects of corruption in Nigerian and other developing countries are mainly negative. Corruption impairs bureaucratic effectiveness, political development, and economic efficiency.

1. Effect on Political Development:

Corruption is said to contribute to inter-ethnic and inter-regional conflict and violence. In addition, corruption undermines the legitimacy of political institutions and thus the government is less able to rely on the cooperation and support of the public. As a result, the government is compelled to resort to force and coercive tactics to maintain order. The resulting violence and political instability hinders political development.

2. Effect on Economic Development:

Corruption leads to economic inefficiency and waste, because of its effect on the allocation of funds, on production, and on consumption. Gains obtained through corruption are unlikely to be transferred to the investment sector since ill-gotten money is either used up in conspicuous consumption or is transferred to foreign bank accounts. Such transfers represent a capital leakage to the domestic economy.

Furthermore, corruption generates allocative inefficiency by permitting the least efficient contractor with the highest ability to bribe to be the recipient of government contracts. In addition, since the cost of bribes is included in the price of the goods produced, demand tends to be reduced, the structure of production becomes biased, and consumption falls below efficiency levels. Thus, corruption lowers the general welfare of the populace.

Moreover, since corruption affects recruitment and promotion patterns, the most efficient employees may not be recruited at all and the allocation of positions may be inefficient. This situation may be worsened further if efficient potential employees do not compete for government positions because of moral or other reasons. By the same token, corruption directs employees’ energies away from socially valuable activities toward less efficient corrupt activities.

3. Effect on Bureaucratic Efficiency:

Corruption is considered to generate administrative inefficiency and ineffectiveness by creating an atmosphere of distrust throughout all levels of public bureaucracies. Top administrators are discouraged from training their subordinates to undertake increased responsibilities, while their ability to supervise is also reduced. Consequently, the delegation of authority needed for successful implementation is inhibited and frequently altogether hindered.

In addition, patronage and nepotism tend to fill the ranks of the civil service with inept and incompetent individuals, thereby lowering the productivity of public bureaucracies. Generally, rather than contributing to political development corruption appears to generate conditions of violence, social unrest, political instability.

4. Effects on Administrative Performance:

Corruption in Nigeria and other developing countries generates an atmosphere of resentment and frustration, poor productivity and inefficiency, and distrust that permeates all levels of administration. The idea that bribes and payoffs expedite transactions by helping overcome cumbersome rules and regulations causes administrative delays because civil servants got into the habit of holding back all papers from the clients until some kind of payment was made to them.

Corruption in the Nigerian public bureaucracy contributes to frustration on the part of otherwise professionally competent and honest civil servants. The typical Nigerian civil servants’ inability to control corruption impels him to choose one of two options: the civil servant will either apply non-corrupt standards running the risk of becoming so alienated that he will eventually resign his position, or he will take advantage of his skills and position to enrich himself.

Concerning its effect on public bureaucracies, corruption:

  • subverts trust and cooperation,
  • inhibits innovation and reform,
  • encourages violations of rules and regulations,
  • intimidates and terrorizes honest civil servants into silence.


Corruption is pervasive in Nigeria and other developing countries. Conditions widespread poverty and socioeconomic inequalities, ambivalence towards the legitimacy of government and its organizations and systematic maladministration, provides fertile grounds for corruption, which has a deleterious effect on administrative performance and economic and political development.

In the face of the widespread incidence of corruption and its harmful effect on administrative performance, it is necessary for the Nigerian government to consider possible measures to counteract this scourge.


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