Corruption in Nigeria Public Service

Corruption in Nigeria Public Service

Summary: Corruption is a global problem that has negative consequences on the development of many countries. In Nigeria, corruption is visible in all sectors of the economy, including public service.  The aim of this article is to examine the dimensions and magnitude of corruption in Nigeria Public Service and its effects on effective service delivery. In other words, we are going to consider the impact of corruption on the ability of government and private stakeholders to provide essential services in health, education, electricity, water, and other infrastructure facilities. From our analysis, corruption in the Nigeria public service is a major challenge to effective service delivery to the Nigerian citizenry.

Corruption is a global problem that threatens development in many nations, especially African countries. Corruption in the Nigeria public service has negative impact on good governance and effective service delivery. Although corruption exists in one form or the order in all societies, in Nigeria the extent of its pervasiveness and its implication for good governance, its value system and political culture is overwhelming.

Indeed, corruption has become an integral part of the administrative, political, socio-economic and cultural system as well as a way of life of the Nigerian people. The effect of pervasive and widespread corruption in Nigeria is that majority of Nigerians are yet to enjoy the dividends of democracy and good governance.


The term ‘corruption’ or ‘corrupt practices’ entails fraudulent activities especially diversion of funds that are meant for the people for personal benefit and aggrandizement. Corruption undermines the authority’s ability to improve the living condition of the people.

According to the AusAID, corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption promotes personal interest as against the public good.

For this article, we shall look at corruption from the political and bureaucratic perspective. Political corruption occurs amongst politicians and political decision makers, who are entitled to formulate, establish and implement the laws on behalf of the people. These politicians unfortunately formulate policies and laws that are intended to benefit themselves and not the general citizenry.

On the other hand, bureaucratic corruption occurs in the Public Administration or the implementation end of politics. In Nigeria, this type of corruption occurs daily in places like the hospitals, schools, local licensing offices, police, and tax offices etc. where citizens have to offer bribes to access what they are legally entitled to. Another variant of bureaucratic corruption is the outright embezzlement of public fund by public officials in their places of assignments. In Nigeria, the embezzlement of public funds is one of the most common ways of wealth accumulation.

Public Service

In this article, service refers to both tangible and intangible goods and services provided by the government in order to improve the well being of the populace.

Services include social services (primary education and basic health services), infrastructure (water, sanitation, roads and bridges) and services that promote personal security (justice, police etc). In Nigeria, government constitutes the major service provider through the Public Service.

Public service refers to all organizations that exist as part of government machinery for delivering services that are of value to the citizens.

The Nigerian public service includes the civil service, consisting of ministries and extra-ministerial agencies; the Public bureaucracy made up of service of the State and National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Armed Forces, the Police and other security agencies, paramilitary services (i.e. Customs, Immigration, Prisons Services, Civil defense Corps etc); parastatals and agencies i.e. regulatory agencies, educational institutions, research institutions, social services, commercially oriented agencies etc.

Corruption and Effective Service Delivery in Nigeria

The public service constitutes the major service provider in Nigeria because it is responsible for providing essential services for the people. Corruption in Nigeria has been a major factor hindering the public service ability to provide these services.

The grim condition of many of Nigerians has been worsened by the deterioration of the public services where the adequate supply of electricity, and access to pipe borne water and affordable healthcare became a dream.

This indicates the failure of the Nigerian public service in providing essential services to the people.

Much of the corrupt practices in Nigeria are perpetuated in or in connivance with the public service. In 2007, Nigeria corruption index showed that the Nigeria Police, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the Nigeria Custom Service and the Ministry of Education, (particularly higher institutions and examinations bodies) are the most corrupt Public Institutions in Nigeria. According to the report, these institutions of government received the most bribes from those to whom they are providing services.

These institutions are some of the major service providers in the country; however, corruption has hindered the ability of the government to provide effective service to her people.

Impact of Corruption on Nigeria Public Service

The impact of official corruption is so enormous in Nigeria:

Corruption has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad.

It has distorted and caused a setback for development efforts in the nation.

Because of corruption, our infrastructures (PHCN, Roads, railways, education, housing and other social services) were allowed to decay.

According to a study conducted by Human Rights Watch (2007), it was estimated that during the eight year period of the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria lost between 4 and 8 billion US dollar annually to corruption.

Moreover, a report by US-based group, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) indicates that Nigeria might have lost 130 billion dollars from 2000 to 2008 due to illicit financial flows.

The reasons for illicit outflows in Nigeria are mainly attributed to corruption and corrupt act such as kickbacks, bribes, embezzlement, and other forms of official corruption.

The effect of corruption in Nigeria public service is the lack or inadequate provision of services that would enhance the standard of living of Nigerians.  The falling standard of living of majority of Nigerians is an evidence of the lack of basic needs of life i.e. food, shelter and clothing and low access to essential services like health, education, electricity, water, transportation etc.

Corruption negatively affects significant variables for socio economic development by rendering impotent the very institutions and human resources that are designed to help them grow.

Looking at the budgetary allocation in Nigeria, it is clear that government spending on the provision of social services and infrastructural development has mostly been significant. From 2001 to 2008 the federal government alone spent the sum of 2752.4 billion for these services without commiserate development on ground to show the impact on the citizenry.

Furthermore, other socioeconomic indicators have shown that infant mortality rate is still high; life expectancy is still low (between 47 to 51 years) and adult literacy is still very low due to low access to education with one of the highest rate of maternal mortality.

The problem of inefficient service delivery also reflected in the power sector. With a population about 160 million people, the power generation capacity in the country is below 4000 megawatts, compared with South Africa with a population of only 45 million but generates 42,000 megawatts. This situation, to say the least is very pathetic, considering the fact that, apart from power needed for domestic, power is a major requirement for industrial development and the overall socioeconomic development of the country. Thus the poor electricity supply is a major factor responsible for low industrialization and relocation of many industries to other countries.

The failure of leadership and surge in corruption has resulted in a serious crisis in the nation.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Due to the high rate of corruption in Nigeria public service, citizens that ought to enjoy the benefits of these services are rather subjected to all forms of ridicule and frustration. They are most times denied even services they pay for (i.e. electricity, water, health and other essential services).

Corruption has brought about degeneration in the quality of life of the citizenry. Thus, corruption results in poor and inefficient public service delivery.

The paper therefore recommends the following:

1. There is the need for strong political will among political elites to combating corruption in the public service.

2. There is the need to punish offenders regardless of who is involved.


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