Corruption is widespread in
developing countries like Nigeria because the conditions are congenial for it.
People are highly motivated to income due to severe poverty and low income.
Factors such as low income, poverty, lack of compensation of workers, lack of
access to basic services giver rise to corruption.
According to Gunnar Myrdal,
in underdeveloped countries “a bribe to a person holding a public position
is not clearly differentiated from the ‘gifts,’ tributes, and other burdens
sanctioned in traditional, pre-capitalist society or the special obligations
attached to a favour given at any social level.” (Myrdal 1970, p.237; see
also Ekpo 1979). Shleifer and Vishny (1993) and Ali
and Isse (2003) argued that in a country where economic condition is
poor, there is tendency for such country to experience high level of corrupt
practices which further worsen the growth rates. They also buttressed their
assertion that a country with good macroeconomic performance stands to experience
low (if any) level of corruption and develops rapidly.
According to David Apter
(1963), African civil servants may be obliged to share the proceeds of their
public offices with their kinfolk. The African extended family places
significant pressure on the civil servant, forcing him to engage in corrupt and
Contrary to popular opinion,
corruption is not a phenomenon that’s restricted to Africa and other third
world countries but is also perpetrated to certain degrees in western countries.
Corruption is not a
phenomenon that materialises out of nothing, it has antecedents. Some scholars
argue that corruption in Nigeria predates the colonial era and has its roots in
“backroom deals” carried out between European traders and pre-colonial leaders.
Benjamin (2007) asserted
that corruption in Nigeria can be traced back to the colonial era when
Nigerians were bribed with different foreign goods in exchange for local
products in exchange for slaves.
Tignor (1993), for instance,
aptly described the ‘British images of African Corruption’ as well as the
‘African moral and mental failing standards in British thinking ever since the
origin of the colonial era’, with negative connotations. Citing instances from
the Sokoto Caliphate and Oyo Empire, among others, the work described the
then native authorities as essentially characterised by ‘oppression,
exploitation, tyranny and venality’.
A vice which
defies boundaries, corruption is prevalent in every society. However, the
level of its perpetration differs from society to society.
“Corruption in India, has
with the passage of time, become a convention, a tradition, a psychological
need and necessary so to say” (Kohl 1975; p.32)
Huntington (1986) highlights
culture as a cause of political corruption when he states that corruption is
higher in states where “the interest of the individual, the family,
the clique or the clan predominates”. Similarly, other corruption scholars like
Scott (2003) and Johnston (1983) look at culture in relations to kinship,
traditional societies, senses of community, etc. and offer that it is a
significant variable in explaining corruption.
Nwaobi (2004) posited that
Nigeria must be one of the very few countries in the world where a man’s source
of wealth is of no concern to his neighbours, the public or the government.
Wealthy people who are known to be corrupt are regularly courted and honoured
by communities, religious bodies, clubs and other private organisations. This
implies that people who benefit from the largesse of these corrupt people
rarely ask questions.
Some scholars believe that
corruption in Africa and other developing regions arises from the existence of
defective cultural norms and behaviours (Jabbra 1976).
Ekpo (1979) traces the
root causes of corruption in Nigeria to the extended family system. He argues
that the extended family system tends to foster stronger ethnic connections
which are recipes for corruption.
One’s loyalty to his family
and ethnic group rather to the office in which he occupies is a pervasive norm
in Africa; Nigeria is not excluded from this behaviouralism. In Africa,
these particularistic attachments are quite strong and have been cited as
important determinants of bureaucratic corruption. Therefore civil
officers may perpetuate corrupt practises to sustain personal obligations to
their kin or those of their ethnic group.
Greed can be defined as an
excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or desires. It can
also be defined as reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth.
Wood (2005) describes greed
as “an inappropriate attitude towards things of value built on the mistaken
judgment that my wellbeing is tied to the sum of my possession”
In most instances,
corruption is perpetrated as a result of greed on the part of those who
are put in position of power, they seek to acquire wealth through the power
of their office or position by any means necessary, which in
most cases is through bribery or misappropriation of public funds put in
their care for development of the state.
For instance, the National
Poverty Eradication Program was designed to pay the sum of three thousand naira
monthly to some category of the unemployed in Nigerian to better their living
condition. The program was however hijacked by corrupt politicians and instead
of the poor benefiting from the scheme, the pay roll was filled by ghost names,
unwarranted party loyalists and their children. Just because the state lacks
autonomy and is dependent, those who control state power use it to enrich
themselves and their cronies, which is detrimental to policy implementation
institutions are organisations which create, enforce and apply laws. They
often mediate conflict, make (governmental) policy on the economy and social
systems and otherwise provide representation for the populous.
The kind of political
structure put in place, to a great extent determines the magnitude of
corruption perpetrated in a state, some argue that dictatorial governments
are a fertile ground for corruption while democracy, due to its promotion of a
free society, tends to decrease the execution of corruption due to the presence
of free press and freedom of speech which may lead to exposure of corrupt officials/individuals.
Whether a government is centralised
or decentralised, it is hardly ever corruption free: a highly centralised
government which is known as a dictatorship has its own power vested in one
individual who is capable of doing as he pleases without external influence.
Due to its power being
greatly concentrated, power in a centralised government can be easily abused;
such government can extort taxes and pass unfair laws to the detriment of
citizens of the state while suffering little recourse.
According to Calderisi’s
(2006) encyclopaedic coverage of the persistent problems of inept leadership,
institutional failure, and pandemic corruption in Africa, these problems
intensified with the incursion of several thuggish dictatorial leaders upon gaining
independence. “They ruled like kings and drew no distinction between their
own property and that of the state” (Calderisi 2006)
On the other hand, the
central idea of political decentralisation is that citizens should be
given more power in political and public decision-making
In a decentralised
government however, power is distributed throughout the entire system, usually
made up of small organisations that carry out governance at different levels,
which makes the more accessible to the people, resulting to citizens being
involved in the decision making process through votes and opinion polls. This
however promotes corrupt practices as certain individuals or groups can easily
pass bribes to government officials in order to have them manipulate laws with
can further their own interests.
In a fairly crude sense, the
size of the state may influence the supply of corrupt public services. Some
have suggested a simple positive relationship between the size of
the state and corruption or “rent-seeking”. (Tanzi 1994,
One cause of corruption in
the U.S is “the need to exchange favours to overcome decentralised
authority” (Wilson 1970, p.304).
example, Constitutional federalism has often been advocated as
a system to accommodate ethnic and religious differences and other
regional peculiarities (Bermeo2002). Federalism provides room for
diversity and reduces the possibility of tensions and conflicts which may
also originate opportunities for the extraction of rents. Yet on the
other hand, the well-known arguments of multiplication and
overlapping of layers of government causing accountability problems and
the ‘overgrazing’ of the bribe base in federal systems suggests that the
latter may also be associated with higher corruption.
Immature Democracy: The corruption perception indexes consistently show that
countries that appear to be least corrupt are long established
democracies. In a democracy, opposition groups and parties will monitor
the conduct of office-holders, expose corruption in government and generally
hold the government accountable for its performance. But the prospects of
having orderly, structured and open political competition in an environment
where corruption is deeply entrenched and pervasive are poor. In such
circumstances, the office holders seek to buy off opponents, bribe voters and
electoral officials and generally corrupt the democratic process. However, the
persistence of differing degrees of corruption in established democracies shows
that no particular set of political arrangements in panacea for eliminating
corruption. But established democracies usually have underlying consensus on
the values, rules and possess of political change.
Johnston (1997) identified
weak political competition as a strong factor that helps to sustain corrupt
practices. He opined that this has generally played a role in sustaining most
serious cases of entrenched political and bureaucratic corruption. Hence, he
submitted that stronger political and economic competition could enhance accountability,
open up alternatives to dealing with corrupt networks, and create incentives
for political leaders to move against corruption. Unchecked awarding of white
elephant projects, execution of second best projects and worst of it is
abandoned project after huge sum of money would have been paid to the
contractors are some of the corruptions resulting from the negligence of the