56 Years Of Fighting Corruption In Nigeria – By Vincent Egunyanga


The  most talked about any topic in Nigeria today is corruption. It
has become the most talked about topic because in Nigeria the best way
to wage  any war against  your enemy is to accuse him or her of
corruption. In every election in the country the first manifesto to
get the support of the public is to talk about corruption and tell the
nation how you intend to fight the scourge. Nigerians have the mindset
that all public officers are corrupt, they only need someone to
declare it and there might be a mob action. Incidentally too,
corruption in Nigeria has tribal, Religious, Regional and Partisan
coloration.  An activity amount  to corruption only if our opinion
leaders  say it is corruption otherwise it amount to persecution.
As  a patriotic Nigeria I have decided to once again discuss the issue
of corruption in the country as the current administration of
President Muhammadu  Buhari and the  All Progressives Congress [APC]
have been celebrating their war on corruption and want Nigerians to
celebrate the war with them even when it has not transformed their
lives or put food on their table.
Difference people across the country have  given their own opinion on
what should be done to corrupt  officials. Some have said corrupt
officials should be executed, some even said corrupt officials should
be banned for life from holding any public office. But to the APC and
the government their fight against corruption is meant to discredit
the immediate past Administration of  Goodluck Jonathan  and use it to
kill the PDP permanently.
Am not going to join issues with these arguments but to remind
Nigerians that there was a time in this country when armed robbers
were executed.  We called it the bar beach show then. They were
executed in bar beach in Lagos. But it did not end armed robbery in
the country.
I will only give  a literature review of the fight against corruption
in Nigeria since 1960 and allow Nigerians to judge.
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionay defines corruption to mean, to
make the purity, to taint, to debase, to spoil, to destroy the purity
of, to pervert, to bribe..from  the above definition Corruption is not
just about stealing money. corruption includes rigging of an election,
cheating during examinations, Nepotism, Match fixing etc.But in
Nigeria corruption simply means stealing public funds, and the only
person that can find you quilty of corruption is not the courts or the
Judiciary but the leadership of political parties other than your own.
Corruption allegations and wars have been on in Nigeria as far back as
Independence in 1960. Every successful government always accused the
other of corruption. One of the reasons why the first military
coupists struck was because they accused the politicians of the first
Republic of corruption.

Corruption, though prevalent, was kept at manageable levels during the
First Republic. However, the cases of corruption during the period
were sometimes clouded by political infighting.
•       Azikiwe was the first major political figure investigated for
questionable practices. In 1944, a firm belonging to Azikiwe and
family bought a Bank in Lagos. The bank was procured to strengthen
local control of the financial industry. Albeit, a report about
transactions carried out by the bank showed though Azikiwe had
resigned as chairman of the bank, the current chairman was an agent of
his. The report wrote that most of the paid-up capital of the African
Continental Bank were from the Eastern Regional Financial Corporation.
•       In western Nigeria, politician Adegoke Adelabu was investigated
following charges of political corruption leveled against him by the
opposition. The report led to demand for his resignation as district
council head.
•       In the Northern region, against the backdrop of corruption
allegations leveled against some native authority officials in Bornu.
The Northern Government enacted the Customary Presents order to
forestall any further breach of regulations. Later on, it was the
British administration that was accused of corrupt practices in the
results of elections which enthroned a Fulani political leadership in
Kano, reports later linking the British authorities to electoral
irregularities were discovered.

The immediate reasons for the first-coup, however, concerned the
nationwide disillusionment with the corrupt and selfish politicians,
as well as with their inability to maintain law and order and
guarantee the safety of lives and property. During the initial stages,
Nzeogwu and his collaborators were hailed as national heroes. But the
pattern of killings in the coup gave it a partisan appearance: killed
were the prime minister, a northerner, the premier of the Northern
Region, and the highest-ranking northern army officers; only one Igbo
officer lost his life. Also killed was the premier of the Western
Region who was closely allied with the NPC.
Corruption for the most part of Yakubu Gowon’s administration was kept
away from public view until 1975. However, informed officials voiced
concerns. Critics said Gowon’s governors acted like lords overseeing
their personal fiefdom. He was viewed as timid, faced with corrupt
elements in his government.
In 1975, a corruption scandal surrounding the importation of cement
engulfed many officials of the defense ministry and the central bank
of Nigeria. Officials were later accused of falsifying ships
manifestos and inflating the amount of cement to be purchased.
During the Gowon administration, two individuals from the middle belt
of the country were accused of corruption. The Nigerian government
controlled the newspapers,  the Daily Times and the New Nigerian gave
great publicity to denunciations of the administration of Gomwalk, and
Federal Commissioner Joseph Tarka by the two critics. A situation
which may signal a cause for exigent action on corruption.
On July 30, 1975, Brigadier (later General) Muhammed was made head of
state, when General Gowon was overthrown while at an Organization of
African Unity (OAU) summit in Kampala, Uganda. Brigadiers Obasanjo
(later Lt. General) and Danjuma (later Lt. General) were appointed as
Chief of Staff, Supreme HQ and Chief of Army Staff, respectively. In
the coup d’état that brought him to power he introduced the phrases
“Fellow Nigerians” and “with immediate effect” to the national
lexicon.  In a short time, Murtala Muhammed’s policies won him broad
popular support, and his decisiveness elevated him to the status of a
folk hero.
One of his first acts was to scrap the 1973 census, which was weighted
in favor of the north, and to revert to the 1963 count for official
purposes. Murtala Muhammad removed top federal and state officials to
break links with the Gowon regime and to restore public confidence in
the federal government. More than 10,000 public officials and
employees were dismissed without benefits, on account of age, health,
incompetence, or malpractice. The purge affected the civil service,
judiciary, police and armed forces, diplomatic service, public
corporations, and universities. Some officials were brought to trial
on charges of corruption. He also began the demobilization of 100,000
troops from the swollen ranks of the armed forces.
During Olusegun Obasanjo first  military administration there were
allegations of corruption against his Administration. The most talked
about at that time was the alleged missing of $2.8billion missing oil
money, an enquiry was set up. At the end of the day a reporter with
the Nigeria Television Dora Ifudu was sacked for having the audacity
to air the news a on a National Television.
The first administration of Olusegun Obasanjo was a continuation of
the Muritala Mohammed administration, and was focused on completing
the transition program to democracy, as well as implementing the
national development plans. Major projects including building new
refineries, pipelines, expanding the national shipping and airlines as
well as hosting FESTAC was done during the administration. A number of
these national projects were conduits to distribute favors and enrich
connected politicians. The famous Afrobeat musician, Fela Kuti, sang
variously about major scandals involving the international
telecommunication firm ITT led by Chief MKO Abiola in Nigeria, which
the then Head of State, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo was associated with. In
addition to this, the Operation Feed the Nation Program, and the
associated land grab under the Land Use Decree implemented by the then
Head of State was used as conduits to reward cronies, and his now
famous Otta Farm Nigeria (OFN)  or  Operation Fool the Nation [OFN]
was supposedly a project borne out of this scandal.
Olusegun Obasanjo handed over the mantle of leadership to Alhaji Shehu
Shagari in 1979. This was regarded as the second Republic in the
country. There were so many allegations of corruption during the
Republic, there were allegations of rice scandal etc.
In December 1983 there was a bloodless Military coup led by the then
General Muhammadu Buhari. General Buhari arrested almost all the
Politicians that held public office. This included  Ministers,
Governors etc. even the Military was not left out as two senior
military officers who headed the National Youth Service Corps [NYSC]
were dismissed and sent to life imprisonment. Special Military
Tribunals were set up to try the politicians and they were all found
guilty and sent to various prison sentences from twenty five years to
life imprisonment. There were however doubts as to the integrity of
the War on corruption and Indiscipline which was launched in 1984..
Former governor of old Bendel state Professor Ambrose Ali, a Professor
of Morbid Anatomy was sentenced to life imprisonment for stealing an
amount that was less than  one million Naira. At the time the man died
later it was discovered that he had no personal house any where in the
world, in fact  the military administrator of Bendel state at that
time had to build a house for him in Ekpoma where he was buried. The
governor was so moved that he had to name the state University,
Ambrose Ali University.  This was someone that was sent to life
imprisonment for corruption. That was not all, even the Buhari
Administration then had its own scandal as the administration could
not explain how 53 suit cases entered the country during the currency
General  Buhari himself was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida in
a palace coup in 1985.  Babangida  did not make any noise about
fighting corruption but concentrated on policies to help the poor.
These include the Peoples Bank, Directorate of Food, Road
Infrastructure [DIFFRI]   and MAMSER.  He set up different Political
Reforms programmes, created two Political Parties, the National
Republican Convention [NRC]  and the Social Democratic Party [SDP].
THIS he said was to prevent the rich from hijacking the Political
system. He also created the Structural Adjustment Programme  [SAP].
HIS  Administration was also accused of corruption especially the
alleged swindling of  $12b   dollars  oil windfall.  The biggest
attempt to discredit anti corruption crusade in the country took place
under this administration.  There was an allegation in 1992 that the
then first lady Maryam Babangida opened the biggest boutique in France
and that it was published in the Ebony Magazine. There was a massive
protest in the country especially in Lagos, organized by some Civil
Society Organisations and students under the aegis of National
Association of Nigeria Students. It was later discovered that the
allegations was untrue and that Ebony Magazine never published any
such story.
After  Babangida came the Interim National Government headed by Chief
Sonekan. Then  General Sani Abacha  swept Shonekan aside and took over
power in 1993. Abacha came and said he wanted to fight corruption and
to give credibility to his administration he invited General Muhammadu
Buhari to be part of his government and made him the Chairman
Petroleum  Trust Fund [PTF]. As part of his anti corruption fight,
Abacha established the Money Laundering Law in 1995, established the
Failed Bank Tribunal in 1995 and the Foreign Exchange Law  also in
1995. As part of his anti corruption fight many banks, mortgaged and
finance houses collapsed.   Despite all these anti corruption fight,
Abacha regime is reputed to be one of the most corrupt regime in the
country. The Swiss bank has continued to return some of the money
stolen from Nigeria by Abacha and members of his family.
The death of the general Sani Abacha revealed the global nature of
graft. French investigations of bribes paid to government officials to
ease the award of a gas plant construction in Nigeria revealed the
level of official graft in the country. The investigations led to the
freezing of accounts containing about $100 million United States
In 2000, two years after his death, a Swiss banking commission report
indicted Swiss banks for failing to follow compliance process when
they allowed Abacha’s family and friends of access to his accounts and
to deposit amounts totaling $600 million US dollars into them. The
same year, a total of more than $1 billion US dollars were found in
various accounts throughout Europe.
After Abacha regime came General Abdulsalami Abubakar whose interest
was mainly to hand over power to civilian administration.
Abdusalami administration was succeeded by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of
the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP].  OBASANJO also said he was to
fight corruption. He said ‘As torch bearers the elite must lead by
examples and their conducts and character in both private and public
service must reflect that spirit of total and undiluted opposition to
corruption and any criminal conduct’.
As part of his anti corruption fight Chief  Obasanjo  set up the
Economic and Financial Crime commission [EFCC],  THE Independent
Corrupt Practices Commission [ICPC], DUE PROCESS OFFICE,SERVICOM  etc.
the  EFCC under Obasanjo was headed by a retired commissioner of
Police Nuhu Ribadu. Nuhu Ribadu who became very popular in the country
for daring to harass and intimidate political office holders including
Governors and two former Inspector General of Police. By the time
Obasanjo ended his tenure Nuhu Ribadu report revealed that all the
incumbent governors at that time  between  1999 and 2007  were guilty
of corruption.  Some of the governors then are now godfathers,
kingmakers and party leaders. There were however allegations of
political intimidation as opposition political parties and the
opposition within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP]  accused
the administration of shielding the President’s men of allegations of
corruption. An example of course was one Makanjuola a former Permanent
Secretary Ministry of  Defence who was accused of  stealing four
hundred million Naira, President Obasanjo ordered the Ministry of
Justice to enter a Nolle Prosecue and the charges were withdrawn. At
the end of  Obasanjo regime there were also allegations of corruption
against him, despite his perceived war against corruption, these
include  PTDF, SIEMENS, ALLIBURTON scandal among others.
In a lecture delivered by  Professor Taoheed Adedoja at the Oyo state
House of Chiefs in 2006 to  commemorate the 46th  Independent
Anniversary of Nigeria problems associated with corruption include
1       loss of Revenue to government, for instance before EFCC, it is
officially confirmed by Shell  Oil Company that in 2004 over 100,000
barrels of crude oil was stolen daily.
2       Poor investment climate
3       Unemployment and low National productivity
4       Erratic services by state institutions
5       Lawlessness and disorder
6       Brain Drain
7       Negative National image
8       Poverty engendered principally by mediocre people that access and
lead government institutions through corruption.
Under Jonathan Administration In 2014, Nigeria’s rank improved from
143rd to the 136th position on Transparency International’s Corruption
Perceptions Index. In late 2013, Nigeria’s then central bank governor
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi informed President Goodluck Jonathan that the
state oil company, NNPC, had failed to remit US$20 billion in oil
revenues owed to the state. Jonathan however dismissed the claim and
replaced Sanusi for his mismanagement of the central bank’s budget. A
Senate committee also found Sanusi’s account to be lacking in
substance. After the conclusion of the NNPC’s account audit, it was
announced in January 2015 that NNPC’s non-remitted revenue is actually
US$1.48 billion, which it needs to refund to the government. Upon
release of both the PwC and Deloitte report by the government at the
eve of its exit, it was however determined that truly close to $20
billion was indeed missing or misappropriated or spent without
In addition to these, the government of Goodluck Jonathan had several
running scandals including the BMW purchase by his Aviation Minister,
$250 million plus security contracts to militants in the Niger Delta,
massive corruption and kickbacks in the Ministry of Petroleum, the
Malibu Oil International scandal, and several scandals involving the
Petroleum Ministry including accusations of sweetheart deals with
select fronts and business people to divert public wealth. In the
dying days of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the Central Bank
scandal of cash tripping of mutilated notes also broke out, where it
was revealed that in a four-day period, 8 billion naira was stolen
directly by low-level workers in the CBN. This revelation excluded a
crime that is suspected to have gone on for years and went undetected
until revealed by whistle-blower. The Central Bank claim the heist
undermined its monetary policy. In 2014, UNODC began an initiative to
help combat corruption in Nigeria.
New allegations of corruption have begun to emerge since the departure
of President Jonathan on May 29, 2015, including:
1.      $2.2 billion illegally withdrawn from Excess Crude Oil Accounts, of
which $1 billion supposedly approved by President Jonathan to fund his
reelection campaign without the knowledge of the National Economic
Council made up of state governors and the president and vice
2.      NEITI discovered $11.6 billion was missing from Nigeria LNG Company
dividend payments.
3.      60 million barrels of oil valued at $13.7 billion was stolen under
the watch of the national oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation, from 2009 to 2012.
4.      NEITI indicates losses due to crude swaps due to subsidy and
domestic crude allocation from 2005 to 2012 indicated that $11.63
billion had been paid to the NNPC but that “there is no evidence of
the money being remitted to the federation account”.
5.      Diversion of 60% of $1 billion foreign loans obtained from the
Chinese by the Ministry of Finance
6.      Massive scam in weapons and defense procurements, and misuse of 3
trillion naira defense budget since 2011 under the guise of fighting
Boko Haram
7. Diversion of $2.2 million vaccination medicine fund, by Ministry of Health
8. Diversion of Ebola fight fund up to 1.9 bn naira
9. NIMASA fraud under investigation by EFCC, inclusive of accusation
of funding PDP and buying a small piece of land for 13 billion naira
10. Ministry of Finance led by Okonjo Iweala hurried payment of $2.2
million to health ministry contractor in disputed invoices
11. NDDC scams and multifarious scams including 2.7 billion naira
worth of contracts that does not confirm to the Public Procurement Act
12. Police Service Commission Scam investigated by ICPC that revealed
misappropriation of over 150 million naira related to election related
trainings. ICPC made refund recommendations, but many analyst
indicated prosecution was more appropriate.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is committed to fighting
corruption in the country, he said he want to prove to Nigerians and
indeed the world that the country can be governed with Integrity,
Nigerians may have to wait till the end of the administration to be
able to know if it had also been guilty of corruption  or not but
Nigerians are also quick to remind the administration that Nepotism
and election rigging is also corruption.
Probably corruption may never end in the country not even one hundred
Buharis’ as the country itself was structured on corruption. The
Federal Government is too big, too powerful, too influential. Any body
who get government appointments see it as an opportunity  to get rich
too. We probably have to restructure the country to make it work. Let
us adopt fiscal Federalism where every region or zone or states should
take ownership of their resources and pay tax to the Federal
Government. There will be competition and every region or state will
compete to develop its own area based on their comparative advantage.
Those who want to use their resources to build schools and give its
people free education can go ahead and do so while those who want to
use their resources to build places of worship should also be allowed
to do so but no part of the country should be held back from its
developmental programmes for other parts of the country to catch up



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