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The Vagaries Of Fighting Corruption In Nigeria Under President Buhari (2015-Date) 



Elemanya, A. Vincent Ph.D Department Of Political Science Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Rumuolumeni ‒ Port Harcourt e-mail: ahamyvincent Phone: 08037453158 

Orlu, Sylvanus Onyebuchi Department Of Political Science And Public Administration, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki Phone: 08038893668 


The National Assembly is empowered by section 88 and 89 of the Federal Constitution to expose corruption, inefficiency and waste in government through probe and investigations. But it is disheartening to note that none of such probes and investigations have seen the light of the day since the 1999 swearing in of President Olusegun Obasanjo which signaled the return of democracy in Nigeria. It is against this background that this attempt is made to examine the vagaries of “FIGHTING CORRUPTION” IN NIGERIA which now forms the focus of the Buhari administration, with the aim to ascertain if it is reality or merely an illusion. It is a common knowledge that every administration in Nigeria comes up 

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with some foundation to deceive the citizens, but then the public has not lost its appetite for news with the mind boggling figures mentioned as being mismanaged in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), especially when President Buhari launched his programme of fighting corruption in Nigeria. The issue of corruption has led to loss of confidence in the leadership in Nigeria by its citizens at home and abroad due to activities of corrupt public officials. On the international scene, Nigeria has been blackmailed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Independent Corrupt Practices (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Corruption Commission (EFCC) were established by the Obasanjo administration to fight corruption at various levels of government, but inspite of these measures, little or no success has been recorded in that regard. The main aim of this work, therefore, is to identify the causes of corruption and its impacts on Nigerians, and to analyze the extent to which the administration of President Buhari has succeeded in fighting corruption. 


The massive corruption allegations that characterized the President Goodluck administration in Nigeria (form 2007-2014) prompted the Buhari administration to embark on the war against corruption and corruption practices, right from the day he was sworn-in as president in Nigeria. 

Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society and no economy strives in it. It involves the violation of established norms and rules for personal gains and profit. According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, corruption means “dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially of people in authority”. It connotes a behaviour which deviates from the formal duties of a public role, because of personal or private gains. This behaviour includes bribery, use of a reward to prevent the judgment of a person in a position of trust, nepotism and misappropriation or illegal 

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appropriation of public resources for private uses. It implies any act of wrong doing, act of violating public norms or deviation from honesty to dishonesty. For example, examination malpractice committed by invigilators, parents or students is regarded as corruption, irrespective of the level of involvement. Before the Buhari administration, preceding administrations have instituted various legal instruments, measures and policies designed to combat corruption in the country. Some of these include the criminal code: The Penal Code (applicable in the North); The criminal justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Decree 1996; The Corruption Practices, Decree 1975, which established the Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau; The ethical Revolution of President Shehu Shagari; The War Against Indiscipline (W.A.I) of Buhari/Idiagbin; Mass Mobilization for Social Justice, Self-Reliance and Economic Review (MAMSER) by General Babangida; The code of conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (Cap 56, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990); The Recovery of Public property (Special Military Tribunal Act (Cap. 387, Law of the Federation of Nigeria) as amended in 1991; The War Against indiscipline and Corruption of Late Gen. Sani Ababcha; The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts and Financial Malpractices in Banks), Decree 1994 as amended in 1999; The Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunal Act, Cap. 389, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, as amended in 1999 by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, and many others. 

Paradoxically, all these remedial measures merely rendered the issue of corruption in Nigeria, virulent. The reasons for this are varied. First, the compromised sincerity of the policy makers and those entrusted with its enforcement. Second, the penal codes apart from their complex wordings which created technical problems of interpretation and application, restricted the offence of corruption to members of the public service, which gave the impression that non-public servant could get away with active collaboration in and commission of acts of corruption. Thus, it was not surprising that despite the plethora of laws, decrees and strategies, corruption still remains the bane of the Nigerian society which graduated 

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from being an aberration into a national norm. This is to the extent that public officers who have enriched themselves in corrupt practices are celebrated through the award of national honours and red-carpet receptions. 

The question, therefore, is whether the fight against corruption and corrupt practices in Nigeria by President Buhari is a reality or mere rhetoric: a gimmick to deceive the populace who are helpless. And, what would be the impact of this war on the masses who have been impoverished by the political leaders. 

Theoretical Framework Of Analysis 

The problem of corruption in Nigeria is a complex and sad one: it can be analyzed from diverse perspective of morality, values and conscience. Theories of moral development have been well postulated by such notable scholars as Jean Piaget (1968) and Lawrence Kohlberg (1974), which is appropriate to analyze this work. 

Morality simply refers to the relative goodness of people as it is reflected in their behaviour and beliefs. Piaget (1968), maintains that children progress from an initial pre-moral stage to a stage where morality is defined by outside authority (heteronomy). The final stage is one of moral autonomy where morality is defined in terms of the individuals personal judgment of right and wrong. Thus, a time comes when an individual matures to decide whether to do what is right or what is wrong. 

Kohlberg (1974) speaks of three different aspects of morality: the ability to resist temptation; the amount of guilt that accompanies moral transgression; and the standards by which the individuals judge or discern what is right or wrong. 

These different aspects culminate into three progressive levels of moral development. The first is labeled pre-moral which characterized an authority-oriented definition of good and bad as well as the belief that behaviour that lead to immediate gratifications and pleasurable outcomes are good, while those that lead to less pleasant outcomes are bad. The 

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second level is the period of conformity to family and peer standards, motivated in part by a desire to maintain good social relations. At the highest level of moral development, children re-examine the rules that have previously governed their behaviour and theoretically arrive at a set of self- accepted principles of moral conduct to them. 

From Piaget (1968) and Kohlberg (1974), it implies that individuals redefine their behaviour towards good and bad, as they grow. It therefore means that societal conditions and influences affect people’s behaviour and perception of corruption. For instance the Nigerian society’s perception of success has changed from what it used to be in the past when people worked hard to earn it. Today honour is given to those who can make it by all means (usually dubious means) and red-carpet receptions are given to undesirable men with questionable characters in society. This has adversely affected the citizen’s perception of life. Indeed, the decline of morality at the expense of hard-work, honest and integrity can be adduced to be facilitator of corruption in Nigeria. This is why Oyebode (2006) concludes that corruption connotes impropriety and therefore encompasses all forms of reprehensive, indecorous and in famous conduct of some officials and performance of judicial responsibility while Nwankwo (2001) concludes that a society’s social and moral values reflect and are firmly anchored on specific material conditions. 

Causes Of Corruption In Nigeria According to Bagshaw (2004), a number of factors can be identified as causes of corruption in Nigeria. Theses include: 1. Low Public Sector Remunerations: The salaries of public servants in Nigeria are so low that they cannot afford to live above board. This makes them to look for any opportunity to enrich themselves as they believe that “where you work, is where you chop”. 2. Secrecy in Government Offices: Lack of information to the public on activities of public offices leads to financial misappropriation as most of the government transactions are done in secrecy. 

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  1. Bad Procurement Practices: This creates room for inflated contracts 

and diversion of funds meant for capital expenditure. 4. Immunity of Public Officials: Some government officials are immuned from prosecution while in office. For example most governors divert monies meant for public expenditure. 5. Inherent Flaws in the Structure of the Nigerian Economy: Due to the federal government monopoly of the economy, loopholes are often created to effect misappropriation of funds. 6. Absence of Functional Governmental System: Supervising agencies and periodic auditing of government accounts are usually circumvented and falsified. 7. Over concentration of resources at the centre and a culture of unregulated informal economy are also among the causes of corruption in Nigeria. It has also been discovered that institutional factors are the root causes of all corruption in Nigeria. For instance, economic corruption has been traced to poverty and pressure on the office holder, human failure or weakness. Greed and the syndrome of get-rich-quick due to the fear of the unknown, anxiety and insecurity of work are also possible causes of corruption. This is so because of the perception that government is not interested in the welfare of public office holders after retirement and so the available solution is to engage in corrupt practices in order to provide for the rainy day and put a shelter on their head. 

Anti-Corruption Strategies In Nigeria 

Notable among the anti-corrupt strategies are the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Corruption Commission (EFCC). Other agencies previously instituted to fight corruption included the Judicial Commissions of Enquiry, The Code of Conduct Bureau, The Public Complaints Commission, Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), War Against Indiscipline Council (WAIC) and the Independent Advocacy 

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Project (IAP) known as the Good Governance Group (G3) which according to Ogundare (2006), called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to examine and audit the funds and accounts of political parties and publish such audit ahead of the 2007 general elections in Nigeria. IAP also called for direct funding of the Independent Corruption Practices Commission (ICPC) from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation. 

Economic And Financial Corruption Commision (EFCC) 

The Economic and Financial Corruption Commission (EFCC) was established through an Act of the National Assembly in December, 2002, but began operation in April, 2003 when its Board was inaugurated. Its responsibility specifically included the investigation of all financial crimes such as Advance Free Fraud known as 419; Money Fraud; Counterfeiting Illegal cash Transfer; Fraudulent Diversion of Funds; Contract Scam; Forgery of Financial Instrument and Insurance of Dud Cheques. Other responsibilities of the EFCC were coordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws; adoption of measures to identify, freeze, confiscate and seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties and values corresponding to such proceeds; determination of the extent of financial loss and such other losses by government, private individuals or organizations collaboration with government bodies within and outside Nigeria which carryout its functions wholly or in part analogues with those of the commission. It is also empowered with to effect the following laws: (i) Money Laundering Acts 1995; (ii) The Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act 1995; (iii) The Failed Bank (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in 

Banks Act 1994 as amended. (iv) The Bank and other Financial Institutions Act as amended; and any 

other law or regulation related to economic and financial crimes. 

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Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) The ICPC was instituted to combat the crime of corruption and presided over by Justice Mustapha Akambi (rtd) in 2000. It main objective was to enforce policies that would be geared towards controlling corrupt behaviour. According to Olankanmi, (2005), some of the notable offences covered by the Acts establishing the ICPC include gratification by an official; corrupt offers to public officers and corrupt demands by persons in public offices; fraudulent acquisition of property and receipt of property; counseling offences relating the corruption; power to investigate reports of bribery transactions and information etc. 

It is disheartening to note here that finance is the stumbling block to execute these strategies of combating corruption in Nigeria. While lamenting over the inability of his commission (ICPC) to meet the expectation of the public, Akambi states that his organization has only been able to investigate 608 out of the 1,270 petitions it had received over the past four years, due to lack of funds. Out of the 608, only 34 cases had been brought to court. He wondered why the government had set up the commission and appointed competent people to run it, only to frustrate it from performing by starving it of funds. 

This position leaves us with the question whether the anti- corruption crusade, especially under President Buhari is a reality or mere illusion. 

Fighting Corruption In Nigeria: A Reality Or An Illusion? From the inception of the anti-corruption grafts in 2000 under President Obasanjo, several cases of corruption charges have been attempted by both the EFCC and ICPC in Nigeria. Notable among these cases were the DSP Alameyesagha money laundering case; the Halliburton and Siemens scandals; the Femikayode and Aborishade airport contract scams; the case involving Erastus Akingbola; Cecilia Ibru and other colleagues; the Independent Power Project scandal; the case involving former governors 

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James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Gbenga Daniel, Joshua Dariye etc, which were among the several cases the EFCC and ICPC had prosecuted. 

Since the inauguration of President Buhari in May 29, 2015, it was clear that the fight against corruption will be a top priority of his administration. His body language had set the tone at the top as the leadership shows from its posture, statements and action that corruption will not be tolerated. Setting the tone at the top is necessary, but not sufficient to fight corruption in a society where corruption is endemic because some government officials will continue with corruptible practices and transactions no matter the tone set at the top. This is why the anti- corruption war in Nigeria should not be mere rhetoric or what analysts perceive as vagaries of fighting corruption. The war should be comprehensive, holistic and purposeful. 

The message or crusade must be clear that the fight against corruption cannot continue to focus on the symptoms nor be guided by a blanket notion that only deals with financial management or a segment of the society. To the extent that corruption connotes a distortion of values or abuse of, or general disregard for extant rules within an operating system, we can not continue to encourage discretion in allocation of scarce resources or in critical appointments yet claim to be fighting corruption. We must not ignore the fact that once rules are circumvented, all templates for enthroning transparency, accountability, equity and fairness loss its validity (Igbuzor, 2016). 

There have been indications that show that as things stand today with regards to corruption, only two things have changed: one, there is less money to steal because of the fall in oil price and two, we have a president that is generally accepted as beyond reproach to fight corruption. But those reasons are not enough as we need institutional measures to deal with the problem. There should equally be some key strategies designed to improve corruption cases by law enforcement agencies, the EFCC and the ICPC to enable them prosecute and convict offenders. There should also be mechanisms to prosecute the offenders even if they have surrendered their 

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loots. Such loots should serve as evidence in the court of law. But nothing of the sort has been recorded to serve as deterrent to others. 

Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies for fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies. If the administration of Buhari is realistic to win the war on corruption, the following elements to fight corruption should be adopted: (a) legislative framework for transparent and accountable government such as Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), Budget law, fiscal responsibility law, whistle Blowers Act etc; (b) political will and commitment to fight corruption; (c) Comprehensive strategies that is systematic, consistent, focused, publicized, non-sellective and non-partisan; (d) Political Reform to curb political corruption and reform to substantive programmes and administrative procedures; (e) mobilization for social re-origination with participation of civil society and faith-based organizations; (f) effective parliamentary oversight through the Public Accounts Committee; (g) Independent media; (h) Adequate remuneration for workers; (i) Code of ethnics for political office holders, institutions and movement for anti- corruption( agaisnt-corruption). 

From all indications, the war against corruption in Nigeria has not seen the light of day. This is because those who should be playing the role of actors or soldiers of the war (politicians, the judiciary, legal enforcement institutions, the police etc) are already engrossed in corruption. They are the biggest part of the problem rather than the solution. Therefore winning the war against corruption will require a total overhauling of the actors and soldiers of the war. This will bring about the change we are desiring and propagating. Change requires both objective and subjective conditions. The objective conditions exist when situations are evidently abnormal with massive contradictions which can only be resolved by change, while the subjective conditions are the organizational preparations required to bring about the desired change. 

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This change should not be seen as an erratic notion or an impulsive or illogical desire as most Nigeriare seem to qualify it, it should be a positive change that would transform the lives of the citizens. If fighting corruption is aimed at bringing the desired change, then it is high time the government puts the necessary mechanisms to fight corruption as to cause the change that will impact on the people. The government can not purport to be fighting corruption while the people are dying of hunger and suffering. The level of corruption in Nigeria is unacceptable. Nigeria has been consistently rated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index to be among the most corrupt countries in the world. The fight against corruption by the Buhari administration has not done much to revert this ugly situation. The fight should not be located within the paradigm of fighting specific or particular political party or what analysts would term to be “selective fight against corruption or vendetta to settle scores”. The fight should be sincere. Government should not be implementing policies that would exacerbate corruption or unbridled neo-colonial policies that further impoverish the people. In the same vein, if government is engaging in political corruption through rigging of election, imposition of party officials, brazen distribution of political patronage and reckless spending of money by government officials, in the midst of poverty, then the war can not be seen as a reality but an illusion. Rather, the war against corruption by the Buhari administration should be a fight to transform society. It should be a fight for humanity and not against humanity. It should be a fight that will challenge power relations, institutions, mechanisms and systems that promote corruption (thenationon buhari_) 

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The fight against corruption in Nigeria should not be a mere rhetoric as corruption is a cankerworm that has eating deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society and endemic ravaging the nation’s economy. The causes of corruption are from various institutional and political factors stemming from the flowed structure and monopoly of the economy by the federal government. Its effects on the nations socio-political and economic development are numerous and devastating. It has damaged the image of the country abroad to the extent that Nigeria is tagged as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This has discouraged foreign investors and caused inflation and the depreciation of our currency. The fight against corruption in Nigeria by the Buhari administration should be holistic and transparent, not targeting only a section of the country or particular political party, if he wants Nigerians to believe and have faith in his war against corruption. 

Recommendations 1. The war against corruption should be holistic and transparent. Nigeria requires good and virtuous leaders who are men of proven integrity. Leaders who are disciplined, honest and trustworthy. 2. The agencies of the anti-graft should ensure the immediate prosecution of people who are involved in corrupt practices. There should be no sacred cows and prosecution should not be on selected basis. 3. The government should fund the agencies adequately so that they can carry out the processes of prosecuting culprits without hindrances. 4. The income of every public official should be thoroughly scrutinized by the code of conduct Bureau before and after office to avoid falsification of claims. 

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  1. There should be a special court for prosecuting people involved in corruption charges. This will reduce the cumbersome and delayed processes of the conventional court. 6. Capital punishment should be clearly spelt out for offenders as it is obtained in other developed countries. Possibly death or life imprisonment should be meted as in the case of China. 7. The anti-graft staff and the Nigerian police officers should be trained 

and equipped to carryout investigations without being bribed. 8. The public servants should be well remunerated and motivated with 

improved staff welfare packages to have job satisfaction. 9. The Federal Government should endeavour to create employment opportunities to reduce the rate of unemployment and crime in the society. 10. The Federal Government should jail past corrupt leaders. This will 

infuse fear in the system and reduce the tension in politics. 

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