The High Level of Corruption in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. The Rising Menace of Degenerating Corruption in Nigerian Schools

Scientific Essay, 2017

18 Pages, Grade: A1


Corruption permeates all facets of the Nigerian society. It degenerates and permeates every
sector in Nigeria, because those who are in the right place to help get rid of it are themselves
the most corrupt. They are politicians, elites and the bourgeoisie, who have institutionalised
corruption. This study aims at appraising the level of corruption in Nigerian tertiary
institution, as to ascertaining whether it is high or low therein. It reveals that corruption in
these institutions had sprang (springs) from the Nigerian polity of high pervasive
institutionalised corruption, predominantly, the secular politicians who have infected other
elites. It blames the government for the high level of corruption that obtains currently in these
institutions, because the leaders/elites merely brandish their loose anti-corruption
programmes. They simply pay lip services to the fight against corruption since they lack the
will and credibility. Also, it is discovered to have grave effects on Nigeria, its peoples,
development, unity, progress and systems. The paper submits that the high level of corruption
in Nigerian tertiary institutions follows that obtained generally in Nigeria besides the
extreme influence of the political elite. Being a position paper, it involves text-content
analysis, qualitative approach, intuition and the non-participant observation. Its offered
recommendations include ensuring of good leadership; the evolving and imbibing of the
multi-dimensional syndromes of ethics; strong and operational legislations and penalties
against all categories of offenders without sparing any sacred cows; and attitudinal change
by both government and the citizenry are the panacea.
Keywords: Corruption; High level; Effects; Tertiary institutions
Corruption is one of the cankerworms ravaging the Nigerian society in numerous ways over
the ages. It takes various forms and perpetrators. The corrupt acts of the ordinary, middle
class, average and/or poor Nigerians are widely heard of and severely punished, those
grievously and heinously perpetrated by the `big guns'­ politicians, the bourgeoisie,
technocrats, gerontocrats, elites, top military and Para-military officers, business moguls,
clerics, etc. are rarely heard of and punished. This is simply because the latter corruption is an
institutionalised corruption, involving the `unequal citizens', `sacred cows', and/or simply
those who are above the law. As observed by Jang (2012),
Right from the 1
Republic to the 7
Republic, corruption has
proved an endemic disease in this country, and our rulers
have come up, from time to time, with fanciful diagnosis but
none has provided the antidote. The whole phenomenon of
corrupt practices, conspicuous consumption and pervasion of
governmental procedures in Nigeria has its roots in the
ideological flux which characterises the transition from
indigenous moral restraint, on one side, to the complexities of
modern discipline, on the other hand. ...Politics in Nigeria,
for example is sometimes hard to keep clean merely because
people are moving from one set of values to another. In no
other area of life is this better illustrated than in the whole

issue of ethical solidarity and kinship obligations. Corruption
seems to have remained with the Nigerian society
independence and only attains a higher level during civilian
rule. The consequences of this social malaise has been
enormous and what measures they are to eradicate it from the
Nigerian society are not easy to attain.
The foregoing aptly describes institutionalised corruption in Nigeria, which became a
ravaging scourge since the independence era and seems too difficult or impossible to
eradicate, having eaten so deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society ­ in all circles and
endeavours. It is clear thus that both military and civilian administrations have been
characterised by corruption, a nefarious phenomenon that has been challenging good
governance and national development in Nigeria. Corruption degenerates and permeates deep
into tertiary institutions because it has been institutionalised. Institutionalised corruption is
pervasive, covertly legalised, elastic, more devastating, endemic, political, economic,
educational, administrative, professional, technical, ethnic, religious, cultural and social.
This study appraises the level of corruption that obtains in Nigerian tertiary institutions,
which continuously degenerates across times, as it seems to have defied practical solutions.
That is, it aims at ascertaining the level of corruption in these institutions. It relates the
corruption obtained in tertiary institutions to that of the Nigerian polity, from where it sprang
to the institutions. It conceptualises corruption, along with the conceptions of several other
scholars. It makes distinction between elitist (institutionalised/formalised) corruption and that
of the common masses, a derivation and minor/micro-phase of the former. The study thus
interrogates the inefficacy of the various anti-corruption crusades and programmes of the
various Nigerian governments, both military regime and civilian dispensation alike. The
effects of corruption on Nigeria and Nigerians also constitute its scope. It attempts a trace of
corruption, which it asserts to have risen during the colonial era. It also tells why corruption
permeates Nigerian tertiary institutions, and why it degenerates in the institutions as well as
other sectors of the country.
A number of studies show that from 1960 till date, Nigeria as a nation has had the misfortune
of being ruled by a number of corrupt political leaders. In the First Republic, corruption in the
country assumed a number of dimensions ranging from massive rigging of elections, stuffing
of ballot boxes, outright bribing of voters, to collaboration with law enforcement agents to
further the course of one party against the other (Dode, 2007:7). The Muhammadu Buhari's
led administration is the most misfortune in terms of leadership that Nigeria has ever begot.
He parades himself as corruption fighter yet he is himself the most corrupt. The money he
recovers from here and there, Nigerians known nothing about all. He still goes borrowing for
the nation. The loot he made as his medical bills is too whooping that he refused its
announcement. He engages in party and religious politics anti-corruption. Politicians are
Nigeria's prime problem. They are the most corrupt. And that is why corruption fight is
making no headway. Because what we see now is political propaganda and witch-hunting. It
is the corruption in the political sphere, perpetrated by politicians, most of who are never
punished, that degenerates has permeated all other sectors, including academics. Adibe
(2012) cited in Odo (2012) gives credence to the foregoing thus:

The politicians entrusted to protect the common patrimony of
Nigerians steal the country blind; law enforcement officers
see or hear no evil at a slight inducement; government
workers drag their feet and refuse to give their best, organized
labour, including Universities lecturers in public institutions,
go on indefinite strikes on a whim while journalists accept
brown envelopes to turn truth on its head...
Faboyede (2009) traces the root of corruption in Nigeria to the military era that subdued the
rule of law, facilitated the wanton looting of public treasury, dilapidated public institutions
and free speech, and instituted a secret and opaque culture in the running of government. The
result has been total insecurity, poor economic management, abuse of human rights, ethnic
conflict, capital flight, etc. Poverty and the enormous wealth inequality in Nigeria are deeply
rooted in the country's pervasive corruption. Corruption remains a major challenge to
Nigeria­ against the realisation of meaningful and sustainable socio-economic, political,
cultural, technological and education development of various phases.
Obasanjo (1994) cited in Odo (2012:2) has noted that no society that treats public funds and
property with utter disregard and cares only for personal accumulation on the principle of
`steal and go' can make progress. It is clear thus that institutional corruption involves `steal
and go' while corporate and `minor' corruption involve `steal and die' or `steal and go to
jail.' Institutional corruption is no longer a `crime' or `sin' in Nigeria society because of the
calibre of perpetrators who have `corruption immunity'. Frisch (1994) cited in Odo (2012),
lends credence to this thus: `Nothing is as destructive to a society as the rush to quick and
easy money, which makes fools of those who work honestly and constructively.'
Corruption begins from the top, the bourgeoisie, down to the ordinary citizens. The press are
often said to be known with brown envelope, but we contend that all professionals including
lawyers/barristers also accept `brown envelops' and turn justice to injustice; police and other
Para-military officers are known with `roger' cum brown envelops; technocrats and public
office holders cum administrators only execute whatever projects as supposed when
corrupt/sharp practices of financial gratifications are involved; academia are known for
various corrupt practices such as `sorting', blocking', `camera way seeing,' `brown envelops'
(financial bribe) and `seeing/paying in kind', `if you want to pass, you know what to do',
`book a hotel', `you failed my course', (sexual bribe- sexual harassment and laxity); lobbying
and bribing for favours, jobs, positions, promotion, projects, recognition, cultural/ethnic
identity, solidarity and superiority, etc.; among many others, too numerous to mention.
Corruption is said to have several causes, as pointed out in this paper with particular
emphasis on greed, egoism, ethnic solidarity, political influences, military dictatorship, etc. In
a survey conducted by the Movement for New Nigeria, the following causes of corruption in
Nigeria have been identified:
A fundamentally flawed structure of the Nigerian Republic;
The absence of functional government systems in the Federation;
Federal government monopoly of the economy, over centralisation of resources at
the centre and a culture of unregulated informal economy;

Excessive Federal involvement in co-operated business enterprises;
Inefficient contracts awards, standards and procedures;
Inadequate enforcement of existing laws, absence of rule of law and a culture of
preferential treatment in the conduct of government business;
Nepotism and tribalism in the administration of justice, running of government and
conduct of business;
Political instability and military intervention in government;
Inefficient police force and police structure;
Absence of civic education and civic responsibility in the populace;
Late or non-payment of wages to public employees;
High levels of poverty, unemployment and under-remuneration or `slave wages';
Late or non-payment of contractors by the government.
These factors have respectively and collectively provided fertile ground for sharp practices in
both public and private organisations (institutions) with severe impacts and consequences on
the Nigerian society and the populace (Odo, 2012).
The Concept of Corruption
`Corruption' has been given legion definitions and conceptions by legion scholars, though all
seemingly alike. The conception of corruption is shaped by approach, perception, profession,
cosmology, religion, culture and viewpoint. Scholars differ in their perceptions of corruption
and their focus of tackling the hydra-headed concept of corruption. Some believe that any
action that is morally wrong and harmful to another, to economic practise and betrayal of
public trust for private gain and at the same time affect economic progress of the society,
should be regarded as corruption (Enoch, 2011:253). Hence, the early British traders whose
activities betrayed the indigenous economic progress amounted to corruption (Okeremata,
Ndaliman and Auwalu (2011:108) offer an encompassing conception of corruption as `any
act contrary to ethical, legal, legitimate, right, positive and moral standard expected by a
society which one lives in.' This sheds light on our foregoing description of institutionalised
corruption, which involves the breach and gross abuse of ethics, norms, values, standards,
conventions, rules/regulations, codes of conduct and general laws by the state agents­ the
three organs of government (politicians, law-makers, etc.), monarchs, clergy, the press,
security operative and other upper/middle class officials.
Theoretical Background
A satisfactory explanation of the ugly scourge `corruption', its root causes and solution in
Nigeria can best be examined under the Dialectical Materialist theoretical Approach. We
consider and adopt this among several others because it best explains and lends credence to
our case under study and the Nigerian situation as a whole.

The proponents of dialectical materialist approach begin by criticising and rejecting the
idealistic and functionalist approaches to the problems and solution to corruption in Nigeria.
The idealistic schools are criticised for their simplistic, naïve and illusionary analysis and
solutions to corruption in Nigeria. The functionalists are on the other hand criticised for being
conservative by undervaluing the inherent class interest, conflict and struggle which
characterise capitalist societies. They also reject the functionalist view that corruption can
serve any functional purpose in the society. The materialist approach further rejects the
notion that corruption emanates from decadent social values. Like Marx, they argue that
rather than people's consciousness determining their well-being; it is the way society
organizes the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services that determines
their material condition. It further rejects the erroneous assertion by the idealists that
corruption is attributable to social and moral values of the society; to do this is to conclude
that all members of the society, by virtue of sharing the same or most societal values, are
equally corrupt. We argue here that such assumption ignores the fact that different members
of the society have differential access to the resources of the society and that not everyone
has the capacity to manipulate public institutions in order to get away their loot and cover-up
their fraud (Nkom, 1982). It is for this reason that only corrupt practices of the poor in our
Nigerian society are heard of and severely punished, since theirs are not institutionalised.
Against this backdrop, the dialectical materialist approach contends that corruption [in
Nigeria] is purely an elite affair, as evidence emanating from past and present tribunals and
boards of inquires has shown that those who perpetrate and are guilty of corruption are all
members of the privileged class who have access to the public treasury and can manipulate
the state apparatus to cover-up their corruption practices. This school rejects the view that the
Nigerian masses are corrupt. The masses, it is argued, engage in crime not to amass obscene
wealth, but only as a forced reaction to the corrupt practices of the ruling class and as a
means of barely keeping alive in the face of the ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth by
the privileged class. Hence, the masses are following the foot-steps of their leaders. Their
position thus lends credence to ours and validates our study.
The materialist approach also condemns various attempts made by successive Nigerian
governments at combating corruption in Nigeria, through such programmes as Gen.
Obasanjo's Jaji Declaration, Ethical Revolution of Alhaji Shagari, Gen. Bujari's War against
Indiscipline, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independence
Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau. Such programmes, it
is argued, are a normative instrument of exploitation and mental control employed by the
ruling class to implant a false consciousness in the minds of the masses, while diverting their
attention from the real causes of corruption and its solutions (Eteng, 1983:99). This is what
currently obtains in Buhari's civilian administration, worse than his military regime. His
words and nominees are final, as a retired General-democrat. Most people are afraid to talk.
Because Ayodele Fayose talked, Ekiti State had its national allocation withheld until he
talked further and stormed the Ministry of Finance, Abuja.
Corruption cannot be combated through the reactivation of traditional values or through the
revival of religious morality as suggested by the idealistic school. Such proposition ignores
the contamination and contradiction of our past and present traditional and religious
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The High Level of Corruption in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. The Rising Menace of Degenerating Corruption in Nigerian Schools
General Studies Department, Nasarawa State Poltechnic, Lafia; Bridge Gate Research Consult Ltd, Gwagwalada, Abuja, FCT; Gokin and Dab Educational Services and Consultancy, Lafia
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This is an academic conference paper presented recently and reviewed afterwards.
corruption, effects, tertiary institutiona, nigeria
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Odey Robert (Author)Godfrey Atunu Dibie (Author), 2017, The High Level of Corruption in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. The Rising Menace of Degenerating Corruption in Nigerian Schools, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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