Public Sector Corruption: A Discourse – Ezieme Iheoma

Private Sector & Corruption Menace - Ezieme Iheoma


Corruption is a recurrent decimal in Nigeria and has contributed in no small measure to the underdevelopment of Nigeria. There is corruption in high and low places ranging from embezzlement of public funds, diversion of monies meant for infrastructural development to giving of bribes for contracts and bribe in public offices. It is a phenomenon that has led to the backward and snail development in Nigeria.

Corruption as a global phenomenon cuts across ethnic, religious, political and economic divide. However, corruption assumed pandemic status in Nigeria since political independence in 1960. The post independent government quest for nation building and the consequent euphoria to enthrone democratic principles, massive provision of basic infrastructure and the desire to fast track national development fired and nurtured the seed of corruption in Nigeria.

Successive Nigerian regimes have made frantic efforts to combat corruption in the society, especially in the public sector. These efforts gained currency since 1975, when the Murtala/Obasanjo regime waged relentless battle against corrupt practices in the public services. The Obasanjo regime (1999-2003) witnessed relentless war against corruption in the country, as it activated the existing anti-graft agencies, as well as built new ones. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), the Due Process office, among others, have been waging battle against corrupt has continued to assume new dimension with each passing day in Nigeria.

The resultant effect of this is seen in weak institutions and the decay in social and political spheres of Nigeria’s national life. This position retards social and economic development as well as national development in the long run. The negative effect of corrupt practices manifest in political; economic; social and environmental aspects of Nigeria national engagement.

What is Public Sector?

The public sector is that portion of an economic system that is controlled by national, state or provincial, and local governments. The Public Sector is usually comprised of organizations that are owned and operated by the government and exist to provide services for its citizens. Similar to the voluntary sector, organizations in the public sector do not seek to generate a profit.

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Funding for public services are usually raised through a variety of methods, including taxes, fees, and through financial transfers from other levels of government (e.g. from a federal to a provincial or state government).Different governments from around the world may employ their own unique method of funding for public services.

The public sector refers to all organizations that exist as part of government machinery for implementing policy decisions and delivering services that are of value to citizens. It is a mandatory institution under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999. Chapter VI of the Constitution, Executive, Part 1 (D) and Part II (C) provides for a public service at the federal and state levels of government. The Public Sector in Nigeria is made up of the following:

  1. The Civil Service, which is often referred to as the core service and is composed of line ministries and extra-ministerial agencies; and
  2. The Public Bureaucracy, which is composed of the enlarged public service, including the following:

(a) Services of the state and national assemblies;

(b) The judiciary;

(c) The armed forces;

(d) The police and other security agencies;

(e) Paramilitary services (immigration, customs, prisons, etc.);

(f) ‘Parastatals’ and agencies including social service, commercially oriented agencies, regulatory agencies, educational institutions, research institutes, etc.

Factors that facilitate corruption in the Public Sector

  1. Bad leadership – in a country where the leaders are corrupt, the tendency for the followers to be corrupt is very high. Hence, when the leadership is corrupt the political will may not be there to fight against corrupt practices.
  2. Military Rule – from independence in 1960 comparatively, the military has rolled the country for 35 years out of 55 years of Nigeria’s independence. With the tendency for dictatorship, military regimes in the country administered the state without adhering to the principles of rule of law and accountability. Decisions were taken in a manner that neglected due process and accountability therefore giving avenue for corrupt practices to prevail.
  3. Lack of strong legal framework work and upright judicial system that gives opportunity for prolonged and delayed legal processes in the judicial system also accounts.
  4. Inequality in the society – the desire for the poor to be like the rich in the society makes them to embezzle public funds when they are in position of authority.
  5. Jumbo pay for politicians – compared to what civil servants in both Federal and State governments receive monthly, political office holders are heavily paid hence civil servants who have access to government finances embezzle the funds of government in order to compete favourably with the politicians in the society.
  6. The granting of office immunity to president, governors and other public office holders in the country encourage them to steal from government treasury. Cases abound in Nigeria.
  7. Extreme and excessive materialism, weak ethical environment, erosion of moral values and lust for power are some of the factors that encourage corruption.
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Forms of Corruption in the Public Sector

Electoral Corruption: This refers to buying of votes with money, intimidation of agents of opposition parties at the Polling units, obstructing the freedom of election, and engaging in ballot snatching and stuffing. It involves manipulation of voters’ register, brigandage, and all manner of electoral violence leading to killing and maiming of people. It also involves multiple thumb printing on ballot papers, the announcement of votes in areas where votes were not cast, and winners of elections ending up as the losers.

Nepotism: This is a highly biased method of distribution of state resources where a public officer prefers his or her relatives and family members or friends in awarding contracts, job recruitment, promotion, appointment to public positions, thereby ignoring the merit principle; this may lead to the downgrading of the quality of the public service. It also includes exemption of once relatives and friends from the application of certain punitive laws or regulations, and this may disrupt esprit de corps and trust. Nepotism provides room for “preferential treatment of one individual over another, without taking into accounts the relative merit of the respective individuals; this represents nothing but victimization of an individual or individuals”.

Favoritism: This is a form of corruption where a public servant gives undue preference or favor to his or her friends, family, and anybody close and trusted in recruitment, promotion, and so on.

Procurement Scam: This refers to overinvoicing of government contracts or corruption related to purchases. That is, the purchase price of an item is inflated so that the difference between the inflated price and actual price is shared between the person who does the purchasing and the sellers or it is taken by the purchaser alone with the seller conniving.

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Ghost–Workers Phenomenon: This is a practice where the management of a public organization deliberately inflates the payroll by including fictitious names to get more subventions for salary. The excess is siphoned by the members of management in connivance with some members of governing councils or boards.

Budgeting Corruption: this is a form of corruption where management of a public organization in connivance with governing council or board minister/commissioner bribes some members of the legislature to approve inflated estimate for the institution during budgeting. In a situation where the budget is already approved, the management is expected to give tips or gratifications to the government functionaries whose duty it is to release money to the institutions.


Corruption is a hydra-headed cancer that has eaten deep into the fabric of every social life of Nigeria. Corruption is more pronounced in the Nigerian Public service than any other sector of the country. Corruption has become so deep seated in the country that it has started growth in all sectors and has been the primary reason behind the country’s hindrance to development.


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