Youth And The War Against Corruption In Africa: Roles And Policy Options


Otive Igbuzor, PhD











The problem of corruption has attracted the attention of scholars, development workers, activists, politicians, international organizations, public affairs commentators and the general public for a very long time. The problem is not new to humankind even though it has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years. It is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It has been argued that one of the major obstacles to the development of poor countries is corruption. Corruption is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our time, a challenge that is not only leading to impoverishment and loss of lives but also threatening the stability of society.  In an opinion poll conducted by the Guardian Newspapers, Nigerians picked corruption, unemployment and bad leadership as the worst problems hindering the country’s development. 761 respondents or 70 percent of the respondents out of the total sample of 1,080 people picked corruption as one of the worst problems hindering the nation’s advancement.[i] Meanwhile, in the past young people are usually puritanical and idealistic in their positioning. But in the recent past, corruption has eaten very deep into the entire fabric of the African society. The youth today are as corrupt if not more corrupt than the old people. The Youth are involved in the manipulation of primordial values such as ethnicity and religion to further their selfish interest. What is the extent of the problem of corruption? Why have the youth joined in the corruption train? What are the strategies that have been used to fight corruption? Why are these strategies not winning the war against corruption? What are the options for winning the war? What can de done to reduce corruption to the barest minimum in such a way that it will not hinder  development? This paper will attempt to address these questions. In the paper, we argue that the youth in Africa are being socialized into corruption by the social reality in which they are living. Meanwhile, over the years, universal strategies and policies are emerging that can be used to wage and win the war against corruption. Unfortunately, the war is not being won because these strategies are not being faithfully and comprehensively utilized and also because of the narrow focus of the war.


The paper is divided into six parts. The first part explicates the problem of corruption and contextualizes the involvement of the youth and raised the questions that the paper will try to answer. The second part analyses definitional issues, categorization of corruption, causes of corruption, manifestation and acts of corruption and the impact of corruption. The third part of the paper describes the effort to wage war on corruption at international, regional and international levels. It also analyses the policies, strategies and programmes that have been put in place to fight corruption against the actual practice and concludes with the elements that are critical in any effort that can win the war. The fourth part advanced reasons for why the war against corruption is being lost and outlined the options for winning the war. The fifth part pointed out the importance of youth in any society and the challenge of youth involvement in corruption while the sixth and final part outlines what can be done to enlist the youth in the war against corruption.



(a) Definitional issues                                   

Corruption even though a global problem, lacks a universally accepted definition. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines corruption as an act of dishonesty especially using bribery or an immoral or wicked act.[ii]  This definition focuses essentially on the moral aspects of corruption. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank define corruption as “the abuse of public office.”[iii] This is a very wide ranging definition which will make it difficult to delineate the acts of corruption. Otite defines corruption as the perversion of integrity or state of affairs through bribery, favour or moral depravity.[iv] This is a broader definition which looks at the moral aspect as well as the distortion of twisting of procedures. The Transparency International defines corruption as behaviour on the part of officials in the public sector, whether politicians or civil servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves, or those close to them, by the misuse of public power entrusted to them.[v] Although the definition of the Transparency International is very descriptive, it focuses only on the public sector. But there is corruption in private sector with negative consequences for the whole of society. The Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences defines corruption as the misuse of public power for private profit.[vi] Like the definition by Transparency International, this one also focuses on the public sector. The Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000 defines corruption to include bribery, fraud and other  related offences like gratification. The Act gave a very wide definition of gratification to mean among other things the offer or promise or receipt or demand of money, donation, gift, loan, fee, reward, valuable security, property or interest in property with the intent to influence such a person in the performance or non-performance of his/her duties.[vii]  Although the definition of corruption by the Act is vague, it gives a wide ranging definition of gratification.


From the above definitions, three things come out clearly. First is that corruption is a dishonest act, wicked and bad. As a result, it will be expected that good people will not be involved in it. Secondly, corruption is seen as immoral and antithetical to the positive virtues of society. This implies that there should be social disapproval of anyone who engages in corrupt practices. Thirdly, corruption involves an abuse or misuse of position and authority. Any of such abuse is expected to be met with sanction.


(b) Categorization of Corruption

Corruption can be categorized from different perspectives. Corruption can be classified according to how it is carried out in relation to established rules in administration. There are two types of corruption in this regard. The first is done “according to the rule” where an official receives private gain for doing what he/she is paid to do. The second is done “against the rule” where an official is paid bribe to give services that he/she is prohibited from providing.[viii] 


Corruption can also be classified according to the scale i. e. petty or survival corruption and grand corruption.[ix] Petty or survival corruption is practiced by civil servants who may be grossly underpaid and depend on small rents from the public to feed their families and pay school fees. The grand corruption is practiced by high public officials and it often involves large sums of money.


Corruption has also been classified based on the spheres or arena of special activities where it takes place. Using this criterion, Otite classified corruption into five groups: Political corruption, Economic Corruption, Bureaucratic corruption, judicial corruption and moral corruption.[x]  Political corruption is manifested in activities connected with election and succession, and the manipulation of people and institutions in order to retain power and office. Economic corruption occurs when business people use corrupt means to pervert the normal institutional regulations, hasten or shorten procedures and get undue advantage or value for goods and services. Bureaucratic corruption involves buying favours from bureaucrats who formulate and administer government economic and political policies including foreign exchange, privatization exercises, import licenses, taxes etc. Judicial corruption occurs when law enforcement agencies and the courts pervert the administration of justice. Moral corruption occurs when people engage in practices that is morally reprehensible.


© Causes of Corruption

There are different perspectives on what causes corruption in society. Some scholars have argued that poverty is at the root cause of corruption and that without poverty, there would be no corruption.[xi] Most people would agree that poverty definitely contributes to corruption. In many poor countries, the wages of public and private sector workers is not sufficient for them to survive. Many people therefore engage in petty corruption to make ends meet. But poverty can definitely not be the only explanation. If poverty is the only cause, it will be difficult to explain why rich people and rich countries engage in corruptible transactions. It has been documented that:

Recent World Bank estimates of the wealth which corrupt African leaders have stashed away in European banks stands at several billion US dollars. None of these leaders can be described as victims of poverty. Yet, by plundering national treasuries, these African leaders have unquestionably deepened the poverty of their people.[xii]


There is also the suggestion that corruption is part of the culture of many developing countries. This line of argument is mostly pushed by Eurocentric scholars. They argue that:

 what is regarded as corruption in Africa is a myth because it is expected that a beneficiary should show appreciation for a favour granted him/her. If a government official offers one a job or contract, the beneficiary would be obliged to show appreciation either in kind or cash to the government official just as he would do to a village chief if granted a land to cultivate crops or build a house. Corruption is a myth because ‘one’s culture’s bribery is another’s mutual goodwill.’[xiii]


But this position that corruption is part of African culture has been criticized by many African scholars, activists and politicians. It is clear to any African that the traditional African society frowns at corruption or stealing of anything that does not legally belong to you and there are strong community sanctions for such behaviour. As Maduagwu has argued,

It is mere trivialization of the serious issue of corruption in the modern society for any one to suggest that corruption or embezzlement of public funds or extortion of money (bribes) from people looking for jobs or contracts or other benefits from government, could be equated to the customary requirement of bringing presents to the chief for permission to cultivate a land and such things.[xiv]

President Olusegun Obasanjo also attacked the notion that corruption is part of African culture when he stated that:

I shudder at how an integral part of our culture could be taken as the basis for rationalizing otherwise despicable bahaviour. In the African concept of appreciation and hospitality, the gift is usually a token. It is not demanded. The value is usually in the spirit rather than in the material worth. It is usually done in the open, and never in secret. Where it is excessive, it becomes an embarrassment and it is returned. If anything, corruption has perverted and destroyed this aspect of our culture.[xv]


Furthermore, every society has ways of showing appreciation which is quite different from corruption as we have defined above. In Europe and America, the giving of tips to bar attendants is an accepted way of showing appreciation akin to appreciation shown to a chief who gives permission for land to be cultivated.


Related to the myth of culture is the argument that in Africa, there is allegiance to the extended family and community. As a result, when one climbs up the social and political ladder, he/she is expected to and under pressure to give gifts, money, job and contracts to people of his/her community. Therefore, when people bow to these pressures, they slip into corruption. It must however be noted that in any society, there are different kinds of pressures. Succumbing to negative pressures in any society cannot be accepted as the norm.


Another argument that has been advanced by Marxist scholars is that corruption is the method that the capitalist class that emerged from colonialism uses to accumulate wealth. They argue that inflation of contacts, over-invoicing, collection of kickbacks and buying off of public enterprises at give away prices are primitive means of accumulation of capital that the emergent bourgeoisie in post colonial countries utilize.


Finally, some scholars have attributed corruption in the African continent to the legacy of colonialism. They argue that the colonial state lacked transparency and accountability to the African people. If there was any iota of accountability, it was to the metropolis in London, Paris, Lisbon or elsewhere but definitely not to African people and institutions. This is why the after independence, the post colonial state and government are alien to the African. We have argued elsewhere that the colonized people saw government as oppressive and alien; and this is why in most African languages, government work is described as white person’s job.[xvi] In our view, corruption is a problem with multifactorial cause. It is caused by a complex of factors and relations ranging from poverty to greed and primitive accumulation conditioned by colonial heritage.


(d) Manifestation and acts of corruption

Corruption manifests itself in various ways. According to the Political Bureau established in Nigeria in 1987, the manifestations of corruption include:

…the inflation of government contracts in return for kickbacks; frauds and falsification of accounts in the public service; examination malpractices in our educational institutions including universities; the taking of bribes and perversion of justice among the police, the judiciary and other organs for administering justice; and various heinous crimes against the State in the business and industrial sectors of our economy, in collusion with multinational companies such as over-invoicing of good, foreign exchange swindling, hoarding, and smuggling.[xvii]

The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences lists acts of corruption to include:

  1. The solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, by a public official or any other person, of any goods of monetary, or other benefit, such as a gift, favour, promise or advantage for himself or herself or for another person or entity, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of his or her public functions;

  2. The offering or granting, directly or indirectly, to a public official or any other person of any goods of monetary value, or other benefit, such as a gift, favour, promise or advantage for himself or herself or for any person or entity, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of his or her public functions;

  3. The offering or granting, directly or indirectly, to a public official or any other person for the purpose of illicitly obtaining benefits for himself or herself or for a third party;

  4. The diversion by a public official or any other person, for purposes unrelated to those for which they were intended, for his own or her own benefit or that of a third party, of any property belonging to the State or its agencies, to an independent agency, or to an individual, that such official has received by virtue of his or her position;

  5. The offering or giving, promising, solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage to or by any person who directs or works for, in any capacity, a private sector entity, for himself or herself or for anyone else, for him or her to act or refrain from acting, in breach of his or her duties;

  6. The offering, giving, solicitation or acceptance directly or indirectly, or promising of any undue advantage to or by any person who asserts or confirms that he or she is able to exert any improper influence over the decision making of any person performing functions in the public or private sector in consideration thereof, whether the undue advantage is for himself or herself or for anyone else, as well as the request, receipt or the acceptance of the offer or the promise of such an advantage, in consideration of that influence, whether or not the influence  is exerted or whether or not the supposed influence leads to the intended result;

  7. Illicit enrichment

  8. The use or concealment of proceeds derived from any of the acts referred to in this article; and

  9. Participation as a principal, co-principal, agent, instigator, accomplice or accessory after the fact, or in any other manner in the commission or attempted commission of, in any collaboration or conspiracy to commit, any of the acts referred to in this article.

The Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act 2000 lists offences which are punishable by the Act to include among other things gratification by an official, corrupt offers to public officers, corrupt demand by persons, fraudulent acquisition of property, fraudulent receipt of property, making false statement or return, gratification by and through agents, bribery of public officer and using position for gratification.


There are several examples of high profile corruption in Nigeria. Few examples will suffice. In June, 1989, Alhaji Mohammed Bashir alleged that he paid $500,000 into the account of Chief of general Staff, Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, at Standard Chartered Bank, Zurich. The purpose of the payment according to him was to facilitate his company (First Nigeria Oil Limited) getting 40 percent equity shares in Pan Ocean Oil Limited. He went to public to make the allegations when his bid failed. Rather that set up a panel to investigate the matter, the government of Ibrahim Babangida arrested and detained Bashir accusing him of blackmailing government officials.


In 1991, the reporter of financial times, London was expelled from Nigeria for revealing that $12million received by the country from the Gulf oil windfall was misused by President Ibrahim Babangida. Three years later, Pius Okigbo`s, report officially confirmed the story. At that time, $12 billion would have been sufficient for the nation’s budget for eight years.[xviii] In 1996, the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) sold one of its ships named MV River Mada. It was bought by the Mediterranean shipping company, a Greek shipping company registered in Cyprus for $785,000. The ship was renamed Axion li by its new owners and in 1998, the National Maritime Authority repurchased the same ship for $4.5 million and renamed it MV Trainer.[xix]


In 1997, the former Minister of Finance, Chief Anthony Ani revealed that of the $13.7 billion external loan procured by Nigeria to service various projects, $836.2 million was lost to non-existent (ghost) projects. In 1998, the former Managing Director of a subsidiary of Odu’a Group Mr. Adeoluwa Oyerinde of Lagos Airport Limited revealed that he gave N4million bribe to the former Military Administrators of Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Oyo  states (Col. Ahmed Usman, Lt Cdr Anthony Udofia, Lt Col. Daniel Akintode and Col Ike Nwosu respectively).[xx]


 In 1999, Muyika Adeleke alleged that the Debt Management Department of Central Bank of Nigeria attempted to fraudulently transfer $27 million from public funds into private accounts abroad. According to him, it is believed that a syndicate made up of officials of the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance stole an estimated $500million between 1992 and 1997 through various accounting tricks including reversal of entries many times over.[xxi] In the year 2000, the former Senate President Dr.Chuba Okadigbo was removed on charges of financial irregularities in the management of the senate’s fund. Immediately after the removal of the Senate President, there were calls for the probe and removal of the speaker, House of Representatives Alhaji Ghali Na`Abba. In a dramatic turn of events, the speaker accused the presidency of giving N4 million to legislators to remove him.[xxii] The cash was shamelessly displayed beside the mace (the symbol of authority) on the floor of the house. There was neither investigation nor proof of the source of the money. Other examples include the allegation against Dr. Mukonjuola of Ministry of defence who was taken to court and dramatically discontinued by the Minister of Justice. There is also the identity card scam involving the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Alhaji Hussaini Akwanga who was sacked from the cabinet and others who were arrested (Late Chief Sunday Afolabi (former Minister of Internal aafairs), Dr. Mohammed Shata (former Minister of Internal affairs), Ms. Turrie Akerele (Permanent Secretrary), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo (Former Governor of Enugu State and secretary, PDP), Mr. Christopher Agidi (former Director, department of National Civil Registration(DNCR) and Niyi Adelagun, business partner of SAGM SA in Nigeria.[xxiii] Finally, the late General Sanni Abatcha was reputed to have looted about $4.3 billon dollars.[xxiv]


 (e) Impact of Corruption

Corruption has a lot of negative impact on every sphere of societal development: social, economic and political. As Ikubaje has argued, corruption is a global phenomenon and its effects on individual, institutions, countries and global development has made it an issue of universal concern.[xxv] According to the Lima declaration,[xxvi] the impact of corruption include the erosion of the moral fabric of society, violation of the social and economic rights of the poor and vulnerable, undermining of democracy, subversion of the rule of law, retardation of development and denial of society particularly the poor of the benefits of free and open competition.


As the Chairman of Transparency International, Peter Eigen correctly noted, “corruption doesn’t just line the pockets of political and business elites; it leaves ordinary people without essential services such as life saving medicines and deprives them of access to sanitation and housing. In short, corruption costs lives.”[xxvii]



In the recent past, there has been a renewed effort to wage war against corruption all over the world. In fact, the war has taken international, regional and national dimensions. In September, 1997, citizens from 93 countries gathered in Lima, Peru at the 8th International Conference against corruption and adopted what is now known as Lima declaration against corruption. Similarly, in November, 1997, civil society organizations (CSOs) meeting under the auspices of the Global Coalition for Africa in Maputo, Mozambique declared corruption as “a crime against humanity.” One month later the  OECD Anti-Bribery Convention was adopted. In 2003, the UN Convention on Corruption was adopted. The same year, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related offences was adopted in July at the second ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.


In the past one and a half decade, nearly all African governments have some policies and strategies in place to fight corruption. They have are clear institutional frameworks to fight corruption. Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe outlined the framework in Uganda as follows:

In Uganda, a number of institutions to fight corruption have been in place for a long time, but the country is still bedeviled with corruption. This has led into a deeply held perception in the general populace that the government has almost lost the battle against corruption.


The institutions charged with the task of fighting corruption are the Presidency, the people of Uganda, the parliament, and the judiciary. In addition, there exist constitutional agencies specifically charged with this task. These are the Inspector General of Government (IGG), the Auditor General (AG), the Department of Public Prosecutions. The office of the Vice-President co-ordinates these agencies as well as all anti-corruption activities and integrity building activities in the country. An anti-corruption unit was established within the office of the Vice President, to assist the Vice-President with these tasks.


The constitution also guarantees the autonomy of the IGP, DPP and Auditor General. It provides for a Leadership Code of Conduct and punitive measures. In addition to the Constitution, there are other laws in place to combat corruption. These include the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Penal code and its amendments and the Local government Act. Other measures to combat corruption have also been taken by the National Resistance Movement Government. These include: The Economic reform and Liberalisation, the Civil Service Reform, Decentralization and the improvement of remuneration of judicial officers, top civil servants and political leaders.[xxviii]


The war against corruption in Nigeria dates to a very long time. Every community in Nigeria has mechanisms for dealing with corruption with appropriate sanctions for corruption. The fight in the public sector came to the limelight in 1966 when the military gave the reason of corruption of the politicians as one of the reasons for taking over.  Experience later showed that the military is probably more corrupt than civilian politicians. The military ruled Nigeria from 1966-1979 and handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration in 1979. But barely four years later, the Shagari administration was overthrown by the Buhari/Idiabgon regime. The Buhari/Idiagbon regime launched a war against corruption, tried and jailed many politicians and dismissed many civil servants. But when the IBB regime overthrew the Buhari regime, it released many of the politicians that were jailed by the Buhari regime and  reduced the sentences of others. In fact, it has been argued that “Babangida’s government was unique in its unconcern about corruption within its ranks and among public servants generally; it was as if the Government existed so that corruption might thrive.”[xxix] There is no doubt that Scholars are in agreement that corruption reached unprecedented levels in incidence and magnitude during General Ibrahim Babangida regime. It is ironic that the regime also had its own reorientation and anti-corruption programme christened MAMSER.  By the time President Olusegun Obasanjo came back to power as a civilian President in 1999, corruption has reached unprecedented proportion that it formed a major portion of his inaugural speech.



In Nigeria, there are a number of legislations in addition to specific programmes such as ethical revolution of Shehu Shagari administration, War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAIC) of Buhari/Idiagbon regime and MAMSER of the Babangida regime. The legislations include:

  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999

  • The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act

  • The Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act No 25 of 1991

  • Failed Bank Act No 16 of 1996

  • The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act

  • Money Laundering Act No 3 of 1995

  • The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act of 2000

  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Act 2004

  • The Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence unit

  • The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

  • Foreign Exchange Miscellaneous Provisions Act No. 17 of 1995


When President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in May 1999, he made it clear in his inaugural speech that fight against corruption will be one of his major programmes. In his speeches and carriage, he has continued to sing the anti-corruption song. One of the first bills initiated by the executive was the one on anti-corruption. The bill has been passed into law as the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000. The President’s anti-corruption campaign has received a lot of criticism. Some argue that it is a one-man campaign, which is not likely to succeed. Others contend that the president is not sincere with the anti-corruption crusade. According to the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Alh. Idris Abubakar, “the president knows quite a number of corrupt officials in the three arms of government. But rather than prosecute them, he is using the dossier collected on them to blackmail them to support his government.”[xxx] Some critics have also argued that the president’s campaign lacks seriousness. According to Scrutiny, there are six questions that should test the seriousness of any anti-corruption crusade. These are: Is it systematic? Is it comprehensive? Is it consistent? Does it have focus? Is it well publicised? Does it carry people along? The Obasanjo`s crusade is said to have failed the entire test except the one on publicity. Scrutiny concludes that the president is merely using the anti-corruption crusade “as a platform for public posturing, some sort of grandstanding.” Consequently, it has been documented that Nigerians are yet to feel the impact of the anti-corruption crusade of President Olusegun Administration.[xxxi]


Over the years, scholars, activists and international organizations have identified elements which when present can assist in winning the war against corruption. These elements include:

    1. Legislative Framework for transparent and accountable government and for fighting corruption including Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), Budget law, Fiscal responsibility law, Whistle blowers Act e.t.c.

    2. Political will and commitment to fight corruption

    3. Protection of Whistle blowers

    4. Political Reform to curb political corruption

    5. Reform of substantive programmes and administrative procedures

    6. Mobilisation for social re-orientation

    7. Independent media

    8. Adequate remuneration for workers to reflect the responsibilities of their post and a living wage

    9. Code of ethics for Political office holders, business people and CSOs

    10. Independent institutions

    11. Movement for Anti-corruption



The war against corruption is being lost in many countries for several reasons. First, most countries do not utilize universally accepted and time tested strategies elucidated above. In most cases, the policies and strategies utilized in fighting corruption are not holistic and comprehensive containing the elements mentioned in the section above. In most countries, there are elaborate legislative framework and policies for fighting corruption. Perhaps, what is missing is a freedom of Information regime and protection of whistle blowers.  But political will and commitment of a critical mass of people (both leaders and followers) is lacking.


Secondly, there is a disconnect between the utterances of the warriors of the fight and their conduct. For instance, the former Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force Mr. Tafa Balogun, posing as an anti-corruption crusader once emphasized that:

The evil that corruption has brought to the Nigerian society is very much. Corruption has become a culture in our society today. That is why we have to fight against it so that we would be able to improve our image. We intend to commence an in-house cleaning in the Nigeria Police Force.[xxxii]

Barely two years later, Mr. Tafa Balogun was accused of corruptly enriching himself to the tune of over N13 billion, and was removed from office and arraigned before the court for prosecution. For any crusade to succeed, the leaders of the crusade must match their actions with their words.


Thirdly, for any war to be won, soldiers are required. In many African countries, those who should be playing the role of soldiers for the war(the judiciary, legal enforcement institutions, police and other such official legal bodies) are the biggest part of the problem of corruption rather than the solution.[xxxiii] Therefore, wining the war against corruption will require struggle for societal transformation. We have argued elsewhere that for change to occur in any society requires the presence of objective and subjective conditions. Objective conditions exist when situations are evidently abnormal with huge contradictions which can only be resolved by change. The subjective conditions are the organizational preparations required to bring about change. In our view, the objective condition for a full scale war on corruption is ripe in Nigeria. The level of corruption in the country is unacceptable. For the past five years, Nigeria has been consistently rated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index as the most corrupt country in 2000, the second most corrupt country in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and the third most corrupt country in the world in 2004. The country cannot continue in the way it is presently being corruptly run without fatal economic, social and political consequences.  Unfortunately, the subjective conditions for winning the war are absent. There is no virile political party or movement that is committed to the war against corruption. There are no well organized democratic and popular organizations that are committed to anti-corruption crusade.  Although, there are individuals and organizations committed to fighting corruption including a coalition of CSOs known as Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), the organizational support, followership and doggedness required for sustainability and great impact is lacking. The challenge is to build the organizations especially youth organisations with dynamic and visionary leadership as well as a committed followership that is dedicated to fighting corruption. For the war to be won, such organizations must engage in concrete anti-corruption programmes beyond the mere holding of workshops. As TI has argued,

Containing corruption in a sustainable way will not be achieved through one-off seminars and workshops. Mere talk-shops are not going to change anything. Still less is going to be achieved through partnerships between agencies and governments alone. Almost invariably, these are seen as self-serving party exercises, conducted by and for the benefit of those (rightly or wrongly) already viewed as deeply implicated in the processes we are working to contain. Unless civil society is a fully independent partner and fully supportive of the processes under way, these exercises and action plans will lack legitimacy and they risk being little more than flannel.[xxxiv]


Concrete programming against corruption will involve advocacy for effective regime for the anti-corruption crusade, actual monitoring of public and corporate finance, exposure of corruptible transactions, whistle blowing and advocacy.


Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the fight against corruption in many African countries is not located within the broader paradigm of fighting for the transformation of society in a way that will deal with the multi-factorial causes of corruption.


Therefore, policy options and strategies for winning the war against corruption must address these issues. The strategy must be comprehensive and holistic. Government should not be fighting corruption and at the same time engaging in political corruption or implementing policies that would exacerbate corruption. For instance, as we have argued earlier, when the salaries of workers cannot sustain them, there is the tendency to engage in petty corruption. If government is fighting corruption and at the same time implements unbridled neo-liberal policies that further impoverish the people, then the fight against corruption cannot be won. Government cannot pay police officers wages that can hardly pay for increased transportation cost (as a result of increase in petroleum price) and expect them to be honest in the discharge of their duties. In the same vein, if government is engaging in political corruption through rigging of elections, imposition of party officials, brazen distribution of political patronage[xxxv] and selective prosecution of corrupt officials, then the war cannot be won. Furthermore, when government officials spend money recklessly in the midst of poverty, it is difficult to deal with corruption. For instance, the hotel bill of the former Managing Director of NNPC(Mr. Gaius Obaseki)  was alleged to be at the rate of N155,000.00 per night which come to about N4.7million in a month and N56.6million per annum.[xxxvi]


Finally, the fight against corruption should be a part of the fight to transform society. It should be a fight for humanity. It should be a fight that will challenge power relations, institutions, mechanisms and systems that promote corruption. It should be a fight against political corruption and empowerment of citizens in the fight against corruption. It should be a fight against a system of mediocrity that produces emergency millionaires from being commissioned agents, currency speculators and contactors. It should be a fight for value re-orientation where African citizens will begin to see government as their own and not alien and when they will begin to protect government property as they currently protect community property. Fighting corruption should neither be an isolated event nor should it be an end in itself. It must be part and parcel of transforming society and enthroning a just, equitable, efficient and fair system in the world.



The place and importance of the Youth in society cannot be overemphasized. This was adequately captured in Nigeria Youth Policy which stated that:

Youth are one of the greatest assets that any nation can have. Not only are they legitimately regarded as the future leaders, they are potentially and actually the greatest investment for a country’s development. They serve as a good measure of the extent to which a country can reproduce as well as sustain itself. The extent of their vitality, responsible conduct, and roles in society is positively correlated with the development of their country.[xxxvii]


The youth policy defines the youth as all young persons of the ages 18-35 years. It identified the problems confronting the youth in Nigeria to include:

  1. Inadequate parental care

  2. Non-availability of suitable sports and recreational facilities

  3. Moral decadence in the society

  4. Lack of appropriate role models

  5. Religious fanaticism

  6. Cult activities

  7. Political manipulation of youth organizations

  8. Unemployment and underemployment

  9. Poor education

  10. Breakdown of family values; and

  11. Indiscipline

Apart from these identified problems, the youth in Nigeria as in other African countries grapple with the problem of corruption ranging from examination malpractices to fraud and embezzlement just like the adults. This is so because young people are very good at learning from the adults in society. Over the years, as the incidence, magnitude and extent of corruption increased, the youth were socialized into corruption by their lived social reality. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, young people were very puritanical and idealistic. They were the conscience of the nation. They struggled against many unjust policies such as increase in school fees (Ali Must Go in 1978), petroleum prices during the IBB years and Anglo-Nigeria defence pact immediately after independence. They were well organized into various platforms including the National Association of Nigeria Student (NANS) and Patriotic Youth Movement of Nigeria (PYMN). Unfortunately, most of the Youth of the 70s and 80s are now holding the realms of power today and engaging in all kinds of corruption. It is therefore frightening what will happen when this generation of Awilo dancing youth infested with occultic and corrupt practices assume the leadership saddle. This is why concrete actions must be put in place for wining our youth back to the path of puritanism and winning the war against corruption.




As noted above, there are a lot of conventions, policies, strategies and institutional framework to fight corruption in Africa. In order to win the war on corruption there is the need for:

  • Re-orientation of the youth to fight for social justice, equity and societal transformation

  • Youth organizing for change and linkage with other agents of change in the society.

  • Youth advocacy for FOI Act and Whistle Blowers Act.

  • Organising to ensure that leaders match word with Action.

  • Social movement for change

  • Organising for transformation of society


African Youth: Do not agonise! Organise for Change! Organise, organise and organise.




[i] The Guardian Newspaper, Monday November 6, 2000 p. 19

[ii] The Oxford Dictionary of Current English

[iii] Quoted in Akanbi, M. (2002), “Corruption as an Obstacle to Good governance in Nigeria.” In The Nigerian Bar Journal. Vol. 1, No. 3 Pp 19-26

[iv] Otite, O. (1986), “Sociological Study of Corruption” in Odekunle, F. (Ed), Nigeria: Corruption in Development. Ibadan University Press

[v] Pope, J. (1996), National Integrity Systems: The TI Source Book. Berlin, Germany, Transparency International

[vi] Senturia, J. J. (1993), Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences Vo. VI

[vii] The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000

[viii] Pope, Op. cit.

[ix]  Ibid

[x] Otite Op. cit

[xi]  Pope Op. cit

[xii]  Ibid p. 3

[xiii] Briggs, D. A. and Bolanta, K. S. (1992), “The Issue of Corruption” in Imobighe, T. A. (Ed), The Politics of the Second Republic, Kuru, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies.

[xiv] Maduagwa, M. O. (1996 ), “Nigeria in Search of Political Culture: The Political Class, Corruption and Democratisation” in Gboyega, A.. Corruption and Democratisation in Nigeria. Ibadan, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Agbo Areo Publishers.

[xv] Obasanjo, O. (1995), “Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in Africa” in Aderinwale, A (Ed), Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in West Africa, The Keynote Adress to the Africa Leadership Forum on Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in Africa held in Cotonou, Benin Republic from 19-21 September, 1994. Ibadan, ALF Publications.

[xvi] Igbuzor, O. (2005) Perspectives on Democracy and Development. Lagos,  Joe-Tolalu & associates. P. 222 (African languages word for government work: Hausa: Akin Nasara; Urhobo: Iruoloyibo, and Ibo: Oluoyibo)

[xvii] Report of Political Bureau (1987), Federal Republic of Nigeria government printer P. 2

[xviii] Osinbajo, Y. (1997), “Corruption, Africa’s Nemesis” in candour, Vol. 1, No. 1. December, 1997 p.2

[xix] Newswatch September 25, 2000 p10

[xx] Candour Vol 1, No. 1 December 1997 p.1

[xxi] The News Vol 12, No. 25 28 June, 1999

[xxii] Tell No. 47, November 20, 2000 p.20

[xxiii] Bagudu, N (Ed), Corruption and Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria. Jos, League for Human Rights.

[xxiv] Ibid

[xxv] Ikubaje, J. G. (2004), “Corruption in Nigeria: The Challenges and the Way Forward” in Bagudu, N. (Ed), Corruption and Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria. Jos, League for Human Rights.

[xxvi] Lima Declaration is

[xxvii] Transparency International (2005) Global Corruption Report. London, Pluto Press.

[xxviii] Kazibwe, S. W. (1998), Foreword in Ruzindana, A. Langseth, P. and Gakwandi, A. (1998), Fighting Corruption in Uganda: The Process of Building a National Integrity System. Kampala, Fountain Publishers.

[xxix] Gboyega, A (1996) (Ed), Corruption and Democratisation in Nigeria. Ibadan, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Agbo Areo Publishers.

[xxx] Tell Magazine, No 49, November 20, 2000. p. 24

[xxxi] Ezeani, E. O. ( 2003), Public Accountability in Nigeria: Perspectives and Issues. Enugu, Academic Publishing Company.

[xxxii] Balogun, T. (2002), vanguard Monday march 25, 2002

[xxxiii] TI Annual Report 1998

[xxxiv] TI Annual Report 1998 p.12

[xxxv] Recently, the President asked the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to submit names for membership of Boards and parasatals and the names of the wife and son of the Chairman of the party surfaced. A few months ago, the President ordered the cancellation of the sale of houses because it contained the names of many top government officials and relatives of the wife of the President.

[xxxvi] Bagudu,  Op. cit .

[xxxvii] National Youth Policy (2001). Federal Republic of Nigeria.








Otive Igbuzor, PhD

ActionAid International Nigeria,

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Tel: +234 9 2348480 & 3

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