July 2018
REGION: Sub-Saharan Africa

In “A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria,” Matthew T. Page presents a new model for  examining how corruption occurs in Nigeria, and in which contexts it is most prevalent. Page presents a taxonomy which he hopes can assist policymakers in navigating the complexities of the country’s corruption, demonstrate corruption in Nigeria as an issue deeply embedded in multiple areas of governance and society, contextualize the means and ends of corruption in Nigeria for international development partners, and provide a template for evaluating and comparing corruption in other countries and contexts. This summary contains a table that, drawing from Page’s analysis, charts different forms of corruption and the sectors in which they are most prevalent.

Page’s categorization of corruption details different forms of corruption that occur in specific sectors and sub-sectors. Political and institutional corruption occurs within political parties, the media, bureaucratic organizations, and in elections and the legislative process. The methods include using sham local elections, money in exchange for lenient government oversight, shell organizations and programs used to create holding spaces for embezzled money, and brown envelope journalism, wherein journalists are paid to quash stories which might reflect poorly upon the paying politician.

Economic sector corruption is broad, with public and private entities playing active roles in embezzlement and politicizing commodities. Nigeria’s state-owned petroleum company constitutes 90% of the country’s export earnings and operates with minimal oversight, making it a prime source of self-enrichment for officials. Additionally, in the industrial, agricultural, and infrastructure sectors, businesses owned by government officials or their family members are used for money laundering or are given preferential selection.

The security sector is crippled by diverted funds, unmonitored cash expenditures, and bribery. In the military, this corruption leads to equipment, training, and personnel shortages, leaving the Nigerian military “unable to effectively combat Boko Haram.” The Nigeria Police Force was found to have embezzled money into more than 80,000 “ghost” employee salaries. Additionally, police officers are the most bribed government officials, sometimes in systems wherein higher ranking officers require patrolmen to pass along portions of the bribes they receive. In the judicial system, judges and lawyers are frequently paid off to stall court proceedings or exclude critical evidence.

Educational, healthcare, and humanitarian corruption all occur within the social sector. Bribes for school admission or grades are common, and funds appropriated to schools are frequently embezzled by university officials. In the healthcare system, inflated contracts for high-end construction projects and expenditures on equipment that is too expensive to be properly maintained is modeled for the press and then never used again. The humanitarian sector is plagued by the theft of money and materials from aid organizations and foreign governments intended for internally displaced persons.

Page concludes his taxonomy with a description of the eight forms of corruption in Nigeria that he identifies. Bribery is the most common, costing Nigerians $4.6 billion alone. Extortion exists in protection rackets, wherein smugglers hire Nigerian security forces to aid them in their activities, and toll-taking, the acceptance of bribes by officials to discharge their duties in a certain way. Contracting fraud is the most common and lucrative type of corruption in Nigeria. Unnecessary contract procurement, single-source procurement, bid manipulation, weak oversight and contractor underperformance all contribute to the noncompetitive bidding system and allow nepotism and ethnic or religious favoritism (another common type of corruption among officials). Contracting fraud also leads to unfinished, over-ambitious projects, creating deliberate waste, a form of intentional government spending which “create[s] openings for embezzlement, contract fraud, and patronage distribution.” Additional forms of deliberate waste are the funding of private citizens’ religious journeys to Saudi Arabia or Israel, and elaborate statues or monuments referred to as vanity projects. Nigerians identify legalized corruption, or government self-enrichment, as a large issue. Government officials often receive allowances for living expenses amounting to multiple times their already large salaries. Additionally, officials receive land grants, international investments, and gratuities in the form of welfare and refreshment packages like luxury food items and gifts.

Corruption Classification Types Sectors Prevalent
Bribery Bribe-taking Political and Institutional; Security; Social
Extortion Oversight abuse, toll-taking, protection rackets, noisemaking Political and Institutional; Economic; Security
Auto-Corruption Unreported revenues, misappropriation of property, salary and pensions fraud, re-looting Political and Institutional; Economic; Security; Social
Contract Fraud Unnecessary procurement, unqualified/untrustworthy contractors, single-source procurement, bid manipulation, conflict of interest, weak oversight and contractor underperformance, contract inflation Political and Institutional; Economic; Security; Social
Subsidy Abuse Petroleum-related, concessionary foreign exchange rates, tax waivers and tariff barriers, aid and other grants Political and Institutional; Economic

Nepotism, ethnic/religious


Political and Institutional; Economic; Social
Deliberate Waste


Abandoned projects, vanity and white elephant projects, other questionable expenditures


Political and Institutional; Economic; Social
Legal Corruption Excessive pay and benefits, land grants, gratuities, international investments Political and Institutional; Economic


This table borrows extensively from the author’s terminology but presents the information in a different way. This table was produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative and is intended for reference only.


NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria

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