Corruption: Definition, Causes and Effects

Etymologically, corruption is derived from a Latin word “corruptus” which means to break or destroy. Literally, corruption means to break away or depart from morality, ethics and civic virtues. Further explanation of each of these words will give us better understanding and insight,

  1. Morality implies: morals, principles, values, goodness, decency, probity, honesty, integrity etc.

  2. Ethics means: moral code, belief, tradition practices, habits, conventions, customs, laws rules, regulations, commandments, decrees.

  3. Civic virtues: public opinion of merit and quality. Going by the above definition corruption is a break away from what is good and right.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary on the other hand defines corruption as Dishonesty (which in other words is deceitfulness, fraudulence, lying, untruthfulness, treachery, duplicity).

The Word Bank defines corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gains. Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts, solicits or extorts a bribe.

It is also abused when private agents actively offer bribes to circumvent public policies and processes for competitive advantage and profit.

Public offices can also be abused for personal benefit even if no bribery occurs through patronage and nepotism, the theft of state asserts or the diversion of state revenue.”

Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia defines it as “wrongdoing by those in a special position of trust. The term is commonly applied to self – benefiting conduct by public officials and others dedicated to public services”

Section 2 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act 2000 defines corruption to include “bribery, fraud and other related offences”.

The most common type of corruption by this definition is briberywhich refers to the giving or taking of money or any kind of favour in return or exchange for undue advantage over other people.

Other types include: abuse of power in any form or degree, extortion, embezzlement, inflation of contracts, kickbacks, diversion of funds, falsification or suppression of record, perversion of justice, electoral malpractices, examination malpractices, drug trafficking, money laundering, abuse of selection processes, nepotism, sexual exploitation, gratification and so on.


Corruption is caused generally by greed, lack of positive values, porous system, weak enforcement and oversight mechanisms, excessive materialism, societal pressure, lack of virile welfare structures, insecurity of employment tenure, indiscipline, Inordinate desire for wealth accumulation (get-rich-quick-syndrome), poverty of the mind, nepotism (partiality, favoritism, preferential treatment, bias, discrimination etc), and lack of genuine fear of God. These and many more will be discussed in subsequent editions in detail.


Effects of corruption to the nation in general, to the port system in particular and to us as a people is colossal; for example:

  • It undermines the national image- a corruption ridden country stinks in the comity of nations and meaningful investments cannot be attracted nor developmental cooperation can be established because every Nigerian is viewed as corrupt and dubious outside. For instance, Nigeria has been consistently ranked among the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.

  • It threatens the very survival of a nation as it prevents the provision of basic social amenities for the citizenry. The money meant for development is often pocketed by a few thereby making good governance impossible. It has affected our health sectors not to talk of our educational institutions. As at today, not even one of the Universities in Nigeria is rated among the first 200 in the world and none is rated among the best in Africa. Corruption generally erodes standards to abysmal levels. Quality of goods and services cannot be guaranteed in a corrupt society.

  • Corruption aggravate unemployment and under development.

  • It engenders mass poverty and thwart efforts to overcome it.

  • Most infrastructural decay and unsatisfactory provision of amenities can be traced directly or indirectly to corruption. There is a total collapse of power and road net work in the country today due to corrupt attitude of past leaders.

  • It erodes the ethical base of society: -as due diligence, excellence, honesty, merit and integrity are discouraged.

  • It breeds all kinds of crimes and vandalism – arm robbery, kidnapping, youth agitation etc.

  • It lead to massive brain drain – a great number of Nigeria best brains have been driven to other part of the world where they now spearhead developmental and scientific exploits.


Corruption is the bane of Nigerian socio-economic development, which threatens the existence of Nigeria as a political entity. It is therefore imperative that all  should engage in anti-corruption struggle.

This paper examines the state of the country’s media from the perspective of media practitioners. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon and there is hardly any society without one form of corruption or the other. Corrupt practices did not begin today; history is as old as the human race. The menace called corruption is a big problem in Nigeria.

M.Watts (2008:47) affirms that “effects of corruption in the Nigerian society can not be overemphasized”. Corruption is indeed a canker-worm that has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian society.

It is a monster that all  blame for the economic woes facing the country. This is because corruption is seen as one of the major impediments to the economic development of the nation. It is perhaps, the only reason why nothing seems to be working. In fact, corruption is threatening the existence of Nigeria as an entity.

Nearly every sphere of human endeavor is affected by corruption. And no profession is spared either. Interestingly, successive governments pursued policies against corruption and it was the main reason why the military made incursions into politics.

Despite various policies adopted by governments, corruption is ever increasing in the country. Nigeria is said to have generated huge revenue during this current political dispensation than at other times of her history. This is so because of the rising price of crude oil in the international market since 1999.

I wish to state categorically that the Nigerian government will show it is prepared to fight corruption, when it starts the fight from the justice administration system. Until judges are stopped from being corrupt they will not have the moral capital to be just!

By the structure and composition of the Judicial System, the professionals there have more to lose when scandals break out and trials commence. If there is nothing to gain, the judiciary can be relied on to deliver justice. Right now the professionals in the judiciary are relying on the cooperation of their cohorts in the executive and legislative arms to hide them.

If the search light is turned on the judiciary, it will easily turn a new leaf. The same applies to the police, SSS and the ministries of justice. Consider this statement common to the police: “no one is a saint”; it is just an apologia for their own corruption.

Nigeria today is a nation at crossroads, struggling against all forms of vices. The country‟s media practitioners had at one time struggled for the political emancipation of the country, at another time, the media fought for the unity of the nation during a devastating 30-month civil war. One of the major issues that should engage the attention of the media today is the anti-corruption war. There is therefore no gain saying the fact that all hands need to be on deck so that the anti-corruption war could be won.

How much Nigeria would succeed in the current battle depends largely on how effective the media would be. The media profession is expected to be above board so that journalists could confidently champion the anti-corruption campaign. Though some media outfits realized this demand and some efforts have been channeled towards this in recent times, it is pertinent to know how the corruption issue is being handled in most media organizations in Nigeria.


  1. To check corruption which has assumed epidemic proportions in the public services of this country, it is imperative for the National Assembly to amend the CCB Act to provide that:

  2. All political appointees should declare their assets annually by making annual asset returns every January, (ala tax returns) because the extant provision that requires assets declaration every four years have several loop holes that are being exploited by public servants.

  3. The CCB should create a unit within it for the continuous tracking of assets returns of politicians holding public office, senior civil and public servants, etc, similar to what the CBN does to check money laundering through the banks;

  1. Reform the Justice Delivery system by replacing the status quo with a jury verdict system, through the constitution amendment process. You can trust the people to do justice to those who are corrupt, as members of a jury!

  2. Make it mandatory for the police to release everyone arrested without warrant within 12 hours. Remove their discretion to detain anyone beyond 12 hours except for crimes such as treasonable felonies and murders. This is vital because abuse of human rights and “sale of bail” is a lucrative practice in ALL divisions and units of the police. What obtains now is that the report of a crime in any neighborhood is an invitation for the police to line their pockets through indiscriminate arrest of everyone in that neighborhood for “bail rent”.

  3. Routinely and quarterly, the Attorney-General/DPP/Justice departments should vet all occupants of police detention cells, custody rooms and those in prisons awaiting-trial to deliver innocent Nigerians from the corruption and inhumanity of the police.

It is time to fight for the soul of Nigeria and it must, of necessity, start from its primary custodians: the justice administration system stakeholders. This is necessary in order to invest our justice delivery system operatives with the moral capital required to effectively do their jobs.

In conclusion, it is important to emphasize that the fight against corruption in Nigeria needs real patriots, men and women who are committed to the Nigerian project, not immoral personalities who want to serve their own or narrow group interests. It takes high moral rectitude to exercise the moral strength required to be an anti-corruption crusader in this country. That is why we say that given the high level of corruption in the Nigerian police, the Immigration Service, the Customs Service, the Prisons Service, the SSS, the Courts, etc, they cannot effectively fight corruption and other crimes.


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