Tony Nyiam: Roots of systemic corruption in Nigeria

Tony Nyiam: Roots of systemic corruption in Nigeria

Friday, July 15, 2016 6:29 pm

By Tony Nyiam

Corruption has without doubt become systemic in Nigeria. The political-economic system has been so soaked in the blood of graft that even the social and cultural ways of many Nigerians have become corrupted. In other words, apart from the institutionalisation of corruption in the Nigeria political-economy, many Nigerians have also become socio-culturally corrupt.

Powerful Nigerians in the corridors of power have indeed become the ironic role models of bent officials. They have been the culprits that have led us, into the deep end of corruption which the average citizenry finds him or herself in almost every facet of Nigerian public and private institutions have become compromised

The challenges which are confronting President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) in the war against corruption beg the question: What’s more appropriate: the Legal or the Legitimate means of fighting the War? This I intend to address in the form of a series of answers to the following questions:

1. What’s the root-cause of the institutionalisation of corruption in Nigeria?

2. How has the institutionalisation of the graft been sustained?

3. How are Nigerians to be liberated from one of the world’s most corruption engendering national constitution and its legal system offspring?


The root-cause of graft, and its institutionalisation, is traceable to fundamental fact that the processes and practices of governance in Nigeria have always been pre-determined by what could be described as a ‘419 constitution’. What else would an ernest enquirer call the existing 1999 military decreed constitution of a supposedly democratic Nigeria? I intend, here, to illustrate the falsity of the claims of the 1999 constitution.

As a body of fundamental laws of a nation-state which lay down the system of government, the 1999 Constitution is neither a Federal nor a Republic’s constitution. There is nothing ‘Federal’ in its definition of the Federal-States fiscal relations: the distribution of financial powers between the Federal and the states. What is currently in operation in Nigeria is ‘Fiscal Centralism’, period.


There is an obvious lack of fiscal federalism in the way the Federal Government relates to the governments of the federating states. Apart from this, there is in the horizontal relationship which exists amongst the three major pillars of government at the Federal, States and Local government levels, a lack of adequate constitutional provisions for the judiciary, for example, to be independent. The Executive arm is in control of the other two arms of government. Take for example, the Nigerian Electoral Commission it is independent only in name. An indepth examination of the 1999 constitution leaves the examiner with illustrations of numerous examples of the falsity of its claim of being a Federal Republic Constitution.


The opening affirmation of The Preamble of the 1999 Constitution which makes the claim: “We the People” is as false a representation as any big-lie can be. The fact that the military regime imposed constitution, as shown above, lies to itself and to the Nigerian people, clearly qualifies it, to be seen as a fraudulent constitution.


Being a military dictators’ regime imposition on the Nigerian people, the 1999 Constitution would have in other truly democratic countries, been rendered illegal. The South American countries of Argentina and Chile precedents are there for our learning. The legality of the extant Nigerian constitution remains questionable. This affirmation is informed by the fact that the legality of the 1999 Constitution was, and remains; only a covetous claim. Lest it is forgotten, the legality of the present constitution arose from an unconstitutional case of a successful military coup d’etat not only begetting its own legality but imposing the legal order on subsequent supposedly, democratic governments of Nigeria. Only in Third World country like Nigeria, that such an illegality becomes legal.

While the legality of the 1999 Constitution remains doubtful, what is, however, undoubtful is the fact that the constitution is illegitimate. My grounds for saying so have to do with the process of making the constitution. It was not subjected to the due process of the universal precedent of plebiscite, for example. Without the consent of the people to whom sovereignty belongs, the acceptability (that is the ‘constitutionality’) of the 1999 Constitution remains questionable. The well travelled routes of referendum need to have been treaded.


The cause of justice, equity, balance and the overall public interest is not being served by the extant constitution. The 1999 Constitution was imposed by a cabal of self-serving military officers. Self-serving indeed, as the coup plotters never served the corporate interests of the Nigerian Armed Forces. They were actually not better than rogue military officers. They were, in actuality, what I have over the decades, described as ‘professional politicians in military uniforms’. My reason for saying that the military coup plotters were self- serving, is evident in how self-serving is the 1999 Constitution which they bequeathed to Nigerians. The makers of the imposed constitution ensured that unfair advantages were given to their own two geo-political zones, and in turn their kinsfolks.

The 1999 Constitution was used as a fundamental legal instrument to legalise the short changing of the North Central (NC), South West (SW), South South (SS) and South East (SE) zones’ people. By creating more states and local government areas in the NW and the NE than they deserve (when compared to the NC, SW, SS and SE) they favoured their own ethnicities particularly in the sharing of national revenue. The South Easterners and their brothers in the South South, remain the most disadvantaged by the 1999 Constitution.


The seed of the institutionalisation of corruption in Nigeria was sown when the resources of the crude oil producing communities, the coastal sea ports of Delta, Rivers, Cross River and Lagos States and the Value Added Taxes (VAT) collection of most southern states, were illegitimately usurped by the Abuja ‘powers that be’. This robbing of ‘Peter to pay Paul’ must not be allowed to continue. The legalisation of the stealing by subterfuge of the Niger Delta people’s endowed natural resources and the coveting of the VAT payments of residents of the South was put into effect through the imposition of the 1999 Constitution.

This camouflaged thievery by the usual parasitic elite suspects using the federal Government as cover is always going on in the heart-core of the Federal Government’s revenue mobilization, allocation and fiscal activities. The loot from the, as it were, conquered peoples of the Middle Belt and the Southern geo-political zones has become a kind of no-man’s money to be stolen by the parasitic elite. The corrupt political class ensures that its members’ kinsfolk are often nepostically favoured. Such an example of garbage in, do of course, results in the garbage out of malpractices in many areas of the Nigerian nation-building.


The crafty legalisation of what in civilised societies would be an abuse of the inalienable human right of people is the progenitor (the Mother) of most corruption and fraudulent (419) activities in Nigeria. This is in fact one of the major reasons and catalysts of the institutionalisation of graft in Nigeria.

What are the in human laws I am referring to? They are The Petroleum Act 1969, the 1971 Off-Shore Oil Revenue Decree, and the 1999 constitutions-Sections 44(3) and 62(2) and item 39 of the Exclusive list. These were the laws which were utilized to completely destroy any iota of fiscal federalism the Nigerian State had. The introduction of these pro-fiscal centralism laws was and remains plan of the cabal of oligarchs, deliberate socio-polities-economic hegemonic grand strategy.

The consequences of the domino effect of this robbing of the North Central and the three Southern geopolitical zones to give advantages to the NW and NE, the Nigerian majority can see clearly. This FG stealing is the action which more than any other act, has caused several other institutionalised corruptions to happen one after the other.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.