Taxonomy of Nigeria’s Endemic Corruption

Matthew T. Page
Matthew T. Page

The Carnegie Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just published a report titled “A new taxonomy for corruption in Nigeria.” It’s author, Matthew Page, identifies more than 500 types of graft. As he puts it, corruption ranges “from the jaw-dropping, to the creative, to the mundane.”

It includes “the oil minister who diverted billions of petrodollars in just a few years. … the local official who claimed a snake slithered into her office and gobbled up $100,000 in cash. … the cop shaking down motorists for 25 cents apiece at makeshift checkpoints.”

Post-colonial era: national, continental and international corruption

Nigeria amplifies and magnifies corruption, taking it at a larger scale than perhaps anywhere on the continent. But it shares the plague with all the other countries. Since the so-called independence series of the 1960s, corruption has become widespread, embedded, endemic. It affects the public and private sectors in secret or open ways, at micro- and macro-levels. It involves the heads of state, senior and junior civil servants, business people, sworn-in officials in the legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government. It is externally induced and domestically perpetrated.

Pastoralists and agriculturalists of Nigeria, Unite!
Nigeria. Soldiers As Policymakers (1960s-1970s)

For corruption in Guinea, see for instance:

Conakry : plaque-tournante de l’Escroquerie internationale
Mahmoud Thiam. Seven Years in Prison
Guinea Mining. Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure
Sales temps pour les amis d’Alpha Condé
France – Guinée : Bolloré et Condé

An uneven struggle

Run by knowledgeable and dedicated individuals, anti-corruption  institutions and programs are actively at work in Nigeria. However, they face an uphill battle and an uneven struggle; and the eradication of the practice, remains, indeed,  a herculean task.  This report underscores that:

«… corruption stymies Nigeria’s boundless potential, hamstringing the petroleum, trade, power and banking sectors and more. In the defense sector, it compounds security challenges in hotspots like the Lake Chad Basin, Middle Belt and Niger Delta. In the police, judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, it undermines the country’s already-anaemic accountability mechanisms, thereby fueling further corruption across the spectrum.
It also rears its head in politics through electoral manipulation and the kleptocratic capture of party structures. “Brown envelope journalism” undermines democratic norms and the media’s ability to hold leaders accountable. Meanwhile, it is Nigeria’s most vulnerable that are worst affected when graft, fraud and extortion permeate the educational, health and humanitarian sectors.
Corruption in Nigeria, and elsewhere, is highly complex. It can take a variety of different but inter-related forms. Its effects can span across several disparate sectors. Yet most existing frameworks for studying corruption share a common shortcoming: they conflate how corruption occurs (i.e. tactics and behaviors) with where it occurs (i.e. which sector). This can muddle our understanding of an already complicated issue and prevent policymakers, practitioners and analysts from thinking about Nigeria’s greatest challenge in more sophisticated and nuanced ways.»

Matthew T. Page is a consultant and co-author of Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2018). His appointments include a  nonresident fellowship with the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja.
The 42-page PDF report is accessible below.

Caveat. The title of the report is, in part, a misnomer with respect to the use of the word taxonomy.  An SKOS standard-based approach would have yielded a vocabulary, i.e. a neat classification and a cogent hierarchy of broad(er)/narrow(er) terms. Overall,  though, the content of the paper is facts-based and well-referenced. Despite its shallow historical timeline, which begins at “independence” in 1960 and thus fails to include the continuity with, and the lasting impact of the colonial period.
My SemanticVocabAfrica website instantiates a real—continental and worldwide—taxonomy/vocabulary. It currently contains the Fulɓe, Languages, Outline of Cultural Materials, and Peoples vocabularies. The last two are drawn respectively from the HRAF project and from Murdock’s 1959 book. Both are updated and annotated with Wikipedia and Worldcat links and references, and other authoritative sources. In addition, I expand the book with MindNode mappings for data visualization. Last, I have added three main entries: African Jews, Caucasian Africans, Diaspora.

Tierno S. Bah

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Tierno S. Bah

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Tierno S. Bah

Why Is Africa Lagging?

The central question

There is a widespread awareness of Africa’s ranking as the least developed continent. Therein persists a nagging, perplexing, often frustrating and vexing question. People ask and would like to know Why? How? When? Who? Where? It is highly relevant to earnestly seek answers to Africa’s status as a perennial economic, technical and technological laggard.
These are not merely academic or rhetorical interrogations. They are real-life and, more often than not, life-threatening issues. Thus, every year thousands of young African undertake risky journeys in quest for better living conditions in Europe, Asia, and America.
The recent and steady exodus of inexperienced and unskilled youths  compounds an older, long-standing brain-drain. Both phenomena deprive Africa of its main resource: people. Trained technicians and experienced professionals, teenagers and young adults —the seeds of the future— flee abroad to “greener pastures.”

1999. Death of Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara

One of the root causes of Africa’s stalling consists in what ​Leopold S. Senghor decried as the “ deterioration of the terms of exchange.” Actually, that euphemism harkens back to the Colonial Pact of 1898. Still alive—and worsening—, it dealt Africa a crippling hand. For it sealed the role of the continent as (a) a coerced supplier of raw material and (b) an induced consumer of imported goods.


The central question will be broken down into dozens of sub-topics that range from the tool-making gap, to slavery, colonization, “independence”, globalization, the Cultural Heritage (language, religion, arts, crafts, literature, ethnicity, nationhood, civilization, tradition, modernity, politics…), racism, alienation, affirmation, collaboration and resistance to foreign hegemony, war, peace, the past and the present.

The webAfriqa channel creator

Elaborating on the Africa, Between the Anvil and the Hammer byline as a linguist, an anthropologist, a technologist, a semanticist, and a web publisher, Tierno S. Bah shares four decades of research, teaching, debating, writing and pondering on the main issue and its many corollaries.
Again, the question Why is Africa Lagging is neither fortuitous nor frivolous. To the contrary, it is a permanent, controversial, highly charged, all-around (history, economy, culture, politics, social), major, legitimate, and utterly challenging theme. A mega-quandary, it has no binary choices, clear-cut answers, or simple solutions!
The webAfriqa channel is backed by the webAfriqa Portal, published since 1997. Espousing the Open Web philosophy, the Portal offers tens of thousands of text, images, audio and video documents, carefully selected from authoritative sources, reliable data, relevant information and genuine knowledge bases. The Portal includes webFuutawebPulaakuwebMandewebGuinéeCamp Boiro MemorialBlogGuinéeSemantic AfricaSemanticVocabAfricawebAmeriqa, etc.
Last, steeped in history and blending social sciences with digital tools and technologies, the channel will focus on the prerequisites that Africa must meet in order to break the chains that keep it down and out.

Tierno S. Bah

Pastoralists and agriculturalists of Nigeria, Unite!

The ongoing bloodletting between cattle herders and agriculturalists is the subject of an International Crisis Group report titled “Stopping Nigeria’s Spiraling Farmer-Herder Violence.”  The 44-page document is also accessible and downloadable below.

Nigeria. Pullo (Fulani) pastoralist and his cattle and sheep herds.
Nigeria. Pullo (Fulani) pastoralist and his cattle and sheep herds. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Nigeria survived the 1967-70 Biafra secession and ensuing Civil War. Today it still faces deep-seated and violent major crises: Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast, a resurgent Igbo separatism in the Southeast, and a rebellion led by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. During that period the giant federation experienced decades of coups and ruthless military regimes.

Since the dawn of this century, armed pastoral and agricultural groups are engaged in an open guerilla warfare against each other.

Earlier this month, someone asked on my Facebook page the following question:

« Do you think the Fula herders could make sacrifice of the current species of cows they breed for the ones suitable for ranching? »

I replied as follows:

  1. The views expressed by the Mi-yettii Allah association in the Vanguard article are logical. They tell us mainly that, as citizens, they are keenly aware and don’t want to be fooled by the demagoguery going around. They pay every day the consequences of the failed policies and poor economic record of the Nigerian leadership since independence.
  2. Mi-yetti Allah knows that previous ranching experiments failed. So, why would Fulbe cattle owners submit now to laws that are biased and detrimental to their economic activity?
  3. In particular, how and why Fulɓe herders would abandon their familiar bovine species in exchange for breeds unknown to them? It would not be simply a mere sacrifice. No, it would be an economic and cultural suicide!
  4. For we should not forget that cattle has more than an economic value in Fulbe communities. Indeed, it is embedded in their ethnic identity and it reflects their cultural heritage.
  5. That said, ranching is a technical and industrial economic system. As such, it requires modern infrastructures as well as a trained and skilled workforce. It depends on a steady, abundant and affordable supply of clean electricity. It runs on efficient transportation and communication networks.
  6. Unfortunately, such prerequisites and commodities are rare, expensive and sub-standard in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Greed and corruption of the political and economic elite stand in the way of genuine development policies and programs.
  7. The fact is that agriculture and farming are both indispensable to Nigeria and Africa. Therefore, they deserve equal support, not to be pitted against each other.

Domestication of cattle: two or three events?
Cattle Before Crops: The Beginnings of Food Production in Africa
Taxonomy of Nigeria’s Endemic Corruption

Environmental Corruption
Environmental remediation programs have long been a lucrative corruption mechanism. A recent audit of the Ecological Fund—a voluminous federal fund for undertaking preventative and remedial environmental projects—was the first since it was established in 1981.55 It and other investigations have revealed how politicians, civil servants, and contractors have connived to embezzle a significant share of the ₦432 billion (over $2.5 billion in 2015 dollars) allocated to the fund from 2007 to 2015.56
Nigeria is already grappling with many of the most devastating consequences of global climate change. Desertification, coastal inundation, and shifting weather patterns all seriously threaten the country’s long-term stability and socioeconomic development. Weak and corrupt governance—key drivers of deforestation, gas flaring, and other environmentally destructive practices— will magnify the impact global climate change has on Nigeria. In Taraba State, for example, corrupt officials have helped illegal loggers deforest much of Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria’s largest and most ecologically diverse forest preserve. They also exact bribes from these illegal loggers and logging truck drivers in exchange for turning a blind eye to their activities. (A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria)

  1. Fulɓe are called the “Master cattle herders” of West Africa for at least two reasons: (a) their deep knowledge of cattle (b) their contribution to the domestication of the bovine thousands of years ago.
    In the trade and scientific literature, there are dozens of bovine sub-species that bear technical names such as Fulani, Bororo, Ndama, Adamawa, etc. Those labels underscore the acknowledgement of the pioneering and steadfast role of Fulɓe in animal husbandry (cattle, sheep, goats). For centuries they have roamed three of Africa’s five regions, seeking greener pastures for their animals.
    Since 1980, however, Fulɓe pastoralists have faced relentless natural and man-made disasters. Now many of them must cope with hostile, state-sponsored policies across the Sahel and the Savanna. But Fulɓe should not give up their rights to carry on their traditional activity. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!
  2. Real ranchers, environmentalists, international organizations, scientists, etc. from around the world would be appalled and would eagerly join Fulɓe to oppose vigorously any policy aimed at the destruction of the indigenous cattle of Nigeria. Because those breeds contribute to the diversity of the bovine population, which, again, was tamed tens of thousands years ago. It is highly likely that Proto-Fulɓe participated in the domestication of cattle. In turn, that watershed event/process is broadly credited for spurring humans into civilization.
Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta
Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta

Las, in Central Nigeria pastoralists and agriculturalists are playing the game of provocateurs — such as the author of the article “Genocide, hegemony and power in Nigeria”— troublemakers, shady politicians and arms merchants. By going at others’ throats they have everything to loose. In the end there will be no winners because they will have self-destructed. In waging deadly attacks against each other they only contribute to weakening the already failed Nigeria State.
Pastoralists and agriculturalists, beware! You are all on the same —barely afloat— boat. You  should step back, negotiate, and resolve your contradictions and conflicts peacefully. Don’t fight! Unite! Against poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, corruption, intolerance!
Challenge your local, state and federal leaders, and chiefly President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. Hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable for their lethargy and inadequate response to the crises devastating the lives of millions of citizens.
Since the mid-1960s Nigeria’s civilian and military “elites” have wreaked havoc and brought the country teetering to the brink of collapse. There is plenty of land to accommodate agriculture and animal husbandry. The Federal Government must spend the oil revenue on the majority of the population: the rural communities.

Tierno S. Bah