Nigeria has had unstable, ineffective, and predatory leadership to say the least. It is weak by nearly all measurements except military capacity and exports; Foreign Policy magazine even labeled it a “failed state” based on its poverty and governance in 2010. It has experienced at least six military coups, with some leaders in power for mere days while others died in office, and until 2000 had only experienced four years of civilian rule. It had its first open election followed by a peaceful hand-over of power in 1999, but most elections are still marred in controversy and often incite violence. Furthermore, almost 85% of oil revenues accrue to 1% of the population, and the Anti-Corruption Chief claimed that 70% of the country’s oil wealth was lost or stolen in 2003 (See: Michael Watts, 2008). Transparency International regularly ranks Nigeria among the most corrupt countries in the world (half of Nigerians reported having paid a bribe in 2010). Nigeria’s corruption is highly decentralized in nature, and from my observations an important element in bribery is the role of chiefs existing at various levels in distributing federal funds to their villages. Decentralization allows a large number of leaders and civil servants to skim off the top as funds are passed from the federal down to the local level.
General Sani Abacha is regarded as Nigeria’s most corrupt President.