We need women to purify Nigerian politics through accountability, and we need them now

For many Nigerians, corruption amongst politicians is not just a newspaper headline; it is now the reality of the people. From the misappropriation of billions of naira of both federal and state funds to sheer embezzlement, the tune of corruption never ends.

This has even become an open secret on the global scene, as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has Nigeria ranked 149 out of 180 countries in 2023, highlighting the pervasive nature of corruption in the country.

What was traditionally viewed as a domain dominated by men, particularly given the gender imbalance in politics, has gradually extended to include female leadership within Nigeria’s political landscape.

The link between women’s political participation and corruption

Research suggests a correlation between increased female representation in national parliaments and reduced corruption levels. This study underscores the potential impact of gender diversity in governance on enhancing transparency and accountability.

The World Bank recognised the link between women’s political participation and reduced corruption, highlighting gender equality as a crucial anti-corruption tool. This insight fueled support from anti-corruption and gender equality movements. Subsequent research across various governmental levels has consistently supported the correlation, affirming the positive impact of women’s increased political engagement in combating corruption.

However, there are also inconsistencies. A recent study on French mayors revealed that the election of women to the position initially lowers corruption risks. However, this effect diminishes upon their re-election.

This shows that “the link between women’s representation and lower level corruption is context-dependent, and the effects of women’s representation may differ depending on the positions and platforms women gain access to, and thereby potentially vary over time.”

The phenomenon of finding corrupt female politicians didn’t just happen in France. Nigeria, too, has its own examples:

The rise of corrupt female politicians

In recent years, there has been a disturbing trend of female elected officials being implicated in corruption scandals. From misappropriation of funds to abuse of power, these instances tarnish the reputation of women leaders and hinder the progress of gender equality in governance.

Let’s delve into some specific examples – the women who got caught in the act:

Betty Edu – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs

In January 2024, Edu faced significant backlash after the emergence of a memo instructing the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585 million to a private account held by Oniyelu Bridget. Bridget was described in the ministry’s defence as the Project Accountant for Grants for Vulnerable Groups.

In January 2024, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation approved the N585.18m grant for vulnerable groups in four states. They followed the stipulated due process of government.

However, President Bola Tinubu wasn’t buying it, as he suspended the minister and blocked off all her access to him until further notice. Madein, the Accountant-General, later claimed she took no part in the transaction.

Sadiya Umar-Farouk –  Pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development

Latest News About Sadiya Farouq In Nigeria Today

Sadly, Edu wasn’t the only Humanitarian minister to be accused of corruption. Fingers were also pointed at her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

In the same month Edu faced scrutiny, Umar-Farouk also attracted the EFCC’s attention for alleged money laundering amounting to N37.1 billion. Umar-Farouk recently suspended by President Bola Tinubu, had managed the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme under President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. She was temporarily replaced by Akindele Egbuwalo.

Stella Oduah – Former Aviation Minister

The former Minister of Aviation has faced corruption allegations for nearly eight years. These include:

  • Investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into the purchase of N225m BMW cars from diverted public funds,

  • An 8-hour interrogation for N3.9 billion fraud,

  • A 20 billion debt from her company, Oduah and Sea Petroleum Oil and Gas, and

  • An ongoing N5 billion fraud case with seven other individuals.

Diezani Allison-Madueke – Former Federal Minister for Petroleum Resources

$153 million, 80 properties recovered from ex-petroleum minister Diezani – EFCC

Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s former oil minister (2010-2015) and the first female president of OPEC, faced multiple corruption allegations by the EFCC. Her move to the United Kingdom in 2015 slowed the EFCC’s investigations. However, in August 2023, she was formally charged with bribery offences in a London court following a National Crime Agency probe. Allegations suggest she accepted bribes—including cash, luxury items, and high-end property use in Britain—for oil contract awards during her tenure as Nigeria’s petroleum minister.

 These cases underscore the urgent need for accountability among female elected officials, as their actions not only betray the trust of their constituents but also hinder the progress of women’s empowerment in Nigeria.

The impact on women’s empowerment

Corruption and neglect of duty among female elected officials have far-reaching consequences for women’s empowerment. When those in power prioritise personal gain over public service, it perpetuates a cycle of inequality and disenfranchisement, particularly for women who are already marginalised in many spheres of Nigerian society.

Furthermore, the lack of accountability sends a dangerous message to aspiring female leaders, suggesting that political success is contingent on playing by the rules of a corrupt system rather than serving with integrity and dedication.

What causes corruption in Nigeria?

According to the Journal of Management and Economic Studies, this can be portrayed in four ways:

Fear of poverty

In 2017, the World Bank defined poverty as experiencing hunger, lacking shelter, being unable to afford medical care when sick, joblessness, and living day to day. This description emphasises the multifaceted nature of poverty beyond mere financial constraints.

Beyond lacking essential life needs, poverty also encompasses the inability to engage in societal roles. This fear and desperation often drive individuals to misappropriate funds from the government or organisational coffers they’re tasked with managing. Deeply rooted in Nigeria, poverty affects a significant portion of the population, with recent statistics showing over 90 million people living below the poverty line, surviving on less than $1.90 a day.

Foreign collaboration

In the Western world, embezzling large sums and depositing them in banks without consequence is difficult due to stringent tracking and prosecution measures. Conversely, some countries have lax regulations regarding bank deposits, inadvertently fostering an environment conducive to corruption.

Sani Abacha, the former President of Nigeria, embezzled billions of dollars from the nation’s treasury, hiding a portion of this wealth in European countries. Over the years, efforts have been made to recover these stolen funds, and a fraction of the money has been successfully returned to Nigeria. However, a significant amount remains in European banks.

Absence of credible media

The fight against corruption in Nigeria is a commendable endeavour, mirroring successful models like Singapore, where the media played a crucial role in public education on governmental anti-corruption measures. Historically, Nigerian media has been somewhat insular and government-aligned, often withholding critical information about officials. However, the advent of social media has shifted this landscape, uncovering corrupt practices among government officials and bringing them to public attention. This evolution in information sharing is a significant step towards transparency and accountability in governance.

Information sharing is a vital mechanism for eradicating corruption, without which no positive change can be achieved in the fight against corruption. The media should be at the forefront of informing people what they should do and how they should go about it. They should also notify the people about the consequences of their actions and inactions.

Absence of a private detective agency

An independent detective agency engages in various activities, such as investigating corrupt practices and tracing the origin and destination of illegal money.

Other functions performed by independent detectives include detecting drug trafficking, crime, terrorism, sexual harassment, violations of intellectual property and infringement of copyright.

Similarly, some independent detectives act as witnesses, giving accounts of something they observed while operating undercover. These independent detective agencies are legally licensed to conduct investigative activities on behalf of the government, an individual, or an organisation.

How can we then hold female politicians accountable?

Citizen Engagement

Empowerment begins with awareness. Citizens must actively engage with their representatives via conferences and social media, demanding transparency and holding them accountable for their actions.

Civil Society Oversight

Civil society organisations are crucial in monitoring government activities and advocating for accountability. Supporting these organisations strengthens the checks and balances essential for a healthy democracy.

Media Scrutiny

The media serves as a watchdog, exposing corruption and holding those in power accountable. Journalists must continue to investigate and report on cases of corruption without fear, favour, or compromise.

A gender-focused anti-corruption strategy

The scarcity of women in politics heightens the competition with male counterparts, underscoring the importance of gender-focused policies for both representation and combating corruption. The 2004 Women’s Manifesto of Ghana is an exemplary model, tackling issues crucial to women that often go overlooked, thus illustrating the broader implications of inclusive policies for enhancing transparency and governance.

Since the Manifesto’s creation, the Ghanaian government has not only heightened the visibility of women in high-profile leadership positions (including a Chief Justice) but has also passed the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act and the Disability Act and has banned female genital mutilation!

 The Coalition that created the law held demonstrations in 2007 to protest the exclusion of women from Ghana’s 50th Independence Day celebration.

Electoral Reform

Strengthening electoral and recruitment processes and instituting stringent anti-corruption measures can deter corrupt individuals from seeking or retaining office.

Education and Empowerment

Promoting civic education and empowering women to participate actively in politics can foster a new generation of leaders committed to integrity and accountability.

Accountability is not a luxury

Accountability transcends being merely desirable; it is a fundamental bedrock of democracy and societal advancement. It demands our collective commitment to transparency, necessitates active civic participation, and calls for relentless advocacy for systemic reforms.

As we champion these principles, we not only fight against the tides of corruption but also forge a path towards a future where integrity prevails. In this envisioned world, women’s voices are audible and influential across all realms of power, ensuring their perspectives and contributions are valued and integrated into the fabric of governance. This commitment to accountability and inclusivity is crucial for realising a society characterised by fairness, justice, and progress for all its members.


  • ChiAmaka Dike

    Chiamaka is the Features Editor at Marie Claire Nigeria. She is a woman who is passionate about God, women, and top-notch storytelling in all formats. Send all feature pitches her way - chiamaka@marieclaire.ng

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