Hoffmann, L.K. and Patel, R.N. (2017) ‘Collective Action on Corruption in Nigeria: A Social Norms Approach to Connecting Society and Institutions’. London: Chatham House


It has been estimated that close to $400 billion was stolen from Nigeria’s public accounts from 1960 to 1999, and that between 2005 and 2014 some $182 billion was lost through illicit financial flows from the country. 

Corruption tends to foster more corruption, perpetuating and entrenching social injustice in daily life. Such an environment weakens societal values of fairness, honesty, integrity and common citizenship, as the impunity of dishonest practices and abuses of power or position steadily erode citizens’ sense of moral responsibility to follow the rules in the interests of wider society.

This report aims to diagnose what drives corrupt behaviour in Nigeria, and the types of beliefs that support practices understood to be corrupt. Its findings are based largely on a national household survey jointly developed by the Chatham House Africa Programme and the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Norms Group (PennSONG), in collaboration with Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics as well as a network of academics and practitioners from Nigerian universities and NGOs. The findings present new evidence of the social beliefs and expectations that influence some day-to- day forms of corruption in Nigeria.

The report examines corruption in Nigeria from the perspective of the social norms that serve as embedded markers of how people behave as members of a society and have a strong influence on how they choose to act in different situations. These social influences determine accepted forms of behaviour in a society, and act as indicators of what actions are appropriate and morally sound, or disapproved of and forbidden.

In the context of anti-corruption in Nigeria, understanding these underlying social drivers helps to identify which forms of corruption are underpinned by social norms, and which practices are driven by conventions, local customs or circumstances.