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Quantitative Analysis of the Influence of Poverty on Moral

Solomon A. Fakinlede, Ph.D.
This quantitative study of the significance of poverty as a factor influencing moral development of individuals
was based on the evaluation of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, including the application of cultural
and situational influences that are country specific. This research was based on Nigerian case study. Despite all
efforts of the Nigerian government, corruption and money laundering continue to rise to a level yet unseen in
the history of the country. Nigeria is ranked one of the most corrupt nations in the world, after Bangladesh and
Haiti. Multiple regression analysis was used to investigate the correlation between poverty and the high level of
corruption, using data collected through random sampling of 100 of the 806 employees of Ifedore Local
Government in Nigeria. The researcher also explored how extended family structure of the Nigerian society has
created economic dependency, which has contributed to poverty. Variables of the study were measured using
composite scores from survey instrument developed by the researcher and the result indicated there was
significant correlation between poverty and moral judgment. Poverty items scored 4.56 on Likert scale of 1 to 5
while moral development items scored 1.32, indicating that more poverty resulted in less moral development.
Hence, the implications for positive social change will be the use of the outcome: (a) to strengthen poverty
alleviation programs of governmental and non-governmental agencies; (b) to promote awareness on the effect
of poverty on moral development; and (c) to lunch campaigns against corruption and money laundering inside
and outside of government establishments.
Keyword: Poverty, moral development, Leadership, organizational development
1.1 Introduction
There have been some studies on poverty in Africa, especially since most countries in this region suffer from
varying levels of economic depression (Amoako, 2005; Gans, 1995; Christiaensen, Demery, & Paternostro,
2002; The World Bank, 2002; White & Killick, 2001). White and Killick studies cited poor farming conditions,
poorly organized private sectors, and fluctuating oil prices as conditions that caused many African nations to
embark of economic reforms that called for streamlining government’s spending. Subsistence farming,
extended family structure, poor economic development, and corruption have been cited as base roots of
poverty in Africa (Sardan, 1999; Shehu, 2004). In Sub-Saharan Africa, 291 million of the 580 million people
were living on one United States (U.S.) dollar per day income in 1995, while 205 million of this population had
no access to healthcare services at the same period (White & Killick, 2001). The causes of poverty in these
nations may be copious but the faces of poverty are identical all over the world (Amoako, 2005; Gans, 1995).
White and Kellick’s studies further suggested that more than two million of the Sub-Saharan African children will
not reach their first birthday as a result of the various effects of poverty. Poverty has been on the increase in
Africa for 2 decades while infant mortality and other attending consequences of poverty have also been on the
increase (Gans, 1995; White & Killick, 2001). Unfortunately, life is worse for the poor, not only economically but
psychologically. Poor people are regarded as outcasts, vagabonds, and destitute according to Gans (1995),
while White and Killick argued that the poor could remain long-term outcasts because their poverty becomes a
contributing factor to their alienation, thereby keeping them from obtaining timely financial assistance. Gans
also asserted that the culture of poverty tends to entrench itself from generation to generation among the
chronically poor.
Children of the poor inadvertently inherit attributes of poverty, by being born into families that cannot fend for
themselves, Gans (1995) added. These children lack the needed education because they are directed to work
on their parents’ farmland, primarily to support the entire family. This way, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated
(Gans, 1995; White & Killick, 2005). Poverty is so pervasive that intervention by governments in Africa is
regarded as ineffective because of the magnitude of the problem (Amoako, 2005). Most farmers live a life of
subsistence, cultivating only food crops for self consumption. In addition, Amaoko studies added that these

these earlier philosophers emphasized that human beings developed philosophically and psychologically in a progressive fashion. thereby affecting their level of moral judgment in one form or another. which could be categorized into three main segments and six stages: (a) punishment and obedience. The thinking of a person is a reflection of the society not actually his/her independent thinking. In empirical situations. 2 . arguing that the case of eradication of corruption had become a war and could not be won overnight (Shehu. With this analysis. the cases of graft and corruption were so wide-spread. actions are categorized as internalized. In conducting research on the influence of poverty on moral judgment. (b) naïve instrumental self-indulgence. Dewey. Studies by Freud (1971) showed that children from Christian families believe that rules are rigid and absolute as stipulated by adults and only God can change it. 1987). police corruption. 3. it could be categorized as deeply rooted in psychology. because of the large attendant problems of the poverty and corruption complex (Sardan. Nigeria. (d) authority maintaining morality. students who organize demonstrations in colleges and universities view their behaviors as right. which has spread like wild fire in the site of the study. morality is defined as a social conception coupled with situational analysis that is influenced by parental intervention or the incursion of the law (Kohlberg. until they die and this cycle continues from generation to generation. the Nigerian President Obasanjo appealed to creditors to be patient with his country. Subsequently. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY This study was necessitated. Kohlberg developed moral theory. Since Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was dependent on the thinking of Piaget. and lack of public accountability. Therefore. and (f) morality of the principles of conscience. after Haiti and Bangladesh. Moral development is a socialized reasoning that reflects the learning and assimilation of family norms and societal culture as a child grows (Durojaiye. the last stage is the internalized structure of morality. it is clear that when a nation scores consistently low on it. such actions are not internalized the same way by the authority. with a culture of embezzlement. the research focused on whether the long effects of poverty could have contributed to poor moral development of the people or the level of corruption in Nigerian is situational and has no correlation with poverty. this researcher then investigated how the large scale corruption in Nigeria could have continued to be entrenched in the society without a cultural underpinning. where individual activities of morality are expected to be based on conscience and principles of fairness to others and the rely exclusively on rudimentary farming tools. various actors operate with the internal beliefs of justification. (e) morality of self-accepted moral principles. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE In this study. Despite the argument that the Transparency International’s index is not an index of corruption but of perceived corruption. The majority of the farmers possess only small areas of land that would not produce commodities large enough for exportation or to generate income. (c) good-boy morality. 2. They resort to having many wives and several children who become their labor supply. According to Kohlberg. and argued that moral development went beyond unilateral compliance with mutual respect for parental and governmental authorities. Transparency International (2004) ranked Nigeria as the most corrupt nation in the World. Sardan (1999) concluded that those who perpetrated financial crimes viewed their actions as routine and contended that only the people who were not benefiting from it were complaining. For example. this researcher evaluated Kohlberg’s (1984) contemplation that virtues could be thought or acquired. 1984). and Baldwin (Kohlberg. 1999). In a deeper form. 1976). 2004). meaning decisions that are affected by internal factors and conscience while situational factors refer to the undertaking of moral decisions. However. Generally. then the perceived index becomes the practical index. in part. solely based on external circumstances that are independent of one’s conscience (Corby & Kohlberg. this researcher evaluated the Kohlberg’s (1984) theory of moral development as a base theory which appraises how moral judgment develops from childhood to adulthood. from relativist point of view and from internalization of their rationalization. In a similar way. 1984). Unfortunately. hence it is viewed as immoral. As Kohlberg argued. Kohlberg pondered whether morality comes from teaching or from natural feelings and instinct.

The sample population was one of the 17 local government areas of Ondo State. Hence. The Fern and Thom studies found that. “the idea of cultural relativity is factually wrong. since reasoning concerning problems about justice develops in a similar manner in Western and non-Western cultures” (p. the question of whether moral judgment has a single form of application or varies according to cultural background has been a central issue in academia (Fern & Thom. See Table 1 below. It is reasonable therefore for adolescents to exhibit cultural relevance in the understanding of morals (Fern & Thom. Subsequently. extended family burden. This study explored this understanding. 2004) 3 . Table 1. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The study focused on the use of quantitative research method of inquiry to test the hypothesis of the study.2 Examination of the effects of poverty on small scale businesses Fakinlede and Banna (2006) concluded in their study of the effects of morality on organizational development that small business operations in Nigeria face a higher uphill battle than the big corporations as a result of pitiable infrastructure. and massive corruption in government. Since moral principles are developed from childhood to adulthood (Kohlberg. However.3. the ways of achieving them may differ and in fact what is moral or not may differ according to individual cultural background. Ondo State Statistics Description Headquarter Number of Households Male Population Female Population Total Population Area (square kilometers) Population Density Items Igbara-Oke 21301 50777 51840 102617 295. the country’s electricity generation. employees who committed financial crimes frequently attributed their actions to poor wages. Mexico. the long history of poverty and poor social development in Nigeria was capable of affecting the research population with long lasting effects.1 Cultural Effects of Moral Development Shehu (2004) argued that Nigeria has distinct cultural differences from the western countries and asserted that the corruption in this country required deeper understanding. Nigeria. police inefficiency. poor social services. 2001). was grossly inadequate and poorly distributed as a result of corrupt practices. 4. 2001). Kenya. 2001) in the Bahamas. self-administered electronic survey and hand distributed paper survey was used while adequate measures were taken to ensure reliability and validity of the study. The Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument used in this study was developed by the researcher using Likert scale with allocation of scores to each question. and Taiwan established that cognitive moral development is influenced by culture. 3. These situations were wrongly internalized by citizens. the effects of childhood orientation in different cultures are profound on the development of what is seen as morally good. the study of cultural influences on moral development and the understanding of justice as conducted by Wilson (as cited in Fern & Thom.2484 (113. and it also defines justice.9 Square Miles) 348 (per square mile) Ifedore Local Government Area (The Nigerian Congress. 1984). Both measures of poverty and moral development were included in this survey. and poor ethical judgment of employees. The Fakinlede and Banna study added that despite the large economic revenue of Nigeria. a vital lifeline of businesses. In the study of black and white adolescents in South Africa in reference to the cultural relativism of moral theories. Data for the research was collected from the records of Ifedore local government and survey method was used to complete the research. Fakinlede and Banna (2006) argued. To administer the survey instrument. And under Kohlberg’s (1984) theory a cognitive approach to moral development and reasoning is cross-cultural and possesses universal value. Fern and Thom indicated that while certain rules of good behavior are undoubtedly universal. 38).

the researcher was confident that the responses given by the 100 employees would reflect the opinion of all the sample population.4. low wages. which was a combination of the electronic survey and the hand distributed self-administered survey. Ondo State Harmonized Salary Structure. DATA COLLECTION METHOD In the case of this research. See Figure 1 below. which was developed with questions that defined the independent variables of poverty and the dependent variables of moral judgment. Moral judgment is the dependent variable that is being measured by these independent variables and the measures of moral judgments are financial mismanagement (M1). Figure 1. 4. Participants were asked to select the number that corresponded to their level of agreement. 775 . With random sampling. and poor social services (P1. Items one through seven were designed to measure participants’ opinions on poverty while items eight through fifteen measured the level of moral development. in the testing of the hypothesis.1 Data Collection Instrument The Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument was developed as a survey research instrument by this researcher. See Table 2 below. P2. 2=Disagree. 2007). Bias will be eliminated by measuring more variables which are dissimilar but are measures of moral judgment. thereby enhancing external validity (Creswell. 2006) at exchange rate of N128 to U. 3=Neutral. Participants completed the paper format (survey by hand) or electronic survey (on the internet). was used. applied the quantitative research tradition in collecting data through the use of survey instrument. (failure to honor contracts after collecting mobilization fees) (M2). a mixed mode survey. Hence. $1 (The Nigerian Central Bank. data was obtained from the office of the executive chairman of the Local Government Council (County). a random sampling selection was used in this research. all data collected was processed.S.2 Triangulation Method Subsequently. he would have been much less confident that the results would generalize and this could be a potential limitation to the study. 5. 631 ($60-$645) per month (Ifedore Local Government Data 2007.1 Sample Population The sample population contained 341 males and 465 females. 4=Agree. If the researcher had used a convenience sample. and wire fraud (M3). This researcher used random selection because the results from such studies are more likely to generalize to other samples from the same population. As a result of the large number of data from where the samples were selected. Variable Matrix for Triangulation Method P Poverty P1 Extended Family P2 Low Wages P3 Poor Social Services Direction of Influence PM Moral Judgment M1 Financial Fraud M2 Advance fee fraud M3 Wire fraud 5. Upon the administration of the Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument (PMDSI) to the research population. The population was on wages of N7. This researcher therefore. this researcher has developed a multiple measures of poverty such as extended family dependency. First. Advance-fee-fraud. 1998) of this study. and P3 respectively). the 4 .N82. and 5=Strongly Agree) and then. this researcher assigned a numeric weight to each of the responses (1=Strongly Disagree.

2 Forming Composites Based on Likert Data Variables could be formed from the analysis of individual items from Likert chart in a survey and this method was used to measure data collected on the Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument (PMDSI). 12. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Lack of adequate medical care contributes significantly to poverty level in this society. Poverty items were measured using the corresponding poverty items from the survey (items 1-7) while moral development items were measured in questions 8-15. This new variable (not the original items) 5 . and aunts) who sometimes or most of the times depend on them for financial support. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Poor wages is a major factor contributing to poverty in this society. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 In this society. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 In this society. 6. 5. Table 2. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Large family dependency is a factor that increases inability of individuals to meet their financial obligations.scores were summed across moral development items and divide by the number of items. 4. Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument 1. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Lack of financial abilities to acquire the necessities of life is not a contributing factor to dishonesty or fraud. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 High level of indebtedness of an individual does not affect the level of financial honesty of that individual. and financial crimes because they do not know their actions are wrong. brothers. 7. poverty does not affect the level of honesty of individuals in financial contract or deals. Most people have extended family members (large dependents. The same was done for moral development subsets. Allocating values to the coding of the participants’ enabled the researcher to utilize composite scores from the coded responses. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Extended family dependency in this society significantly increases poverty levels of an individual. sisters. nephews. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Honesty and truthfulness are moral qualities of people that do not depend on their poor financial or employment conditions. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 5. 10. their levels of financial honesty are not negatively affected by their poor economic situations. The researcher calculated the points from poverty items in the survey and averaged them to get a point between one and five. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Poverty in this society is further aggravated by poor electricity supply. 15. 2. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 When people are poor and under financial pressure. 9. any one who deceived you once in the past because of his/her poor financial situations is not likely to deceive you again even if his situation has not improved. embezzlement. 3. 13. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Entrusting huge financial responsibilities on a poor individual may not lead to risk of fraud or embezzlement by that individual. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Large scale fraud and financial mismanagement in this society are contributing factors to poverty. nieces.children. 14. people engage in fraud. 8. 11. and grossly inadequate social services. uncles. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5 Considering your knowledge of this society. poor road conditions.

2007). with a composite score of 4.53 4..51 1. These results showed that participants disagreed or strongly disagreed that people engaged in fraud.44 among all participants.22 1. N3.52 1. This was an unweighted approach to forming a composite as no item counted more than any other (Statisticians. The researcher analyzed the result of the study based on income levels.89 4. The independent variable in this study was poverty and the variable of interest was moral development. participants with lower income levels were more assertive. the perpetrators of these crimes were aware their activities were wrong but continued anyway.was used in the analysis since it was more reliable than the individual scores of the chart.N100.64 4. (b) poor wages (X2). This means. Kohlberg emphasized. Each set was grouped as the data were entered. This item was a test of the understanding of morality of the sample population. On the other hand. 1. where N1 is the first th participant and N100 is the 100 participant.75 4.7 4. This was item eight on the PMDSI and this item scored 1.77 12 13 14 15 1.55 4.53.79 1. the higher the level of poverty indexes.20 1. X2.. the lower the level of moral development indexes. Kohlberg (1984) asserted that moral development progresses in stages. Raw scores from each questionnaires were entered into excel template with each participant labeled as participant N1.86 4.64 4.27 1.33 1.64.9 Participants on salary scale 8-15 4.79 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 4. the result of the lower wage earners shows a negative correlation between poverty and moral development. embezzlement. from youth to adulthood. the researcher found that employees with higher income levels agreed poor social services contributed to poverty with a composite score of 4. a multiple regression analysis is often important to determine the extent of relationships between these variables. DATA PROCESSING The data collected was analyzed.7 among low income participants and 1. and (c) poor social services (X3).62 1. The researcher found that there were no significant differences in the effect of poverty on moral development of both groups.. However.67 1. adults are supposed to know what is right from what is wrong.22 1.63 1. Comparing the result by income categories. 6.77 4. Table 3 below shows that data was grouped into 20 sets of five.86 1. In essence.33 among higher income participants. 6 . MULTIPLE REGRESSION ANALYSIS When the variable of interest (the dependent variable) is influenced by more than one independent variable.39 1. N2. Table 3.25 7. and X3 as follows: (a) Extended family dependency (X1).59 4. Hence. each participant at a time. Both poverty and moral development items were embedded in the Poverty and Moral Development Survey Instrument (PMDSI).57 1.67 4. Composite Scores by Income Level in Response to Poverty and Moral Development Items on PMDI PMDI Items Item 1 Participants on salary scale 1-7 4. The composite variables of moral development were designated as Y and the three variables of poverty were designated as X1.7 1. and financial crimes because they did not know that their actions were wrong.

was used to determine the regression relationship.56. Figure 2. the lower the level of moral development as illustrated below. it was -0. moral development on the powers of independent variables. a 3-variable multiple regression equation. ßο is the intercept before any responses. X². and ß3 represent intercepts for each of the independent variables being analyzed against moral development. Hence. the control variables of poverty were extended family (EF). According to the result. However. X. 7 . ß2.2859. X1. Subsequently the researcher found through data analysis that. This correlation matrix confirms the negative influence earlier predicted in the study between poverty and moral development.2309. All three variables showed that moral development was negatively influenced by poverty variables.186.1 Correlation analysis Statistical correlation between the dependent variable (Y) and independent variables (X1. This means. Moral Development composite was 1. the researcher found that the higher the composite figures for the dependent variables (X1. See Figure 3 below. poor wages. Y is the dependent variable (moral development).32 while Poverty items scored 4. Using the correlation matrix to plot a correlation graph. at the intercept of low wages (ß2). was -0. and X2 and the direction of influence on moral development (Y). LW and PS. below. it was 0. the researcher regressed the dependent variable. X2. Subsequently. the higher the level of poverty. the lower the composite figures for the Y variables. and poor social services respectively. moral development before intercept of poverty variables (ßο) was 3.471. and X3) are important in regression analysis since the variables are continuous rather than fixed and can be obtained by adopting a symmetric approach (Aczel & Sounderpandian. which are extended family dependency. ß1. the higher the rate of poverty. X2. a development that was above average.However. and X³ are the three variables of poverty. Variable Matrix Poverty (X) Extended Family (X1) Low Income (X2) Poor Social Services (X3) Moral Development (Y) 7. and at poor social services (ß3). EF. The researcher measured the linear relationship between poverty and moral development variables and found that both Y and X variables were well correlated. the lower the level of moral development. low wages (LW) and poor social services (PS). 2006). X2. at the intercept of extended family variable (ß1). and X3). Figure 2 below indicates all the three variables of poverty. Y= ßο + ß1X + ß2X²+ ß3X³ + €.

For poverty items. there are tendencies for the poor to depend on the working members of their extended family. Shehu. STUDY CONCLUSIONS With over 70% of sub-Sahara Africans living on an income of one U. Additionally. the researcher used the composite scores from the Likert chart and separated the scores for all variables of poverty from those of moral development. 2004). the overwhelming result was a confirmation of high poverty among the study population with an overall composite score of 4. 1999.Figure 3. 1976. the study findings supported other findings from literature review (Sardan. 2001. and (c) entrepreneurship is promoted by the government so that the citizens can benefit from improved economic activities. 2004. according to the result of this study. the lower the moral development of the study population. The study also found that there is correlation between poverty and moral judgment of individuals in Nigeria. White & Killick.1 Recommendation for Social Change The culture of the people is paramount to their system of living and government may not be able to change this inclination (Fakinlede. (b) government should strengthen its support for the judicial system so that perpetrators of fraud are caught and promptly prosecuted. The researcher therefore. extended family dependence would increase. Extended family dependency. In arriving at the above conclusion. Fakinlede & Banna.32 was the total composite score for moral development items.S. These efforts will lead to a generational change in moral judgment and this will curtain the level of corruption in Nigeria.56 for poverty items while 1. This means the higher the poverty level. Correlation Graph between Poverty (X) and Moral Development (Y) Y Moral Development 5 Correlation graph 4 3 2 1 X 0 1 2 3 4 5 Poverty 8. 2008). 8. Prosperity will be promoted through increased financial assistance while internalization of morality among the study population will begin to develop along the Kohlberg’s (1984) theory of moral development despite the existence of cultural influences on moral development (Durojaiye. Fern & Thorn. international communities are encouraged to increase financial assistance to Ifedore Local Government and to other parts of Nigeria in general. dollar per day. Shehu. recommends that: (a) government wages be revised to ensure an increase in employees’ salary since poor wages is a factor that will continue to entrench the cycle of poverty among the citizen. the researcher recommends that since the cycle of poverty is perpetuated involuntarily by victims of poverty. low wages. 2006. Hence. 2001) that when poverty is high. 8 . and poor social services were also reasons for high poverty according to the study results.

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