Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the current gap existing between ethics theorization and enforcement in the Nigerian leadership system. Design/methodology/approach – In an attempt to achieve the objective of the paper, some ethical issues in the Nigerian governance and the several regulatory and enforcement agencies set up to curb ethical menace were critically examined. The achievements of the bodies were also evaluated. Findings – The paper concludes that the apparent gap which continues to exist is not a function of ethical definition but results from challenges in the enforcement which are thematically grouped under leadership, societal and individual variables. Research limitations/implications – The analysis suggests that bridging the ethical gap in Nigeria depends largely on leadership which must be by example. Originality/value – This paper presents an invaluable challenge to leadership in Nigeria who must reposition their responsibility.