The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday 2nd March, 2021, made history by passing into law, the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria Bill, 2021 (SB.615), after it was read for the third Time. This act is a clear demonstration of the Senate’s patriotism and direct response, targeted at strengthening and re-invigorating national frontiers in the fight against corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabric of our nation. With the passage of this Bill, the 9th Senate, under the distinguished and able leadership of His Excellency, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, PhD, CON has shown clearly, its ardent resolve to carry out its legislative functions in line with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. And this also attests to the fact that the Senate is alive to the performance of its complementary role(s) with other arms of Government in the fight against corruption.
There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the unique features of a good Legislature, lies in its capacity to understand the dynamism of emerging developments in the globe and its forthrightness to be proactive in the law-making process by ensuring that this country does not lag behind in its quests good governance and in the fight against corruption. Obviously, we are not unmindful of the fact that crime, generally, has evolved over time, due to sophistication in the way and manner they are committed in this modern era, where unimaginable advancement in science and technology has taken the center stage. Therefore, the passage of this bill is a testament to the fact that the Nigerian Senate is in touch with the realities of our time and conversant with legislative tenets and principles of making laws that seek to address salient issues, which are germane to the socio-economic development of this country. This, of course, is the quintessential hallmark of a legislature per excellence that is resilient, astute, courageous and responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry.
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Forensic Science, as we all know, is a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted aspect of science, whose scope and ambit of operation, revolves around many disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering for evidence analysis, which is helpful and applied in criminal and civil laws that are enforced by law enforcement agencies, in a criminal justice system. There is no doubt, that there is an upsurge in the crime rate in this country and in spite of interventionist measures put in place by the government to salvage the situation, the resultant effect has been a state of despair and hopelessness because of the sophistication in terms of how such crimes are perpetrated. However, it has been discovered that the missing link in the fight against corruption in the country, is traceable to the absence of forensic evidence in the Nigerian criminal justice system. This seeming lacuna, apparently, has rendered our justice system ineffective. As such, the country has witnessed a myriad of unresolved high profile cases of fraud and corrupt practices, which have been swept under the carpet or thrown-out in the past, due to the absence of evidence to prosecute such cases. This is also the reason why in a bureaucratic organization or government circle, even when fraud experts perceive corruption, it is often difficult for them to deal with it. Nevertheless, the introduction of forensic investigation, which is the underlying principle behind the establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria, is intended to bridge the gap and provide the needed platform to carry out such investigations with ease and give impetus to the fight against corruption. This is because forensic science has evolved over time, due to the dynamic nature of knowledge and skills acquisition, which can be technically applied to detect, identify and prosecute offenders of financial crimes and other fraud-related issues, as against the orthodox practices, which has constrained robust investigations, over the years.
It is common knowledge that corruption, both at the local and international level has reached its highest crescendo and has been at the front burner of public discourse for a long time in this country. Virtually, in every sector of the nation’s economy, corruption has permeated to an unimaginable proportion and this has given rise to poor public policy, bad governance, misappropriation of public resources, which has impaired the development of the public and private sectors of the economy. This accounts for the reason why Nigeria has consistently been rated by Transparency International (TI) among the most corrupt nations in the world. Therefore, as patriotic citizens of this country, there is something we must do to change this negative connotation about our beloved country, and part of that effort is the introduction of our Institute, which the Senate in its wisdom has recognized and gave it an accelerated passage in order to reposition the nation’s anti-corruption drive, for effectiveness and efficiency.
Furthermore, it is apposite to state that the forensic profession is a very wide and all-encompassing field of profession that requires proper regulation and a high level of professionalism, as its activities cut across every facet of human endeavours. The field includes and not limited to the following: forensic toxicology; forensic investigation; forensic auditing; digital forensics and cybercrimes, forensic autopsy; forensic law; forensic accounting; forensic nursing; forensic pathology; forensic engineering; forensic psychology; forensic DNA analysis; forensic anthropology; forensic linguistics; forensic deontology; forensic dentistry; forensic archaeology; forensic graphology, forensic entomology, forensic science, etc. From the broad spectrum of this profession, it is therefore imperative for it to have a regulatory body because its relevance to humanity and the economic well-being of any nation, is sacrosanct and a step in the right direction.
It is trite to also state that the relevance of forensic investigation in the modern world, cannot be over-emphasized. That is why it is important for Nigeria, to, as a matter of urgency and priority embrace this global phenomenon in its quests to overcome the challenges of massive fraud corruption and cybercrimes, which has deprived the nation of development in spite of the abundance of resources at the disposal of the country to bring out positive change both in infrastructure and human capital development. The initiative behind the proposed Bill is the realization that even though anti-corruption agencies have been established and numerous civil service reforms and laws to fight corruption have put in place by the government, they have been rendered as a toothless bulldog, which can only bark but incapable to bite because their operations, has, to a certain degree, been limited due to the archaic nature of carrying out an investigation. Hence, the need for a profession like ours, imbued with the high level of competence to proffer solutions to the menace of fraud and corruption in Nigeria, to be backed with the required legislative/legal framework to carry out this herculean task. This is in recognition of the fact that forensic science is one of the most important archetypes of any criminal investigation, as it allows the relevant authorities to do everything to identify a suspect in a crime and to determine exactly when and how a crime occurred, through the analysis of physical evidence in line with scientific innovations to bring about results that can be used in the court of law to support evidence admitted at trial.
To further appreciate the relevance of what the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria is all about, it is important to note that the Institute has developed unique concepts on how to train professionals in the field of forensic investigations and other related matters, with particular focus on how to contribute to the generation of evidence in crime detection prevention, investigation and provision of evidence for courts, by relying information, extracted from physical traces, through searching, scrutinizing and testing in order to come about pieces of information that can bring about significant contribution to the various dimensions or phases of criminal inquiry. This is so because forensic investigations are influenced by deferential dimensions of knowledge, available in physical, immediate, and criminal environments, considering the distinct phases of criminal activities.
Undoubtedly, the institutionalization of law reform, as a tool for societal growth and development, is one of the cardinal policies of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCON. This is so because the anti-corruption drive of this administration imposes on the Legislature, the onerous tasks of carrying out reforms in our obsolete and spent laws, as well as enactment of new laws in order to ensure the realization of Government’s intentions in every facet of our national lives. Accordingly, the passage of CIFIPN Bill has shown clearly that the Nigerian Senate is aligned and totally committed to the agenda of the current administration, in its attempts to stem the tide of corruption, fraud and cyber-crimes in Nigeria.
We are hopeful that just like the Senate, the House of Representatives, which is also made up of competent leadership and members with high intellect and drive for development, would likewise fast-track the legislative processes of passing this Bill which is currently in the committee of the whole waiting for final consideration, in order for it to be assented to, by Mr President for effective implementation of its laudable objectives and purports, as stipulated in its provisions. We believe in the ability of the House of Representatives not to allow itself to be deceived or coerced by some individuals, group of individuals or other existing professional bodies, who have sworn to truncate this noble legislative process, due to their selfish, self-serving and parochial interests, borne out of the fact that they are unamenable to rationale reasoning and evolution of global dynamics in forensic investigations, as a panacea for handling criminal investigations in the 21st Century. It is instructive to note that one of the reasons why the Senate passed this Bill expeditiously, was not unconnected with its laudable objectives and relevance to the anti-corruption drive of this administration. For the avoidance of doubt, some of the objectives of the Bill, are highlighted hereunder, for the purpose of clarity and for the House of Representatives to see the need why it should toe the line of its counterpart, the Senate, by giving this Bill expedited and speedy passage into law. Some of the objectives of the Bill are follows:
1.To establish a Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals in Nigeria in order to develop and train Professionals in this specialized field, through systemic and professional examination and certification that will enhance the acquisition of the requisite skills in the use of science and technology for fraud detection, investigation and prevention;
2.To provide a platform for training and re-training of intending professionals in the usage of Forensic Science and technological tools and techniques in the investigation of frauds in both public and private sectors of our economy, in line with international best practices;
3.To promote high professional standards, ethics and etiquettes amongst practitioners in the field, in a bid to stem fraudulent and corruption practices, and as well develop a mechanism for fraud prevention, as a proactive measure against fraud and corruption generally;
4.To fill the existing huge vacuum in our archaic and conventional system of investigation with the introduction of a unique operation of forensic science to help the country from expending its scarce foreign exchange to hire foreign expatriates to do forensic investigations in Nigeria;
5.To develop a broad-based mechanism and training programmes that cut across all the strata of our investigation architecture, involving professionals such as Lawyers, Criminologists, Security Experts, Judicial Officers, Court Registrars, and Economists. This would enhance effective and efficient disposition of cases in line with global best practices; and
6.To enhance Nigeria’s anti-fraud mechanisms, through the provision of a legal framework for the professional development and discipline of forensic and investigative professionals in Nigeria, among others.
From the aforementioned objectives, it is abundantly clear as to why the Senate fast-tracked the legislative process of passing this Bill. This is one piece of legislative proposal that is all-inclusive and all-encompassing, as far as forensic investigations, are concerned. On this note, we wholeheartedly join our hands together with all well-meaning Nigerians to commend and at this time, appreciate the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for brazing the trail and for showing the right direction to follow, in the national efforts to curb the ever-increasing menace of criminality and corruption, which have been further exacerbated by the current harsh economic realities that Nigeria, and indeed, the rest of the world have been subjected to, in recent times.
Finally, we wish to specially acknowledge the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Ph.D, CON for his overwhelming and unalloyed support, right from the introduction of this Bill to its passage. We also acknowledge the unwavering support of the Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi A. Yahaya, who graciously sponsored the Bill. Our appreciation is also extended to the entire Senate leadership and all the distinguished Senators of the 9th Senate. Indeed, posterity will remember the 9th Senate for this noble gesture and for listening to the voice of reason by discountenancing few dissenting voices, who employed all manner of gimmicks to stall the passage of this Bill. It is worthy of note that those group of people are just mischievous, because they are afraid of forensic due to the fact that they have enjoyed proceeds of fraud and corruption for decades, and would like to use everything at their disposal to stop this noble and credible work done by the 9th Senate. The truth of the matter is that, their agitations through any means are baseless, because NO professional body can claim forensic profession in Nigeria as it is right now. CIFIPN Bill has been on since 2017 and by the grace of God, it shall become an Act in Nigeria in no distance time. Introduction of two new forensic Bills in both two Chambers of National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) by these same people immediately after the passage of CIFIPN Bill is just a confusion of the highest order, to discredit the credible job done by the Nigerian Senate and also to dissuade the House of Representatives from completing the good work they started in March 2020. It is rather unfortunate for such things coming from enlightened people at this 21st century, when people are expected to be acquainted with the global trends. May God almighty continue to bless and empower the Senate and House of Representatives to discharge its constitutional functions without fear or favor in the overall interest of the country (Amen!).
Dr (Mrs) Enape Victoria Ayishetu,PhD,FCFP,FCNA,FCTI,FCFA,FCPA,CFE,MNIM,CPFA
Pro-tem President, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria(CIFIPN)