By Etop Ekanem
Improved forensic expertise, the establishment of modern laboratories and collaboration to set up a Pan-Nigeria industry body for standardization of forensic practice were some of the highlights at a thought leadership workshop between forensic experts and private security companies hosted by Academy Halogen, the educational arm of the leading security risk conglomerate -Halogen Group.
Stakeholders who include forensic analysts from the Nigerian Police, forensic scientists, Linguistic forensic specialists, journalists, private security practitioners and members of the public unanimously agreed that forensic science is germane to resolving crimes through thorough investigation to determine tough issues such as causes of death, suspect’s identification, finding missing persons and criminal profiling etcetera.
Speaking at the workshop, Dr. Wale Adeagbo, Chief Operating Officer of Academy Halogen noted that “This workshop is part of the Academy’s thought leadership and policy advocacy aimed at tackling major hiccups usually encountered in the value chain of enterprise security risk especially those affecting forensic practice in Nigeria. This platform provides a unique atmosphere to explore how the private security industry can drive capacity building in the area of forensic science to better leverage emerging opportunities in forensic practice side by side with how government policies impact on the practice in Nigeria”.
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Ms. Avril Eyewu Edero, a forensic scientist and a panelist at the workshop said “more than any other time, there is a need for robust private security industry collaboration with the government and other stakeholders to take forensic practice to a world-class level in Nigeria. She explained that we now have a growing population of citizens, who are aware of the importance of forensic investigations and they are willing to pay for such analysis”
Avril challenged private security companies and organizations like Academy Halogen to explore possibilities of investing in putting up a befitting forensic laboratory in the country. “Nigerian citizens are becoming very aware of forensic services, people are demanding for forensics analysis and a lot of them are ready to pay for the services. This is an area private security industry can take advantage of. They can build their forensic laboratory, get people properly trained and people will pay for it”.
Force forensic expert, Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Mr. Samuel Odey commended Academy Halogen for igniting issues and perspectives on the practice of forensic in Nigeria. He called for stakeholder education on forensic practice, noting that crime scene investigation is an important aspect of forensic analysis. “Crime scene investigation is a vital part of forensic investigations. On a single crime scene, you will be able to see 20 different pieces of evidence, and these twenty evidence may require different experts to analyze them. For instance, question document, digital evidence, pathological evidence and a whole lot of other evidence. At all times, the scene must remain uncontaminated for proper analysis”.
Dr. Demola Lewis, an Academic and a linguistic forensic expert had earlier corroborated the need for concerted efforts between the private security industry and forensic practitioners to drive standards in the Nigerian forensic sciences sector. He noted that “forensic practice is beyond using science alone to solve crimes. It involves chemistry, physics, psychology and more. We need more collaboration to upgrade the practice to an enviable level”.
Speaking on the place of the judiciary in the application of forensic evidence to obtain justice, Mrs ‘Tomi Ajayi a legal practitioner and researcher, said there are so many factors that must be in place for forensic evidence to be acceptable in court. “Forensic evidence must come with common sense, it must be presented in simple and clear language, it must be error-free, and there must not be conflicting medical opinion amongst many other vital points”.
In her closing remark at the workshop, Mrs. Nellie Onwuchekwa, a risk assessment and background check expert advocated for collaboration between lawyers and the police in the administration of forensic evidence in court. “I think lawyers should brace up to learn more about forensics, they need to have more collaboration with police forensics. This, is for us to have appropriate criminal justice results”
Stakeholders unanimously encouraged Academy Halogen to champion the birth of a reliable umbrella regulatory body for forensic practice in Nigeria.