Setting up a Forensic Laboratory in Nigeria: What we need to know

By Avril Eyewu-Edero

Every time there is a major crime incident in Nigeria, people ask the question, why are we not using forensics to solve this crime instead of the mainly circumstantial evidence we use, the lack of it as continue to lead to cases stalling, wrong people getting convicted and the guilty party walking free and causing more problems to the society.

There are many possibilities with forensics in Nigeria, as most criminals are not sophisticated in their methods of committing crimes, and with a fully functional forensic laboratory readily available around the country, a database, the manpower, the law, and required training, there would be a better approach to investigation and convictions/acquittals.

A fully functional crime laboratory can offer services in DNA analysis, Fingerprint analysis, document examination, ballistics, toxicology, photography, digital, and other forensic analysis to analyze crime scene evidence by comparing crime scene samples to suspect or victim samples.

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Setting up a forensic laboratory is not a cheap venture, but the reward of justice far outweighs the cost in a long term.


Now let’s look at a typical scenario, imagine four people seen around a scene of a homicide and later arrested by the police on suspicions of being involved in a homicide. All the police have is a crime scene, a body, four suspects, and a gun found in the one suspect’s house upon search, what would they do?

With a functional forensic laboratory in place, the job becomes easier. Forensic ballistic analysis can be carried out by collecting the bullet from the victim and the gun found in the suspect’s house and comparing them for ballistic evidence. If it is the same gun that was used to kill the victim, every bullet from that gun would have the same unique markings, therefore there would be a match. This evidence would help the police place the gun at the scene of the incident, thereby narrowing down the suspect pool.

Further on, the fingernail clippings from the victim could be collected to check for viable DNA samples to test. In case there was a struggle between the victim and the suspect, the DNA of the suspect could be lodged in the victim’s fingernails. If an unknown profile was developed from the DNA of the suspect collected from the fingernail clippings, it can be compared on a database, if one exists.

Other DNA samples could be recovered from samples found in the scene and from the victim’s body.

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Also, the crime scene could be dusted for fingerprint and any prints found would be compared to those collected from the suspects, to place them at the scene of the incident, if they were present. Also, unknown fingerprints at the crime scene can be compared with the stored profile if a database exists.

Have you noticed how the case has become easier, just by introducing forensic analysis?

This evidence after analyses, can be presented in court to explain the circumstances of the case, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Forensic science really makes the investigative process less difficult.

To set up fully functional forensic laboratories in Nigeria, we need to have the willpower, understand the need for it and invest in it. We can have laboratories in the different geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The laboratory would also aid in the development of a criminal database.



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