Imagine a Nigeria where almost every rape case ends with conviction of the rapist.. Life imprisonment. Imagine we have a robust and state-of-the-art laboratory second to none in Africa and competes for quality and standard with others such as the FBI’s. Imagine a Nigeria where we would not have to depend on any nation for…
The post The Role Of Forensics And Scientific Research In Socio-Economic And National Security In Nigeria appeared first on Nigerian News from Leadership News.

National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno

Imagine a Nigeria where almost every rape case ends with conviction of the rapist.. Life imprisonment. Imagine we have a robust and state-of-the-art laboratory second to none in Africa and competes for quality and standard with others such as the FBI’s. Imagine a Nigeria where we would not have to depend on any nation for technological or scientific solutions (a bit far fetched, isn’t it?) -Imagine where we as a top 10 world economy, have the technological and scientific know how to develop solutions that are in high demand from nations across the globe-and we control who should have them or not. Imagine our dear country having robust biometric database systems that just a punch on the button will display a suspect’s bio data– where biological samples or trace evidence such as hair found at a crime scene is sufficient enough to pin down the perpetrators of crimes (that will be every crime investigator’s dream) – Imagine a Nigeria as a reference nation and country of interest by foreign students and academicians for different scientific and technological disciplines-bringing in cold hard cash with it. What stops us from getting there?
Why is it difficult to achieve convictions on rape cases in Nigeria? How many in this country know that it is possible to identify a person through his handwriting pattern in cases of forged documents –no matter how hard he tries to disguise it? How many Nigerians know that vehicles are arguably the best sources of forensic evidences (palynogical evidence in this case) that can lead to the location of kidnapping and armed robbery hideouts? How much have insurance companies lost due to false claims given by the claimants, and because there is a limit to how much investigation (without forensics) can go, these claims have to be paid? How sure are we that those supposedly suicide or accident cases are really accidents? The fire service puts out hundreds of fires every year, but how many have been investigated and really proven to be just accidents? To what extent do our law enforcement agents know about the basic principles of crime scene management: such as protecting the integrity of the crime scene to avoid contamination of evidence? What about chain-of-custody of forensic evidence, proper packaging and storage? What level of awareness do lawyers in Nigeria have about expert witness and the important role they play in determining whether a suspect is gulity or not; if there are, how many of them have really grasp the importance of forensics and actually apply them? Many cases won or lost could have had a different outcome had forensics been involved. Don’t you think a change is needed so that our Justice system can be strengthened and more reliable? Should we call it a “judicio-forensic” (first time that i’m seeing this word too ) revolution?

That is basically the essence. Convicting the guilty and exonerating the innocent. That is what forensics is all about. We have been missing alot. In some parts of the world were forensics have been given priority, crime cases involving burglary, rape and drugs peddling don’t take time to prosecute and brought to a logical conclusion. I have seen a case in this country where a man suspected of stealing ‘amala’ from a food vendor (“mama put”) spend 10 months in jail without trial. No one is proud of that. No one!

We need to know what we are missing so that we can begin to align ourselves with the right policies and priorities. This post will focus on the role that applied research can play in issues like national security and development.

National Security
The CIA is to intelligence as FBI is to investigation. Take away these two components off a nation’s security operation, tell me how effective that system will endure threats and assaults and i will tell you how vulnerable and exposed that nation is. The FBI crime laboratory at Virginia, USA is arguably the best in the world. The Lab has many sections dealing with several disciplines such as Lingusitics, Ballistics, Chemistry, Biology, Fingerprints, DNA and Trace Evidence Analysis among others. Audio recordings of intercepted local and international phone calls(involving several languages), encrypted texts from emails and mobile messages, fingerprints of suspected terrorists and wanted criminals, including their DNA – are all analyzed in this enviable crime lab. Do you know that almost all states police departments in the US if not all have their own well-equipped crime labs? And all of them work in synergy. These specialized forensic disciplines handle evidences and cases that require a high level scientific approach to reveal their nature of the threat or hidden intent. Beside upholding and enforcing of the criminal laws, the FBI’s primary mission is “to protect and defend the US against terrorist and foreign intelligence”… And research-scientific research is a major tool that they have engaged to help them achieve their mission.
The question is, do our security agencies involve scientific research in their quest for intelligence and investigations? The Nigerian security forces are doing great in the war against terrorism. They must be commended for that. Do you know that it is possible to trace the manufacturer of guns handled by these terrorists by using forensic ballistics analysis, which could help trace the both the manufacturers and dealers of those weapons? I’m very sure Boko Haram members do not use made-in-Aba guns else, we would have wiped them out a long time ago. The sophistication of their weaponry is amazing. You wonder where they get them from -even though we know they stole from our arsenal.

Trace evidence analysis is one sure forensic discipline that employs the use of microscopic methods to classify and identify their origin of minute material evidence. Bomb blast materials can be analyzed for pollen grains and spores which will reveal likely locations and hideouts of these terrorists. The same principle goes for kidnap and armed robbery cases involving vehicles. New Zealand has been successful in the application of forensic palynology which has aided in criminal cases such as rape, theft, verifying of alibis, kidnapping and homicide.

Forensic psychologists can dig out the motivations behind these suicide bombers. How does a fifteen year old girl become a suicide bomber? It doesn’t just happen. The same technique can be used to study the modus operandi of terrorists. The Israeli Defense Force uses this method and it has helped them to understand what really drives a young boy or girl into becoming a extremist to the extent of taking their lives-to what end?

For a network to effectively operate, they must communicate. It could be conventional or unconventional. Osama Bin Laden didn’t trust the use of phones or any electronic gadget because he was well aware of the capability of US intelligence in using it against him. He instead opted for a non-conventional method of communication that could not be detected by electronics. But in the light of what has happened in this country, the terrorists have used mobile phones to communicate. Monitoring and Intercepting these conversations and decrypting them to reveal the information can prove useful in the fight against terrorism. Forensic Linguistics is a forensic discipline will prove extremely useful in this case because it employs the study of idiolets, individualistic traits that a person cannot hide in either spoken or written language.

Importance of research in the development of forensics.
For instance, if the Nigerian government funds an agency. This agency pools scientists and experts to undertake a research work and develops a technology that is first of its kind in the world. Nigeria uses this technology to solve a problem – a world problem. Now its our technology-our solution. A solution that the UK, US, Europe and the rest need. I don’t think we would give it out for free. Would we? That is what happens when we buy petrol from foreign refineries. Its hard cash that petroleum marketers pump into that country’s economy. -In dollars, of course. Do we remember some time back when it was difficult for us to purchase much needed arms forur military? We had the money readily available, but the seller wasn’t disposed to sell. Why? Forget the politics. We had to meet the conditions set before we could buy what we needed -even with money in our hands! When a country prioritizes the development of its scientific and technological capacity, economic power becomes a handy tool.

We can afford to dictate who we sell our technologies to and who we do not. Its our patent. Our national ‘thing’. We are not the first to want that and won’t be the last. Do you know that the US military has its Defense Advance Research Program Agency(DARPA)? You find scientists, experts… researching on technological products, exclusive only for the US Defense’s use. On their site you find this quote “creating breakthrough technologies for National Security“. Remove “nuclear capability” from North Korea or Iran and see what you have.

The FBI has a special Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit(CFSRU). This unit is tasked with three main goals: the development of new (forensic) capabilities, improvements to existing capabilities and the defesnsibility of current and future capabilities. And who are the members of this unit? Research scientists, program managers, technical and administrative staff. They even have a “Visiting Scientist Program” that involves inviting of highly qualified scientists from outside institutions to complement staff scientists and assist in performing duties consistent with the mission and goals of the FBI.
It is important for us to know that it is a cycle. Government funds research. Research helps the government. More broadly, government fund MDA’s with specific targets or mission to accomplish based on its deficiencies or problems. These agencies empower scientists and experts (with much needed funds) and task them with the responsibility to somehow, come up with solutions that are in the line with their missions and goals. These brain-tanks develop the needed solutions and hand handover to MDAs and to government. The government uses these solutions to help the country. Viola! (Government-Agencies-Researchers-Solutions-Government). Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return with dividends after many days. Who benefits? Everybody -the researchers deepen their knowledge of the subject matter, the government gets the solutions it wants! Everything -the academic research system, the populace.

The keyword is research. Research all through. Research on what? Biometrics, fingerprints, chemical, biological operational response, digital, electronics.. Name it. Recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Ms Linda Thomas-Greenfield when speaking to US House of Rep members on the U.S. strategy to counter Boko Haram said that “we need academics to help us understand the underlying conditions that led to Boko Haram. We need think-tanks to identify creative solutions”. Nigeria needs to invest its resources in curiosity-driven, competitively awarded basic research. Both government and the private sector have to be fully involved because industry benefits from the research and they make their mass production. Do you know that the US federal government supports 60 percent of the research performed at universities?. According to the American Association of Universities (AAU), “U.S. Colleges and universities perform just 13 percent of total national research and development (R&D) funded by government and the private sector”, but they also “perform 56 percent of the nation’s basic research, an element critical to the success of the overall enterprise. Basic research creates the building blocks of future products and processes” which our institutions to the best of my knowledge are not doing badly. Focus should also be on applied research that is aimed at gaining the knowledge or understanding to meet a specific, recognized need. It is “this fusion of education and cutting-edge research that has been the unique feature of the U.S. university research system” which has benefited the country immensely.

Applied research also leads to development which “ is the transformation of research findings or knowledge into plans for new or improved products or processes. This includes product design, testing, creation of prototypes, and pilot projects. The development includes not only civilian products and processes, but also national defense weapons and systems” according to the AAU.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded by the Department of Commerce. It is through NIST that the whole world gets its standard time from. They are responsible for developing standards for virtually everything called “matter” in the US –from building, engineering, electronics, computer chips, even the air we breathe. They define things and industry follows. Their site provides chemical and physical property data on over 40000 compounds. No wonder five scientists who worked with the institute were awarded the Nobel Prize – one in Chemistry and four in Physics! Just recently, President Obama proposed to increase their budget ($964 million 2016). The FBI operates under the Department of Justice. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is funded (DARPA) is funded by the Defense Department. These agencies’ are basically tasked to use science and technology to provide much needed answers to that will impact positively to both National and Economic Security in the US.

Even South Africa here seems to embrace forensics in their Justice system than we are. The use of ballistics evidence was crucial in the sentence given to Oscar Pistorius during his trial for his involvement in the murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Despite the controversies surrounding the defense’s ballistics expert witness, the ballistics evidence given by the police ballistician for the prosecution played a major role in Pistorius’ conviction. He even got promoted for it. South Africa even has more schools that are offering online courses in forensic disciplines. Many Nigerians desire to be educated there. Why? Is it that we don’t have what it takes to be No1 academically in Africa? The World rankings of the top institutions in Africa reveal 12 South African universities in first 30 according to Times Higher Education(THE). Only Uniport represented Nigeria at 6th position. Every dollar paid by Nigerians to those schools is a plus for their economy. Ghana is just nearby. How many Nigerian schools are in Africa’s top 20? Yet we are Africa’s biggest economy? Imagine when were we would be if Nigeria, where to enhance its technological and scientific capabilities -and exporting hard-sought finished products. Even the direction of dollar-flow will reverse. Can we get there?

So what do we do? Where should we go from here? How do we get there? The fundamental deciding factor in the success of Forensics in countries such as the UK and US is, Government’s will to making committed funding for research. It’s the will that is needed here. Once the government’s will is apparent, the private sector keys in. Did you know that some of these international institutes and research centers sometimes receive heavy funding from large corporations, private wealth individuals and large foundations?

For Nigeria to develop its research system that is result-oriented, developmental based and establish efficient laboratory systems that can compete among the world’s best, will require more than sheer intellectual talk or expert opinion. It will take a holistic approach by relevant stakeholders, including the government, academia and industry -and commitment to create policies that will prioritize solution-based and developmental research which will chart a new course for economic, social and national security. We have SON, NAFDAC, NDLEA, NAPRI, NISLT and many more. We need to empower these laboratories and turn them to research-based, result-oriented and industry-inclined centers! Our universities and polytechnics require such funding too. Forensic science cannot thrive in an environment that is scientifically-research redundndant. It is the principles of scientific analysis that forensic science is based on. When you combine the cycle of Observation-Trends-Hypothesis-Plan to that of Government (will, funds, policies) -Research-Solutions to work in synergy as two sides of a coin, your purchasing power is assured. No coin has only one side -even paper currencies have two sides.

Isaac Israel
Professional Masters Student,
Forensic Science, University of Ibadan
Blogs at

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