A forensic technical working group facilitated by National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), on Wednesday in Abuja brainstormed on how to develop a standardised legal framework for forensic practices in Nigeria.
The group comprised co-stakeholders from the Judiciary, STI Ministry, the Police, NDLEA, NEMA, NAPTIP, other law enforcement agencies, Medical and Dental Council, foreign experts and representatives of various organisations.
The crew is also responsible for developing a framework for national Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) database that iss comprehensive and cost effective to address gaps Nigeria faces in areas of security and medico-legal issues among others.
Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of NABDA, underscored the importance and urgency of developing a robust standard forensic database that would regulate and enable institutions of government to perform at optimal level.
The D-G, who was represented by Dr Bartholomew Ibeh, Director, Medical Biotechnology Department, emphasised on the importance of a standardised forensic science practice in Nigeria.
Mustapha said:“It is very important in terms of security issues, serial offenders, rape cases and sexual molestations, cases relating to accident victims, missing persons, immigration as well as tracking of terrorists among others.’’
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria at the close of the workshop, Mustapha expressed optimism that Nigerians would begin to see the standardization of forensic science in the country.
He said: ”Nigerians would also witness how the DNA databank and other forensic data banks are built, the standards and patterns to be followed in administering forensic evidence in court.”
Mustapha assured that this would help to empower government institutions that had the mandate of discharging their responsibilities in areas relating to forensic science especially DNA.
He listed institutions such as the Police, Immigration, NDLEA, and the judiciary, among others, as where most of these issues ended up.
Mustapha said the agency was not only a facilitator, but it provided the expertise that was driving the process for Nigeria.
He said the agency had a forensic DNA laboratory which would enable scientists in the field to practice and lead to the country having a standardised forensic reference laboratory for investigations.
Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, Chairman of the Forensic Technical Working Committee, told NAN that forensic science was a variegated and diffused field which found applicability in various sectors of national life.
The chairman said various institutions of government were working with DNA to solve numerous issues relating to health, investigations of crimes and deaths, among others.
He, however, added that the activities of forensic institutions in the country needed proper coordination, regulation and a standard procedure for optimal performance.
Agbonlahor said consequent upon the constitution of a National Forensic Working Group (NFWG), the maiden edition of the workshop was held in 2019, but COVID-19 only gave room for virtual meetings.
“The workshop help to push the idea of ensuring that a bill would eventually emanate for the control, coordination and regulation of forensic activities across the nation.
“The only way to do that is to have a working committee to midwife the process and that is essentially why we are here.
“We are looking at a neutral body to regulate and coordinate the activities of these various institutions, departments and others whose activities have to do with forensic science,’’ Agbonlahor said.
He said the standard approach should be in tandem with international best practices and that Nigeria needed these standardised forensic procedures.
Dr Patrick Oyong, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice said though the field of forensics was not as old as other fields and resource persons were few, but that it was forensics significant.
He said there was need for a forensic bill to be transmitted into law through the National Assembly, adding: “They have started working on it and we will continue to engage other stakeholders on it.
“ We have also gone further by setting up relevant committees that would work towards that and we do not need to fold our hands because we know government is quite appreciative of this.
“It is our responsibility individually and collectively to put all hands on deck to ensure that our intention of this development becomes a reality.”
Dr Tijjani Mandaka of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria(MDCN), stated that forensic science would play a strategic role for Doctors and medical personnel especially in rape cases.
“With forensic science, criminals will not be set free, criminals are set free due to lack of evidences,’’ Mandaka said.(NAN)