Effective Investigations, A Pivot to Efficient Criminal Justice Administration: Challenges in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper identifies the connection between effective criminal investigations and the efficiency of criminal justice administration in Nigeria. It further examines the challenges of criminal investigations and concludes with suggestions for improving criminal investigative activities. Eight challenges of criminal investigations were identified and examined. These challenges are: the low crime reporting culture of the public, paucity of police funding, corruption, inadequate training of police officers in criminal investigations, delayed duplication of investigation case files, missing investigation case files, lack of forensic science facilities and experts; and poor public records keeping. The suggestions proffered for improving criminal investigation activities focus on these eight examined challenges and they cut across issues of funding, legislation, policy change, structural reform, personnel training and intervention by non-governmental organisations as well as other stakeholders.

Introduction

A lot has been said and written about criminal justice administration in Nigeria, its challenges and the injustices of its machinery. However, the predominant focus has been directed towards issues of prison congestion, capital punishment, police brutality and the awaiting trial inmates phenomenon, who though are not convicted persons, but as at 2006 accounted for about 65% of the number of persons incarcerated in Nigeria?s prisons. 1

It is trite that the pivot of the criminal justice system is crime detection and investigation, which serves as the pivot of every criminal case. This is especially so in an adversarial system of criminal justice like that which is in operation in Nigeria. In an adversarial system of justice, it is the duty of the accuser referred to as the prosecutor, to ensure that all pieces of evidence which are legally required to prove the charge against the defendant have been collected and collated through investigation and is ready for presentation before the court, for the determination of the defendant?s guilt or innocence.

Criminal investigation is so important to the entire criminal justice system that its absence, tardy or shoddy execution may lead to delay in the administration of justice, the victimisation of innocent citizens and escape of offenders from paying for their misdeeds and being reformed. In 2006, Chief Bayo Ojo, the then Attorney-General of the Federation stated that 17.1% of prison inmates in Nigeria were awaiting trial because investigations into the allegations levelled against them were yet to be completed, 3.7% were incarcerated perpetually by default because their investigation case files could not be found, while 7.8% of the inmates. trials were stalled because of the absence in court, of police investigators and other witnesses whose attendance is the duty of the investigators to procure.2 As at April 2010, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Emmanuel Iheanacho was reported to have stated, that of the total population of 46,000 inmates in Nigerian prisons, over 30, 000 (65.2%) of them were awaiting trial for several reasons.3 These 2010 figures clearly mirror those of 2006 and show that the situation has not changed.

The word .investigate. defined in the legal context means ¡°[t]o follow up step by step by patient inquiry or observation. To trace or track; to search into; to examine and inquire into with care and accuracy; to find out by careful inquisition; examination; the taking of evidence; a legal inquiry.¡±4 From the foregoing definition, the process of criminal investigation will include the search and inquiry into criminal allegations and the collection of evidence. The relationship between criminal investigations and criminal justice has been stated eloquently by Justice Kalgo of the Supreme Court when he opined that ¡°[t]here is no doubt that in all criminal allegations, investigation plays an important part and it will make or mar subsequent criminal proceedings. …