Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

An Evaluation of the Challenges of Forensic Investigation and Unsolved Murders in Nigeria

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

An Evaluation of the Challenges of Forensic Investigation and Unsolved Murders in Nigeria

Article excerpt


The work attempts to evaluate the challenges facing forensic investigation capacity of the police and other internal security agencies in Nigeria in the face of high prevalence of unsolved murders in Nigeria in the past three decades. In carrying out this research both primary and secondary data were employed to add to the scientific fervour of the work. Consequently, the work discovered that poor/lack of forensic skills and equipment negatively impacts on the forensic investigation capacity of the police and other security agents. These impediments tend to further complicate the mystery of unsolved murders in a nation where even high profile politicians have been assassinated without any forensic clue. The study therefore advocates that forensic experts in the country needs to improve on their skills and acquire equipment that will enhance the cracking of unsolved murder cases and improve public safety in Nigeria.

Key Words: Forensic Investigation, Unsolved Murders, Nigeria, Police, Security.


The foundation of all forensic investigation is based on the ability of the crime scene investigator therefore is to recognize the potential and importance of physical evidence, large and small, at the crime scene (miller et al 2000). One of the guiding principles in forensic science as postulated by Edmond Locard, an authority in the field of forensic science is that every contact leaves a trace; these traces are usually the physical, biological or trace evidence collected from a crime scene for onward transmission to the laboratory for scientific examination.

Physical evidence refers to any item that comes from a non living origin. The most important kinds of physical evidence are finger prints, fire marks, footprints, fibres, paint and building materials etc. Biological evidence always originates from a living being. It includes blood stains and DNA. Trace evidence found in minute quantities and examples are textile fibres, hair stands also form part of the trace elements. Typically, trace evidence are invisible to the naked eye and are collected by brushing or vacuuming a suspect surface. Since crimes are unique, a victim of crime is also a crime scene. The result of the scientific examination usually links the suspect(s), victim and the crime together, thereby making the identification of the suspect possible with or without eye-witnesses. Hence forensic evidence is sometimes referred to as the "silent witness" (Onashile, 2009).

All over the world, there are cases of unsolved murders. According to Associated Press (2011), Rio de Janeiro's public defenders' department says the Brazilian state has accumulated more than 60,000 unsolved murders in the last 10 years. The department investigated the matter for the federal Ministry of Justice as part of a national plan to improve public safety. The survey shows that 24,000 of the victims haven't even been identified. The creation of a special homicide division in the city of Rio de Janeiro did little to improve the solution rate as murders went from 11 percent to 14 percent. Across Brazil, police solved about 8 percent of murders. In the United States and in European countries the rates are reportedly around 70 percent to 80 percent. This seemingly embarrassing criminal justice conundrum continue to hunt all nations of the world and for the developing nations, these challenges are quite daunting.

I n Nigeria, over the years, experts have linked the many cases unsolved murders that dot Nigeria criminal justice system to absence of forensic evidence. This forensic gap has rendered justice quite ineffective. Every time someone, is murdered, Nigerians are told that the president and commander -- in -- chief of the armed forces has ordered the inspector -- General of police to fish out the killers. But to the long suffering of citizens, such a statement means nothing. They do not amount to anything because they know nobody will be fished out many know nothing will happen going by the high number of murders, especially political, they have gone unresolved in the nation for almost 30 years ( Oladele, 2006). …

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