Echoes of Ezu River Police Massacre: How to end torture and extra-judicial killings in Nigeria (Part 1)

Posted by News Express | 26 July 2017 | 2,462 times

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The greatest challenge facing the criminal justice administration in Nigeria especially in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution management is the use or application of wrong methods, or processes and procedures of the Stone Age. Despite the fact that processes and procedures for criminal investigation and prosecution have gone scientific and been digitalized and mentally and forensically upgraded across the globe, the managers of Nigerian criminal justice administration including processors or investigators of criminal suspects have remained gravely backward, crude, stagnant, unmoved and unchanged. It must be stated clearly that the entry gate into Nigeria’s criminal justice including investigation and prosecution is the Nigeria Police Force.

Today, Nigeria is one of the leading countries in the world that still uses the crudest forms of criminal interrogation and investigation in the procession and prosecution of its criminal suspects. Nigeria’s criminal investigation and prosecution managers also recklessly resort to or make reckless use of criminal labelling or trumped up charges, and stigmatization as well as prosecutorial vindictiveness; whereby citizens are criminally labelled or slammed with bogus charges that are in no way near suspected offenses they were caught committing or about to commit leading to their arrest, detention, torture and grossly belated court arraignment; if survived from custodial torture.

Corruption, racial profiling (i.e. discrimination against an ethnic or racial group based on the presumption that all members of the group share criminal traits or tendencies), selective enforcement (i.e. arbitrary punishment of certain individuals or groups for legal violations or crimes, rather than the equal punishment of all known offenders); and commercialization of criminal justice and investigations also fuel policing intelligence and investigation incompetence and incapacitation in Nigeria; likewise crudity and stagnancy of the entire criminal justice system and administration in the country. Bail bribery and “mobilization” of criminal field investigators by “complainants” (whether their complaints are genuine or ill-conceived/ill-motivated) are also on rampage in Nigeria. When complained, he or she who “mobilizes” fatter whether he or she is the suspect or the complainant automatically influences the criminal investigation outcome or report.

The clear case in point is where citizens are unlawfully arrested on their way home from work or journey or in connection with civil debts or lawfully arrested for stealing or when they are to about to steal or  for involvement in common assault/affray; instead of charging them accordingly if in the eyes of the law, they have committed any of the said offenses; their captors turn around and charge them for “armed robbery” or “attempted murder” or “kidnapping”, among other phantom offences that attract capital punishments on judicial conviction; on the ground of their refusal or inability to offer huge amounts of money as “bail fees”..

Because sufficient pieces of triable and convictable evidence that can sustain such bogus charges in court are nonexistent or very difficult to come by, such citizens find themselves detained and tortured for several months before being arraigned in magistrate courts (if survived from torture) lacking jurisdiction for those bogus capital offence charges and subsequently remanded in prison custody to swell the rank or number of awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria.

In some, if not in many cases, such citizens die in custody while being tortured by their captors especially Police SARS operatives. These also explain why police prosecutors and lawyers loss 65% or more of their criminal prosecutions due to watery and improper criminal investigations and their reports. Owing to rampancy of these losses in the prosecution of criminal suspects in court particularly those arrested for offenses carrying capital and multi-year imprisonments, such suspects when freed judicially become more menacing and repeat offenders or returned violent crime offenders.   

There is also grave misuse, misapplication and mislabelling of the offenses of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping (abduction) and armed robbery in Nigeria. These categories of crime are commonly called or referred to as traditional or non political capital offenses or street capital offence crimes. There is also grave misuse, misapplication and mislabelling of political capital offenses of treason, treasonable felony and terrorism and terrorism financing; and non capital offenses of corruption particularly by the present central Government in Nigeria now headed in acting capacity by Professor Yemi Osinbajo; a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Through the said State actor grave misuse and misapplication (criminal labelling) of the named “first class” offenses, thousands of citizens are recklessly or indiscriminately accused, arrested, detained and tortured on daily basis; leading to either their death in custody or several months in detention without trial or administrative bail. It is credibly estimated that at least 250 Nigerians die in police custody every month and that since June 2015; a period of two years today, at least 5000 arrested and detained citizens have died in police custody across the country. Their death largely originates from criminal executions/killings and torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment while in custody.

Atrociously too, through the four traditional capital offenses especially those of armed robbery and kidnapping; combatively and investigatively managed by the Nigeria Police Force particularly its Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and Federal/State Criminal Investigations Departments (F/SCIDs), thousands of Nigerians are annually sent to their untimely graves outside the law or through torture, extra judicial, summary and arbitrary executions. That is to say that citizens circumstantially and prejudicially comprised of the bad, the ugly and the good who are all constitutionally and prejudicially presumed innocent are routinely arrested, detained incommunicado, tortured to death or shot and killed in custody after being criminally labelled, without court trial and conviction, of being “armed robbers” or “kidnappers”. 

It must be clearly stated that the authorities and personnel of the Nigeria Police Force are not alone in these unlicensed butcheries. As a matter of fact, the unlicensed butcheries are structurally and politically aided, condoned and abetted by Nigeria’s criminal justice administrators and political office holders or serving political class.

Till date, these core stakeholders in the country’s criminal justice system including States’ Attorneys General, the Attorney General of the Federation, the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force under the IGP, the Governors and the State Assemblies and the Presidency and the National Assemblies have failed woefully to upgrade and digitalize processes and procedures of criminal investigation and prosecution as well as putting in place or institutionalizing proactive, preventive and intelligence policing in Nigeria and its component units or States.

Apart from merely passing laws making offenses of kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism a capital offense, no efforts or concrete steps have been taken till date towards revolutionalizing or making criminal investigation and prosecution as well as proactive, preventive and intelligence policing in Nigeria and its components units or States scientifically revolutionalized or mentally rationalized and ICT driven.

In all the criminal and unconstitutional processes and procedures raised above leading to Police SARS unlicensed butcheries in Nigeria, Anambra State through the atrocious conducts of its Police SARS appears to be the worst hit. As we write, citizens arrested and detained by SARS and accused of “armed robbery” and “kidnapping” are all being gravely tortured with some, if not many dying in Police SARS custodies at Awkuzu (main custody) and its Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi (Central Police Stations) as well as Nneni, Okpoko, Ekwulobia, Ihiala, Umuchukwu and Ogidi annexes of the murderous police unit. These deaths result from varying torture methods including newly introduced “dry starvation” or total denial of water and food for weeks and perfect torture (ensuring no visible marks of torture in the bodies of its detained citizens but internally inflicted injuries including internal bleedings and blood seizure leading to death).

Reasons for this Special Investigation Report:

The issuance of the special report of ours by revisiting the Ezu River Police SARS killings of 19th January 2013 which we thoroughly investigated; follows increasing, shocking, saddening and alarming rate of torturing and killing of some, if not many of the arrested and detained citizens by the Anambra Police SARS operatives in the course of their so called “combating of violent crimes of armed robbery and kidnapping in the State”.

Instead of drastic reduction in the number of deaths and torture, Anambra Police SARS operatives have become deadlier and more menacing;  consolidating and concretizing their atrocious practices of custodial torture and killing through their theatre of butchery. The amount of torture and killing going on at Anambra Police SARS headquarters at Awkuzu and its annexes or unit locations in the State has risen to an apogee.

It is recalled that between 25 and 40 dead bodies or more were shockingly found floating on Ezu River located at Amansea part of Awka, the capital city of Anambra State in the early morning of 19th January 2013. The villagers who first saw the corpses raised a public alarm which instantly caught the attention of the world including the then Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of Anambra State as well as concerned non State actors such as our organization (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law), Amnesty International, UK and US based Human Rights Watch.

It is still on record, till date, that we are the only human rights organization that did a comprehensive open-source or non forensic science investigation into the Ezu River saga. We had in our report, titled: the Return of Anambra Killing Fields (1, 2 and 3), issued in January and February 2013 strongly indicted the Anambra Police SARS operatives of sole responsibility for the torture, killing and dumping of the slain corpses inside the Ezu River.

Therefore, our first reason for issuing this special report is to draw the attention and alert the entire world particularly the United Nations and its Human Rights Council, Amnesty Int’l, Human Rights Watch, World Organization Against Torture, and other rights groups and research bodies and institutions as well as the generality of Nigerians over the raging and untamed unlicensed butcheries and cruel and degrading treatments perpetrated by Anambra Police SARS operatives against detained citizens in their custodies; practices now being perpetrated with impunity or reckless abandon.

This special report of ours is also issued for the purpose of launching local, regional and international campaigns and mounting of extensive pressures on Nigeria’s governing and criminal justice authorities to put an end to the Stone Age practices and bring the country’s criminal justice especially criminal investigation and prosecution management into conformity with international best practices including ICT compliance and local and international human rights standards.

Our second reason for issuing this special report is to put the records straight as it concerns what actually transpired at Ezu River in the late night/early morning of 18th/19th January 2013. This is with respect to: who killed and dumped over 40 slain bodies inside the River, what killed them and what are the identities and native/social backgrounds of those killed.

This is to caution some groups and persons including  some serving political office holders in Anambra State and their socio-political antagonist and protagonist camps who with little or no investigative insight into the Ezu River butchery go about with reckless abandon playing politics with the dead and surviving (tortured) victims of the unlicensed butchery by way of proxy or direct politicization, propaganda and campaign of calumny; instead of stepping up efforts  to end such unlicensed butchery by Anambra Police SARS and ensure that those responsible for them are brought to justice and their dead and surviving victims adequately appeased and compensated.

Instead of transforming the Anambra Police SARS and its operatives into a state-of-art modern violent crimes control or processing outfit and human rights, mental and ICT driven; using their enormous political contacts, available public funds and constitutionally provided title of “chief security officers of their State”, etc; these serving political office holders and their  public relations handlers have resorted to playing to the gallery by mocking the dead and facilitating, aiding and abetting more torture and killings  by the murderous Anambra Police SARS outfit.

Our third reason for issuing this special report is to technically or expertly expose and educate Nigeria’s core stakeholders in criminal justice system and administration especially those manning criminal investigation and prosecution in the country including Anambra State. This special report apart from strongly calling for an end to and prohibition of the unlicensed butcheries and torture under complaint; also importantly provide technical or expert tips or modern ways of criminal investigation and prosecution all clothed with modern science of crime and ICT powered crime investigation and interrogation.

These methods are majorly composed of effective and efficient modern techniques for investigative interrogation and criminalistics and ICT powered toolkits for criminal investigation. The technical aids so availed are geared towards avoiding critique without solution or way-out approaches or attitudes in nowadays Nigeria’s social and rights advocacy campaigns. Provided at the end of this special investigation report are fourteen expert recommendations; which if judiciously implemented by Nigeria’s criminal justice administrators and public office holders will put an end to the unlicensed policing torture and custodial butcheries in Nigeria or any part thereof particularly Anambra State.

Turning Anambra State into Theatre of Butchery:

Anambra State of Nigeria has continued to earn local and international notoriety as a leading State in Nigeria with the highest number of deaths and wounding/assault occasioning grievous bodily harms, or torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; all perpetrated by its Police SARS against citizens that are non-violently arrested and taken into its custody on crooked or genuine accusation of involvement in violent crimes particularly those of kidnapping and armed robbery. A journey to Anambra Police SARS is a journey into tunnel of death or path of no return. Scores, if not hundreds of citizens have also fallen victim to Anambra Police SARS enforced disappearance (i.e. arresting citizens and taking them away without giving official accounts of their whereabouts or possible death in custody till date).

Anambra Police SARS operatives have been severally reported locally, regionally and internationally in the media and research documents and reports of arresting members of the public at will and killing them in custody at will. Shockingly, in spite of these well researched and documented reports, the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force at the Force Headquarters in Abuja and their subordinates at Umuahia Zonal and Awka State Commands have all turned blind eyes and continuously aided and abetted same.

As a matter of fact, these unlicensed butcheries have been escalated, exported and adopted as acceptable modus operandi by other Police SARS formations across Nigeria. In Anambra State, these atrocious and crude methods have been christened “Nwafor Formula” or “Nwafor modus operandi”; just as human rights groups and activists are commonly referred among Anambra SARS operatives as “petition writers for armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists”.

The Anambra Police SARS unlicensed butcheries date back to “operation Mkpochapu” or operation sweep of late 1990s during Nigeria’s military’s inglorious epoch. The unlicensed butcheries and torture continued and escalated in 2000s after the return of civil rule in Nigeria. The unlicensed butcheries continued to be used as modus operandi and shrouded in secrecy until November 2004 when the identities of 20 of the detainees who were brought out of their cells and shot dead at the then SARS headquarters located at Awka Central Police Station (CPS) were exposed courtesy of Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu of the Humane Justice Int’l, Nnewi.

Since then till date, the killing and torturing of custodial detainees by Anambra Police SARS operatives have continued and reached maddening, untamed and alarming proportions. Even after the Ezu River saga of 19th January 2013, Anambra Police SARS killings and torture have intensified and remained untamed till date.

The acts of torture and custodial, arbitrary, summary and extra judicial killings especially by Anambra Police SARS operatives have been so entrenched and intensified to the extent that the perpetrator police personnel especially SARS operatives know nothing in policing duties except killing at will or with reckless abandon; with those citizens who can afford huge amount of money as bribe being the lucky ones or survivors. Among various police formations in Nigeria including Anambra State, torture has become so official that there exists “OC/Torture” or “Officers in charge of torture” in most of the country’s 6651 Police formations.

Technical Section (1)

By extra judicial executions, they are defined as unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by policing agents by order of a government or with its complicity or acquiescence. By unlawful killings, they involve killings resulting from excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, which violate right to life guaranteed by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (S.33), the Int’l Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (Article 6.1) and the African Charter on Human & People’s Rights (Article 4) ratified and domesticated by Nigeria on 17th March 1983.

By enforced disappearance(s), it is a situation where a person or persons are arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of liberty by the authorities or their agents, or people acting with their authorization, support or acquiescence, but the authorities do not acknowledge this or conceal the abducted persons’ fate or whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law. These are provided in the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, signed and ratified by Nigeria on 27th July 2009.

By summary or arbitrary executions, they are executions in which persons are accused of a crime or crimes and immediately killed without benefit of a full and fair trial. By torture, it is any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

By global criminal and human rights law standards including Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and criminal laws, a criminal is anybody that has attained 18yrs of age who violates the criminal laws of a country or a defined political territory such as Nigeria, whether accused of breaching mala prohibita (crimes specifically defined so by specific country’s legislation such as cyber crime or pick pocket, tipping or extortion or bribery) or mala inse (crimes with universal uniformity and application such as armed robbery, asportation (abduction/hostage) or murder); and adjudges by a competent criminal court after going through due processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing. A child usually under 12 years, who is in conflict with the criminal law, is regarded by same as a delinquent and treated so under juvenile delinquency law.

In other words, any citizen arrested non-violently and taken into Police SARS custody and get killed by torture or starvation or any prejudicial or extra judicial means clearly amounts to a victim of extra judicial, arbitrary or summary execution/killing and torture; while unarmed and nonviolent citizens killed at the point of their arrest amount to victims of unlawful killings. Those arrested or abducted and taken to undisclosed locations with their whereabouts unknown to their families and lawyers are victims of enforced disappearances.

Under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, any person arrested and taken into police or policing custody on accusation of crime of whatever gravity is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is contained in Section 36 (5) of the Constitution. Citizens arrested and detained in police SARS custody are also exempted from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. This is contained in Section 34 (1) (a) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

Therefore, all forms of killings and maiming contrary to or in gross breaches of the above local and international due processes and laws are expressly referred as extra jus (beyond the law), extra legal (beyond what the written criminal law provides) and extra judicial (beyond court or judicial pronouncement or verdict). That is to say that any killing of human being by a State actor or official security operative, official or officer without the completeness of subjecting the slain citizen to the processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing by a criminal court of competent jurisdiction inexcusably amounts to extra jus, extra legal  and extra judicial killing.

Any such killing by a private individual amounts to murder or manslaughter depending on the gravity of guilty mind or mens rea and other prevailing circumstances. Corporate bodies or bodies corporate through their incorporated trustees or principal officers; that facilitate the murder of individual citizens are criminally held to account for offense of manslaughter. In the area of torture, which can be physical or mental, torturers whether State-actors or non-State actors are legally culpable and if convicted, they face same punishment according to jurisdictions.

By Section 36 (8) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, nobody shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence if such act or omission did not constitute a criminal offence as at the time of his or her arrest and detention and no penalty heavier than that in force as at the time the alleged offence was committed shall be imposed on him or her. By Section 36 (12) of the Constitution, nobody shall be convicted of a criminal offence if the act or omission is not defined and the penalty therefore is prescribed in a written law.

By Section 35 (4) (a) of the same Constitution, nobody shall be arrested and detained for more than 60 days without trial or court bail in the case of anybody accused of committing capital offence such as armed robbery or abduction or murder or terrorism or terrorism financing or  treason or treasonable felony. By Nigeria’s criminal law and Constitution, too, omission to act when the law so requires him or her to do so is also a criminal offence; likewise aiding and abetting.  

Technical Section (2):

In the course of administration of criminal justice especially procession and prosecution of the arrested and detained citizens in Nigeria; accused of offenses of mala inse and mala prohibita, the countries regional and international human rights obligations must at all times and inexcusably be applied or conformed to. Among these regional and international rights treaties or conventions which Nigeria is a full State-Party or has signed and ratified are the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights of 1981 (ratified and domesticated by Nigeria in 1983), the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and its protocols and the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, etc.

Other regional and international basic principles and rules of criminal justice management including criminal arrest, investigation and custodial treatments binding on Nigeria and its Police Force and other policing agencies are the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers, the UN Basic Principles for the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crimes & Abuse of Power, the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention & Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary & Summary Executions.

The rest are the UN Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and other prison inmates and custodial detainees, the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law; and the Law Enforcement Oath of Honour, Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct and Cannons of Police Ethics, issued by the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, etc.

In all the above mentioned constitutional provisions and regional and international rights treaties or conventions and principles, rules and ethics; the rights of the arrested and detained citizens against extra judicial, summary and arbitrary executions and long detention without trial as well as torture are fully provided and guaranteed. Article seven of the UN or International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The UN Convention against Torture also explicitly requires Nigeria to prevent acts of torture and other ill-treatments by State agents and ensure that there is a prompt and impartial investigation into such acts and those involved by direct involvement, complicity or participation are punished by criminal penalties.

Other constitutionally, regionally and internationally guaranteed custodial rights are rights of the detained citizens to have access to their families, doctors or adequate medical attentions; lawyers, including proper legal preparations, legal defence, interrogation and cross-examination in the language of their choice; decent shelter, clothing, sanitary environment, drinkable water and dietary feeding; dignity of human person; biological visibility,  freedom of thought, conscience and worship; and rights to presumption of innocence until judicially convicted as well as right to be told in understandable language within 24hrs of their arrest, offences alleged to have been committed warranting their arrest and detention.

The rights of the detained citizens to be charged to court or released on bail or discharged (if found not indicted) within 24/48hrs if the offenses are non-life or death imprisonment or less than fourteen years imprisonment; and not more than 60 days if the offenses attract capital punishment; are also fully provided and guaranteed.

The policing code or legal leniencies contained in Section 33 (2) (b) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and the Order 237 of the  Nigeria Police Force Act & Regulations of 2004;  granted to Nigeria Police Force and other policing agencies to use or apply force in extreme circumstances; in cases of detainees’ “escape from custody”, “resisting lawful arrest” and “self defense in the event of violent attacks by violent citizens using automatic weapons” are exceptionally restricted to minimum and proportionate use of force and never permitted as excuses for torture, shooting and killing of accused but unarmed and nonviolent citizens at the point of their arrest or while being detained.

For instance, it is criminally liable and expressly amounts to disproportionate use of force for a police officer to open fire with automatic weapon loaded with live bullets and kill an aggressive citizen armed with a stick or a metal object. The defense of “self defense” is dead on arrival; and if a shot must be extremely fired as a last resort, then it has to be “below the knee” of the victim.

The two provisions cited above grandly and literarily mean the use of proportionate force in managing violent custody or prison escapees or self defence while under attack by jail breakers and violent criminals armed with automatic weapons. On the issue of use of force to effect lawful arrest, the two provisions literarily mean zero shooting with live bullets of unarmed citizens under arrest and shooting below the knee or proportionate use of force for armed citizens resisting arrest or escaping from arresting authorities; such as fleeing armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and murder suspects.

Shooting and killing of citizens arrested unarmed and non-violently and taken into custody and detained are express cases of arbitrary, summary and extra judicial executions while excessive use of force against aggrieved citizens armed with sticks and used metals other than automatic weapons leading to their death; totally amount to unlawful killings. The two provisions also provide for reasonable (minimum and proportionate) use of force and use of force as a last resort in extreme circumstances.

It must be stated clearly that the crude practice of torturing, shooting and killing or torturing to death by Police SARS operatives of their detained citizens is inexcusable and constitutionally, regionally and internationally prohibited. In such circumstances, the Nigeria Police Act of 2004 holds such criminal police officers individually responsible for their murderous practices and misuse of powers as well as their superiors vicariously liable; who may have directed or ordered such killings and torture. The police officers’ individual criminal responsibilities are clearly provided in Section 341 of the Nigeria Police Act and Regulations of 2004.

By Article Seven of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers, Nigerian police officers and their agencies are prohibited from engaging in all forms of corruption and corrupt practices or use of same to engage in gross misconducts such as torture, custodial killings, racial profiling, and bail bribery, commercialization of criminal arrest and investigation and selective law enforcement.  

Technical Section (3)

Understanding Modern Criminal Investigations:

It must be stated clearly and unequivocally that the greatest backbone of every police force or service is its criminal investigation management. The success or failure of criminal investigation also determines the growth and advancement or retardation and under-growth of the criminal justice system and administration of every country or society. The modern criminal investigation is very scientific, advanced and sophisticated and has no room for quarks or unprofessional and untrained handlers and serial torturers.

Modern criminal investigation is also at all times clothed with sophisticated science and higher mental reasoning, development and rationalization. Modern criminal investigation especially in the areas of violent crimes (i.e. murder, armed robbery, abduction and terrorism) and physically harmless crimes (i.e. cyber/ICT and white collar or corruption crimes) is divided into modern interrogation techniques (especially in violent crimes) and ICT toolkits or scientific tools for criminal investigation.

Criminal investigation is defined as a systematic collection of information about crime and assembling of physical and testimonial evidence within the framework of the law in order to identify the perpetrators of the crime and provide evidence for a successful prosecution of the criminal suspects. To “investigate” in Latin means to “to track or trace”; which further means to follow step-by-step by inquiring and observation; to track or trace mentally; to search into with care and accuracy; to find out by careful inquisition; and to undertake a legal criminal enquiry, etc.

The use of scientific technology to solve crime is called forensic science or criminalistics.  Criminalistics is a branch of forensic science, which itself is a major branch of criminology that deals with the study of physical evidence related to crime. It is that part of science applied to answering legal questions, the examination, evaluation and explanation of physical evidence related to crime. Criminalistics is just one of the branches of Forensic Science. Other branches are pathology, toxicology, physical anthropology, odontology, psychiatry, questioned documents, ballistics, tool work comparison and serology.

Criminalistics is seminally defined by the California Association of Criminologists as that profession and scientific discipline directed to the recognition, identification, individualization and evaluation of physical evidence by the application of the natural sciences to law-science matters. Criminalistics evidence includes finger prints, blood and blood stains, semen stains, sand, saliva, drugs and alcohol, hairs and fibers; firearms and tool marks, etc.

The purposes of criminalistics are to take physical evidence from a crime scene and to use it to (1) identify the person who committed the crime and link same to the crime scene and the crime victim; and (2) exonerate others who may be under suspicion but not involved.

Criminalistics evidence from a forensic scientist will be relied upon to establish a nexus between a crime and a weapon of offence; to identify the weapon used for a particular crime-whether a gun found on a suspect was the one that fired the bullet found in the body of a murder victim. Criminalistics evidence can also be used to establish or corroborate an element of crime or reconstruct how a crime has been committed.

For effective and scientific gathering of criminalistics generated evidence, there must be ICT powered crime/forensic laboratories with highly trained specialists drawn from relevant multi disciplinary scientific fields. A standard forensic laboratory is the major criminal laboratory where scientific rests are carried out to establish a triangular link between the suspect, the scene of crime and the victim.

A standard and ICT powered crime laboratory consists of the following sections: mobile unit (made up of scene of crime officer), photography, ballistic/tools marks, documents, chemistry, biology, fingerprints, polygraph examination, voice identification, etc. The crime laboratory is expected to assist a crime investigator to establish an element of crime and link the crime scene to the victim or criminal suspect; corroborate or disapprove an alibi, facilitate an admission or a confession, exonerate the innocent or confirm the guilt of the accused and provide expert testimony in court.

Other scientific/technical aids for criminal investigation are tools required for identification by means of fingerprint, analysis of stains and microscopic examination of materials connected with crime; photographic cameras, modus operandi, lie detectors, communication system and surveillance equipment such as telephoto lens and detective dyes.

There are also x-ray equipment, metal detectors, hidden cameras, closed circuit televisions and their footages, detective pens, ties and eyeglasses; likewise ICT-powered sniffer programs and keystroke loggers and computer tracking machines designed for speedy and efficient information intelligence gathering and electronic tracking of the movements, locations and phone numbers and communications of suspected kidnappers and other violent criminals. Added to these are under-cover surveillance and intelligence gathering and use of “strawmen” techniques.

Effective criminal investigation management also strictly requires well equipped modern crime libraries and their trained personnel manned by criminologists, lawyers especially those grounded in criminal, constitutional, penology, juvenile, marine, property, organized/corporate/cyber crimes,  treaty, penal, inter-religious/multi cultural and international human rights, humanitarian and criminal laws; psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, information and computer technologists and technicians;  mass communicators and clerical staff team composed of office attendants, research assistants, book keepers and library management staff.

Another formidable and major backbone of criminal investigation/interrogation is the modern criminal interrogation techniques. Modern criminal interrogation techniques are one of the most valuable tools by which trained detectives skilfully question willing and unwilling witnesses and crime suspects to obtain an anticipated and voluntary reply. They are a prerequisite for professionalism in the act of criminal investigation.


Skilful application of interrogation technique yields results that are often viewed with magical suspicion by moronic torturers and quarks who do not understand the referenced working system and its scientific and mental demystification. The ability of a police/policing criminal investigator to secure a voluntary and circumstantially undeniable admission from a suspect is skilfully dependent on craft, logic and psychological insight of the investigator; the skill of which is acquired through in-service and service out-door education and training, advanced practice and research including advanced or improved ICT knowledge or skills.

Globally, there are various modern principles/techniques for criminal interrogations designed and put in place as formidable alternatives to use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment including the physical aspect of torture. Of various anti torture principles/techniques in criminal investigation with miniature expert criticisms, there are three most popular of them presently in use especially in United States and United Kingdom.

The most widely used and popular among the three is the Reid Interrogation Technique developed by John E. Reid & Associates since 1974 with periodic socio-scientific updating and improvements till date; which had attracted over 500,000 law enforcement and security professionals who successfully attended its criminal interrogation and interview programs. The second most popular technique used majorly in UK is called PEACE Interrogation Method. PEACE here stands for preparation & planning, engage & explain, account, closure & evaluate. The third most popular criminal interrogation technique is called the Kinesics Method. Grand summaries of these three globally popular and anti torture criminal interrogation techniques are provided in the later part of this special investigation report under technical section (4).

From the above, therefore, it has been established formidably and unequivocally that a criminal investigator/interrogator with right or modern tools and advanced skills or techniques has no business subjecting his or her suspect to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; which usually leads to death of the suspect in detention or custody. Any crime investigator/interrogator with the above modern skills and toolkits has no business shooting or amputating or lacerating or dismembering or killing his or her detained suspect in order to extract confessional statement. Resorting to shortcuts such as torture or extra judicial or unlawful killing also breeds social radicalization and facilitates death of innocent citizens and offends the psyche and moral decency of the society as well as sanctity of human lives.

A criminal investigator/interrogator that is equipped with the right training, experience and tools; and with unhindered access to ICT and well equipped crime lab and library will surely turn in thorough and convictable criminal investigation information or report and will never lose his or her case in court no matter how unfriendly, corrupt or rude a trial judge is. The said investigator, too, has no business resorting to “holden charge” or magistrate court without trial jurisdiction in the offence so alleged.  As matter of fact any properly investigated and appropriately captured offence crime report will receive speedy trial and become a criminal trial made easy for the trial judge, the prosecutor, the defendant and his or her lawyer(s) or defence counsel.

This is more so when every trial court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria allows criminal investigators/prosecutors to charge their suspects with any offence which investigation is concluded and return to the same court later by way of amended charge(s) and add those charges that have their investigations concluded after the first charge was filed.

A good criminal investigator/interrogator with right or advanced training and equipment including well equipped crime lab and library has his or her case made easy and dissipate lesser energy torturing or shooting his or her suspect while in detention. His or her effective management of crime scene will expressly yield him or her enough circumstantial evidence especially in violent crimes which Anambra Police SARS claim to be controlling.

For instance, if a bullet found in the body of a murder victim is forensically analysed and linked to a gun found on a suspect with matching fingerprints, the case of murder is instantly established and it will be improper and waste of time torturing the suspect further; likewise where a screen footage of a suspect of a super market robbery is scientifically analysed and linked to him or her facially and bodily. Under this, a case of armed robbery is expressly made and convictable.

For a criminal investigator/interrogator to be called “skilled, expert and specialist” criminal investigator/interrogator, he or she must be conversant with and grounded in crime detection triangle or CDT and its three stages; namely: scene of crime management, information gathering and arrest/identification. Scene of crime is the location or place where the criminal act, real or imaginary took place. The scene of crime management is dependent on the nature of crime, location and modus operandi of the criminal suspects.

Information gathering is the activity that takes place after a crime has been committed with or without clue. Such information can be gathered from the suspects, second parties or third parties as well as from the crime scene. Arrest/identification of suspects can take place at the crime scene or outside same during commission of the crime, immediately after or shortly after or much later after the crime has been committed. Such arrest/identification may also be extended to other citizens commonly called “parties to crimes” who usually include committers, aiders, abettors, procurers and sponsors.

In this modern world of ICT revolution and sharp and rational reasoning, a criminal investigator/interrogator is totally lost if he or she remains crude, undeveloped, stunted and a serial torturer. As days go by, multiple challenges facing crime detectors and investigators continue to be on the rise. One of the newest challenges facing modern crime detectors and investigators is the advent of cyber crimes. They are majorly perpetrated through hacking (malicious or illegal access to a computer system for the purpose of causing damages and loss of installed vital information) and virus (alteration of computer data or programs without right, by insertion or distribution of a computer virus).

There are also hardware offence (input, alteration, erasure or suppression of computer data or programs or interference with the computer systems with intent to hinder the functioning of a computer or telecommunication system), software offence (erasure, damage, deterioration or suppression of computer data or computer programs without a right) and telephone phreaking (gaining access without a right to communications services by infringing protocols and procedures). This is to mention but a few.

Chief among these cyber crimes or offenses is hi-tech crime, also called computer and cyber crime; simply defined as illegal use of information and communications technology (ICT) against persons, properties, organizations or networked computer systems. These are majorly divided into hi-tech crime, unauthorized access and interception, alteration of computer data, computer/cyber fraud, unauthorized reproduction and computer sabotage, etc. Perpetrators of these newest forms of crimes are referred to as “cyber criminals”.

•Being the beginning of our three-part serialisation of The Untold Story of Ezu River Police SARS Killings: Inside Anambra’s Theatre of Butchery Where SARS Send The Good and The Bad To Early Graves Outside The Law, a Special Investigation Report by Intersociety released in Onitsha, Anambra State, on July 20, 2017.

Source: News Express

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