The searchlight on all categories of law enforcement agencie — police, anti-graft agencies, Department of State Services, and other intelligent agencies – have assumed lately increasing dimension given the declared war of the present administration against corruption and the urgent need to stamp out all forms of criminalities whether occurring in the past, present or the future.

In many instances, Nigerians have expressed frustrations with the process blaming the state for not being able to bring alleged perpetrators of heinous offences to book. The blame game has shifted from the police to the lawyers with some other elements also pointing accusing fingers in the direction of the judiciary.

This intervention is designed to highlight some of the basic elements that could deliver successful prosecutions, starting of course with the primacy of effective and efficient investigations and what ought to be put in place to achieve this objective. Investigation must focus on basic tenets i.e. identifying who committed the criminal act and gathering sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. The element of effective and efficient investigation is particularly very important given the fact that investigation is the gateway to the courts and unless it is done effectively, the quality of subsequent justice will be poor.

Before proposing factors that ought to be put in place to deliver quality investigation outcomes, the first proposal that I wish to make is that no case should be taken to court without proper investigation, no matter the extent of public outcry. Secondly, emphasis should be placed on investigation-led arrests as opposed to arrest-led investigations. Thirdly, arraignment of suspects in court should be based on verifiable, conclusive and supportable findings arising from diligent investigations. Fourthly, investigators must be available at all times to give evidence in proof of the outcomes of the investigations. Fifthly, investigators must carry out all necessary steps including obtaining all relevant evidential materials in support of investigations.

It is also important to guarantee the security and welfare of investigators including potential witnesses as well as sensitive documents in aid of the trial process. More importantly, it is essential that the investigation process is adequately monitored to forestall compromise and severe sanctions should apply in the event of breaches. The other element that should be guaranteed is the security of evidential materials recovered during investigations, if possible ensuring that such materials do not fall into private hands who could be subject of attacks, targeting of course the recovery of those documents. It is also important to constantly test the character, integrity and moral standards of investigators including ensuring the availability of up-to-date training programmes for investigators.

There should also be stiffer penalties available to officers who deliberately bungle investigations for pecuniary or other vested interests. My final take on this is to call for a code of ethics to be put in place for all categories of investigators as a policy framework Investigations play a crucial role in our criminal jurisprudence as they form the basis for all prosecutions and trials. There is no investigative judge under the Nigerian legal system – the legal process is initiated by the prosecutor on the basis of the information received or obtained from sources, such as individuals, governments, international, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisations, or AU qua UN organs.

Once the prosecutor is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court/tribunal have been committed, an investigation begins. By this token, the prosecutor is imbued with the responsibility of collecting evidence and information used for issuing indictment against suspected perpetrators. The prosecutor has the power to summon and question suspects, victims and witnesses, collect evidence and conduct on-sight investigations. In doing so, the prosecutor may seek the assistance of the state authorities concerned and such authorities are under an obligation to cooperate with investigations and prosecutions. A fair and effective criminal justice system, an integral part of which is crime investigation build public confidence and underscores respect for law and order.

In essence, crime investigation is the process by which the perpetrator of a crime, or intended crime, is identified through the gathering of facts/evidence, although it may also involve an assessment of whether a crime has been committed in the first place. Investigation can be reactive, i.e. applied to crimes that have already taken place; or proactive, i.e. targeting a particular criminal or forestalling a criminal activity planned for the future. In this light, an effective investigation and efficient investigator are a necessary prerequisite for the prosecution to charge a defendant.

Prosecution can charge defendants with two types of individual criminal responsibility. The first is for personally planning, instigating, ordering, committing or aiding and abetting in a crime. Such responsibility encompasses the doctrine of joint criminal enterprise, which has often been used to describe situations where several persons having a common purpose embark on criminal activities. The second is for being in the position of authority and knowing or having reason to know that a subordinate or subordinates were about to commit or had committed such crimes but failed to prevent or punish them. This is otherwise known as superior responsibility. In other words, in the commission of a crime, there are usually the principal offenders and the secondary offenders. The Principal offenders are usually the ones whose act is the most immediate cause of the actus reus. Secondary parties are usually those who aid, abet, counsel or procure the commission of a crime

The jurisprudence of investigations and investigators in the Nigeria political landscape appeared to have been swept under the carpets until the recent reassured declaration by the President to re-open previous crimes, this is against the backdrop of the purpose/essence of criminal law which is to punish and deter the culprits. The list of murder and assassinated victims in Nigeria seems to be swelling with the Police seeming lost. I wonder whether it is a case of conspiracy or outright lousiness. Check the list: Dele Giwa, Dipo Dina, Bola Ige, Moshood Abiola, Engr. Funsho Williams, Dr. Ayo Daramola, Kehinde Fasuba, Chukwuma Ogbueli, Odunayo Olagbaju, Pa Alfred Rewane, Chief Dikibo, Harry Marshal, Suliat Adedeji, Kudirat Abiola, Tunde Oladepo, Omololu Falobi, Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi Ogundeji, Bayo Ohu and Edo Sule Ugbagwu. The pain of losing these Nigerians so early and so cruelly remains fresh for us. It stabs us each time we remember that the vacuum they have created will never be filled again. In this wise, investigations and investigators should be at the front burner of championing the cause of justice by fetching out and prosecute the perpetrators of this illegality.

The foregoing may have shown the urgent need to pay closer attention to the quality of investigations otherwise prosecutions would be meaningless as the law court not being a charity organisation can only act on the basis of the quality of materials placed before the judex.

Shittu, a legal practitioner, writes from Lagos.

Written By Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq

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