Nigerian Police Have Not Used Fingerprints in 53 Years—Fola Arthur-Worrey

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The reluctance of Nigerian policemen to conduct proper basic investigations into criminal cases is a major reason they drag unnecessarily, and in many instances, get dismissed on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution, a former Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Solicitor-General of Lagos State, Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey has said.

He said that police officers were so accustomed to not going through the standard investigative process that all efforts to change their approach to doing things the right way have failed so far.

Addressing students at the launch of The Halogen School of Security Management & Technology, (HSSM&T)’s maiden Professional MBA in Security Management programme, (in partnership with Babcock University) the ex-prosecutor said, “The standard approach when someone is arrested is you take his photograph, then you take his fingerprints and then his height for the purpose of identification but I was DPP for two years and I didn’t see a single photograph in any file which I thought was weird.

“How do you find out whether this person has been involved in a prior for example? The most fundamental element of criminal investigation, is fingerprinting yet the last case where fingerprints were used to convict in a Nigerian court was in 1964.

“This was the case of a burglar who left his fingerprints on the louvre of the house he went to burgle. We have tried to get the Police to use anything, even if it’s the old model of pads and paper to document fingerprints but they just don’t want it anymore.”

Mr Arthur-Worrey decried the dearth of experts in the force, noting that it wasn’t always this bad with Nigerian Policemen as he recalled with nostalgia, his days as a public prosecutor in Lagos when according to him, Police Officers carried out their duties wonderfully.

He said, “We had wonderful experts in every field. We had great facilities like the lab in Oshodi which I relied on when I was a prosecutor in the early eighties. They were good at blood work, they were good at pathology and they knew their stuff. Then the Police had the best ballistician, I knew a guy who was a handwriting analyst, trained in Wales, he used to come to court in his blazer and he just used to intimidate the defense counsel. He was just good.

“Nobody does ballistics anymore. When last did you hear of a case that involved ballistics, unlike Oscar Pistorious’ case where the emphasis was on the science of it. It underscores the damage being done by the conflation of security with law enforcement.”

He commended the HSSM&T for taking the initiative as the first to offer a Master’s degree in Security Management in a University setting. He noted that programmes uniquely tailored to solve problems of security and law enforcement were long overdue as Nigerians could simply no longer depend on the Police alone.

He also urged the Halogen Security Company to go a step further as industry leaders to offer professional support to the Police in law enforcement through the deployment of different levels of scientific private detective strategies including fingerprint lifting/analysis, surveillance, evidence collection and preservation and many more.

Tracing the origin of the decline in Police efficiency, Mr Arthur-Worrey averred that the root of the problem was the military rule, which paid more attention to ‘regime security’, undermining the critical element of law enforcement in the process. This, he said, has systematically eroded the capacity of Nigerian policemen over the years.

“We eroded police capacity because of military rule, and its own perception of security and its inability to distinguish between security and law enforcement. This is a critical understanding.

“When we say national security in Africa, we mean to say ‘regime security’, they’re not really concerned with the regular people so all the resources go to the regime security which is why the convoy culture has become so dominant, taking one third of armed policemen off the streets into the houses, vehicles etcetera of not just the politically exposed persons (PEPs) but also private people, Chinese etc. Some people can just wander into the CP’s office and say ‘I need a policeman’ he will quickly acquiesce and those policemen love it. This is a deemphasise on law enforcement which is a very demanding, meticulous area that leads to convictions in court,” Mr Arthur-Worrey submitted.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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