« Back to News

Lagos: Technology-led crime fighting the right step – Punch Culled from: The Citizen Ng

March 12, 2016



Lagos State’s plan to build its first DNA (or deoxyribonucleic acid) forensic laboratory is evidence of a strong resolve by a government determined to scale up its crime fighting drive by exploring the option of technology. For a state aspiring to a megacity status, the options available are not that many: progress and development of the nature envisioned for Lagos can only be delivered in a stable and crime-free environment. So, it can only come as a surprise that it has taken this long for this course of action to be conceived.

DNA, according to experts, is the hereditary material found in nearly every cell in humans and other organisms. Through in-depth studies, scientists have been able to come up with DNA profiling or genetic fingerprinting for the detection of crime. This means that, by taking DNA samples at a crime scene that has not been compromised or tampered with, it is possible for law enforcement agents to find out if a suspect is innocent or not. And that is great.

But in Nigeria, when DNA testing is required, most of the samples are taken abroad, where, in the process, the possibility of contamination increases, thus hampering the prospects of getting accurate results. Going by the promise of the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, the laboratory will come into operation within the next 12 months, focusing on “collection and preserving of reference and evidentiary DNA, which can later be used in identifying criminals,” among other things.

By deploying DNA in crime detection, the state authorities will only be tapping into a technology that has become widely available for use to solve violent crime cases, since the first man, Colin Pitchfork, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988 for raping and killing two teenage schoolgirls in the United Kingdom. Based on the evidence gathered at the crime scene, a DNA test was carried out on all the men in the surrounding villages, about 5,000 of them, according to The Mail of London online, resulting in Pitchfork being caught. Interestingly too, a man who had already confessed to killing one of the girls, acting due to pressure from the police, was let off the hook after the tests.

With properly-trained and well equipped forensic scientists around, the high profile murders of a serving Attorney General of the country, the late Bola Ige, and a governorship candidate in Lagos State, Funsho Williams, as well as the perpetrators of other high profile murders witnessed in this country over the years would, perhaps, not have remained a mystery till today. The practice of law enforcement agents parading two sets of suspects for the same crime, as was the case in the murder of Alfred Rewane, a frontline politician, would have been eliminated.

However, for Lagos, and indeed other parts of the country, to really keep crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, rape, arson, among others, in check, DNA alone will not be sufficient. This is where the use of closed circuit television comes in. In cities all over the world where the use of CCTV or video surveillance is widely deployed, it has been very effective in revealing the identity of criminals. “CCTV has repeatedly proved its effectiveness in the fight against crime and the fear of crime,” Britain’s former Home Office Minister, John Denham, was once quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, an attempt to introduce the cameras in public places in Nigeria was hobbled by corruption. More than six years after the Federal Government awarded a $470 million contract to a Chinese company for the installation of CCTV cameras in Lagos and Abuja, the project is yet to take off effectively. Financed with a $399.5 million loan from China’s Exim Bank and $70.5 million from the government, only 2,000 cameras, a tiny fraction of the project, are said to have been installed. Even the little work done can best be described as shoddy, as they are made up of substandard materials.

In the light of the uncertainty over the Federal Government project, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, does not have to wait for the centre before embarking on such a scheme that will help to deter and solve crime in the state. With the CCTV in place, most of the people who went on a killing and destruction binge at the Mile 12 area of Lagos last week would have been picked up in the course of time and punished. That was exactly what happened after the London 2011 riots, where the Scotland Yard was able to arrest 525 rioters, even as it released CCTV images of others that were still being hunted.

With advances in technology also come changes in the types of crime, attitude of criminals and their mode of operation. There is also the need for security managers to be technology-savvy. The Lagos State Government, with the benefit of its Security Trust Fund, should invest heavily in new crime solving technologies such as network analysis, biometrics, social media policing, ShotSpotter detection system, among others. With the rate of crime growing in leaps and bounds, nothing should be spared in the fight against it, least of all, the use of technology.

The Citizen NG