A key challenge facing the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria is a lack of forensic skills by police and other law enforcement officers. This challenge was highlighted by stakeholders in the justice sector in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At times, criminal suspects are intimidated to give confessions that are then used as evidence in courts. However, when these cases go to trial many suspects disown the statements. This often leads to long trials and delays in criminal justice administration, and high numbers of awaiting trial persons on remand in prisons across the country.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act came into force in Nigeria in 2015. The Act contains provisions that require investigators to record confessional statements of suspects by video. However, law enforcement agencies lacked the infrastructure needed to comply.
With support from the Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) programme, the Nigeria Police Force in Lagos and FCT are now better equipped to meet these legal requirements. Statement taking rooms and observation rooms have been established in police stations to enable the police to conduct interviews and document confessional statements that are admissible in court and meet international human rights standards.
In Lagos state, the rooms were established at the state criminal and investigation department in Panti (two statement taking rooms and one observation room). In FCT, the facilities were created in the Wuse Zone 3 police station (one statement taking room and an observation room).
As part of the initiative, a total of 156 police officers (119 in the FCT and 37 in Lagos) were trained on investigation, interviewing, and the use of the statement taking facilities. They were introduced to modern policing techniques of recording confessional statements on video and for use as evidence in court.
‘The statement taking rooms will ease the work of the courts by reducing the number of instances where suspects deny making confessional statements tendered by the prosecution.’ Mrs Akanni Idayat, Chief Magistrate 1, Wuse Zone 2 Senior Magistrates’ Court