By Ikenna Nwokedi
The Department of Forensic Science, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University on Thursday, 3rd August 2023 began her first International Conference on Forensic Science and Criminal Justice.
The two-day conference holding at the ASUU NAU Secretariat has its theme as “Challenges and Prospects of Forensic Science in a Democratic Nigeria.”
In his address, UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, FAS, acknowledged that there is strong need of forensic experts in all sectors especially in the military and paramilitary.
Prof. Esimone informed that those in the field of forensic study play a key role in investigation, auditing as well as giving a vivid assessment of a critical situation from their investigations.
He stated that Forensic Science although not new is one area the institution in the zone need to focus on, work out a well structured academic blueprint and attract grants that are numerous in the forensic science discipline.
The Chairman of the occasion and Director UNIZIK Business School, Prof. Emmanuel Okoye commended the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences for the initiative in the form of the conference which is the first of its kind in the Ivory Tower.
Prof. Okoye highlighted the challenges in forensic science to include lack of equipment, infrastructure, shortage of trained professionals, insufficient funds, increasing awareness and building capacity. The scholar hoped that the conference will profer solutions to challenges bedeviling forensic matters in Nigeria.
On his part, the Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof. Chibueze Ihekwereme emphasized that forensic science is a field that is practical and result oriented especially with the rate of crime and negative issues in our society today.
The Dean thanked the Vice-Chancellor for his immense support towards the success of the conference.
In his remarks, the Conference Convener and Coordinator, Forensic program, Prince Chijioke Maxwell Ofomata stated that the concerns of insecurity and the rise of crimes in Nigeria has led to the criminal justice system not functioning effectively due to lack of or no forensic science.
He informed that forensic science can provide solutions to the multiplicity of problems that have shown to be epidemic.
The scholar praised the UNIZIK Senate for approving the commencement of a Bachelor of Science Degree program in Forensic Science while also welcoming the President and members of the Society for Forensic and Analytical Scientists of Nigeria (SFASN) to the conference.
Delivering his lecture on the topic: “Importance of Forensic Science in Governance”, the Director of Forensic Science Program at the Albany State University USA, Prof. Uzoma Okafor defined governance as processes and practices through which issues of common concern are decided upon and regulated.
The visiting scholar acknowledged the role of judiciary in forensic study which is critical to an effective justice system and in turn the pillar of a civil society.
He highlighted recent forensic science efforts which includes implementation of new techniques such as 3D crime scene scanners, DNA analysis and field base drug analysis while there are research to better understand the value of physical evidence and the limits of scientific method and creation of practitioner-led organization.
According to him, Nigeria Ministry of Justice needs to prioritize the development of a formidable collaborative forensic science research plan that is strategic to the goals and functions of its establishment.
A Professor of Laws, Dame Prof. Carol Arinze-Umobi while speaking of the subject; “The role of evidence in criminal justice system in Democratic Nigeria,” averred that Nigerian Criminal Code is the apex codified law in Nigeria for criminal investigation, trial and punishment of criminals in the southern state of Nigeria while penalty code is for the Northern States.
She gave classification of offences which are felony, misdemeanor and simple offences.
Prof. Arinze-Umobi maintained that the use of evidence to achieve conviction or escape conviction in a criminal system is the beauty of the law of crime because he who asserts must prove while also stating that allegation of facts without proof to establish the fact will amount to waste of time in court.
The Conference continues with the technical session providing opportunity for scholars in the field of forensic science and legal profession to x-ray ongoing researches and findings from research works in the field.