In countries where protocols are strictly followed, when a crime is committed at any location, access to the place is limited to very few professionals. These are skilled individuals who have the capacity to examine evidence, analyse the same and ensure that justice is served, no matter how long it takes.
What happened in Owo, Ondo State, where at least 40 people were brutally murdered during a church service by a yet-to-be-identified terrorist sect, with politicians trooping to the crime scene to be given a tour of an active crime scene, was a wilful and self-serving violation of protocols that could seriously put in jeopardy the process of justice for the victims and their families.
However, it is extremely critical to limit access to a crime scene, and that goes for everyone who is not absolutely essential to the task of examining or gathering evidence
Unfortunately, the above scenario has been the case for many crime scenes across the country. On this note, we cannot but remember, that the videos and pictures of the scene where Deborah Samuel, the defenseless student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was murdered by an irate mob for alleged blasphemy did not show any sign that it was secured as a crime scene. It is the same story for many other crime scenes in Nigeria.
Securing the crime scene is certainly the first step in the process of solving a crime and obtaining justice. Apart from that, it guarantees the safety of all the people at the crime scene further as it defends the integrity of the evidence.
Equally importantly is that keeping unauthorised or unnecessary people out of the area is vital in maintaining a pristine crime scene so that accusations of scene tampering and contamination caused by improper procedures are avoided.
Unauthorised persons in the case of the Owo church shooting will include many political functionaries and all other persons not critical of solving the crime that had just happened.
The various presidential aspirants, especially had no business being in the vicinity of the crime. This is moreso when they could have also sent their condolences from Abuja where they were due to stand for election in the party primaries. As for the governor of the state, the police should have shown him the scene from a safe distance and he did not need to come along with an entourage.
The only authorised people at a crime scene are select law enforcement officials. In the US, the list might include the prosecuting lawyers as a matter of city government policy. However, it is extremely critical to limit access to a crime scene, and that goes for everyone who is not absolutely essential to the task of examining or gathering evidence.
The general response to crime incidents in Nigeria is usually pandemonium, making disaster management and scene preservation difficult. However, it is even more unfortunate when politicians turn dismal events into opportunities to score cheap wins.
It will be recalled here that evidence-tampering was the primary setback that compromised the proper identification as regards the killer or killers of Funsho Williams, a strangulation cum murder incident which occurred in 2006. During the court processes, Ovie Oyokomino, deputy commissioner of police, Lagos State, said in open court that there were so many people at the murder scene and as such his men could not access the scene with their vehicles. The forensic team could not identify the fingerprints of the killers because several people, including his aggrieved mother, had touched the corpse several times.
There is therefore the need to educate Nigerians on what to do when they witness a crime and the need to ensure that evidence is not tampered with. Officials of the Nigerian Police Force also require training in crisis management as often times, you see them looking lost on how to ensure crowd-control after a crime has been committed. Much of the implicit and explicit suggestions in much of the foregoing could be the key to unravelling the perpetrators of many heinous crimes the country has witnessed over the years.
However, and despite our reservations in this piece, we are still hoping that the perpetrators of the heinous crime in Owo will be brought to justice as soon as possible.