[INTERVIEW] Nigeria’s First Police Professor In Service Opens Up On Tools To Fight Crime Effectively In Nigeria
The Nigerian Police by now should have digitalized all the criminal records but the federal government has not given them the full assistance that is needed.
Prof Michael Nwokolo is a retired Superintendent of Police. He is a Forensic, Security and finger print expert, National President, Institute of Public Safety and Security in work Environment and Lecturer in Criminology, University of Lagos.
He is the first police officer to be confirmed Professor while in service in 2015. He retired from the police force in 2019 and before retiring; he wrote many books and also made concerted appeals to police authorities for deserving promotion to no avail.
His last place of work was Force Criminal Investigations Department, FCID, Alagbon annex, Lagos Central Criminal Registry. The 58-year-old professor spoke exhaustively on the critical issue of using finger print and graphology in crime detection and prevention and highlighted efforts made to ensure its practical use in Nigerian without minimal success.
Last place of work
I served for 28 years at Force CID Alagbon, Central Registry, Lagos. I was in charge of the fingerprint section for so many years. My services in the police were awesome. All the people I worked with loved me. I was fully dedicated.
I was heard, I was visiting crime scenes all over Lagos and other states of the federation and having worked there, I started as a sergeant in 1990. I was enlisted into the Nigerian police force as a constable on 1st February 1984 after secondary school with recruit number 1859 and force number 144588. I attended Unity school, Agbaro, a special school for the brain child, near Warri, Delta state.
How I joined police force
Before I joined the police force, I was teaching at Otologbomi Secondary School in Ika northeast of Delta state. When they said they wanted to terminate auxiliary teachers, I started thinking what to do. Then, one thought came that I should join the police and start reading. On the day of enlistment, I was shocked they were measuring people.
The crowd was too much, then I went to one man and said, look you’re measuring all these people, you are calling five papers but I have nine papers. One Calabar man called me and said asked if I have credit in French. He spoke French, I responded. He drove everybody out and said they should measure me. I was recruited and sent to police college, Ikeja. I graduated and was posted to Ogwashi-Uku, Delta state as a constable where I was in charge of firearms and secretary of police community relations.
From there, I was transferred to State CID, Benin in 1987 -1992 before I came to force CID, Alagbon, Lagos where I professionalized.
How did you professionalize?
I took many courses while in the force because since I joined the police, my mind is anywhere I stay, it should be very close to the office. So that I will be able to read very well and actualize my vision as an academic. From the force CID, I was attending so many courses. I had my B.Sc from Ondo state University, but before then, I did my diploma in University of Lagos where I studied computer management. When I finished that, I did higher diploma in computer management also. Then I did PGD in Business administration in Nigerian Institute of Journalism before I did 3 years direct entry in Ondo state university. After I finished from Ondo state university, I did my Master degrees in University of Lagos where I read sociology
When I finished my masters, I was working with African Campus University, it was online, I wasn’t being . I was just assisting them with training and some courses. All I did was just to assist them with my intellect with that they asked me to run their PhD. I did the PhD and I passed. I got nominated for professorial in that University and also Edeze University in Benin republic. As at that time, my rank was moving gradually from sergeant. I was a sergeant from 1990 to 2002. In 2003, I was promoted Inspector. Then in 2006, I was promoted assistant superintendent of police. Then in 2009, I was confirmed as full superintendent. Then in 2014, I was promoted DSP, then 2017 I was promoted superintendent of police. And while in the force, I wrote that those that are veterinary doctors were promoted to superintendent -double promotion, then why can’t I be given this double promotion.
How I perfected in forensic and finger print
In 1990, I attended the first fingerprint course at Detective College, Enugu where I came out first in the whole federation and I was highly recommended. It was because of my brilliant performance at Detective College, Enugu that made them transfer me to Force CID, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos because of my performance and when I came to Force CID Alagbon, I was attending so many courses. One, I attended an Abuja expert course on finger prints. I also attended some other forensic courses, laboratory courses, scene of crime courses, and so many other courses. Luckily enough, I was one of those that the police sent to Russia to go and study for the Advanced Fingerprint Course. So, I went to Russia and came back and I started heading a section, head of latent Fingerprint section. I started giving evidence in court.
Most of the courts I give evidence to, because of my educational qualification, some of the lawyers were amazed. One lawyer asked me, you are a police officer, you are supposed to sweat but you made me sweat in the court today. I said yes, I made you sweat because I have a lot of knowledge, both educational and forensic. I am a certified security specialist. I am also an occupational safety and health specialist. I am also a port facility security officer and a fellow of about 15 organizations. I have handled so many cases while in the police. For security purposes, I don’t want to give you all the details because I sent some people to jail.
State of Forensic and Fingerprint in the area of detecting crime
Nigerian police are doing great because you cannot achieve more than what you have. So, compared to the resources the Nigerian police have, they are doing a lot in the forensic aspect. The Nigerian Police by now should have digitalized all the criminal records but the federal government has not given them the full assistance that is needed.
The records we have at Force CID, Alagbon, Central Criminal Registry, are in manual. Few are digitalized while some are not digitalized. The police are still working with the manual and partly digitalized. Police need more resources, more funds so that they will be able to digitalize all the criminal records. So many organizations have been coming that they want to digitalize the Nigerian police record but their problem, their hiccup or constraint is that some of the organizations don’t have experts or software that can code the fingerprints. The instruments or equipment that would be required would be that of affix tracker, because the police had some equipment from Russia but we later realized that this equipment will not be in line, it will not interface. It is a papilon machine that records, interprets, documents, retrieves and searches fingerprints.
They gave Nigeria police twelve papilon machines that was about 2008 when we came back from Russia. But we found out that the Russian system cannot interface with so many parts of the world but the affix from USA system can interface with most of the countries of the world. What we need is finance and real people, transparent people that can do this digitalization. Another thing that I want the federal government to look into is that the job of Nigerian Police is very vital but the federal government doesn’t know the importance of the Nigerian Police duties.
The Nigerian policemen receive lower salary compared to other countries of the world and I have written that in my masterpiece because there is a contention that if they are paid well, they will still take bribes. That is not it, it should not be so. Pay these people well and let them perform their job well. Thank God I am already out but I am still part of them because the police is your friend.
They should be well paid so that they can do the job. And people like us should be employed to teach them some other areas like Graphology, Numerology, Psychology and Criminology so that they will be able to handle the civilian populace with soft hands. There are so many things that we need to imbibe in them because we are more experienced now than those that are behind. There are so many things that we have seen in the Police. These experiences that we have gathered in the police, we need to make them imbibe such experiences.
We want the Police to learn more from those of us that are Doctors and Professors and Forensic experts and Security experts. That is why I wrote to the Police that there are so many areas that they need to learn from me in investigation. Presently, I lecture Criminology in the University of Lagos and there are so many things that the Police should know in investigation. How many Police can interpret people’s handwriting and tell you their behavior in this country?
I can’t count two or three. We need to teach them, we need to lecture them in Psychology, Graphology. We need to teach them facial expression and body language. I learnt all these things while in the police and since I retired, I have learnt all these things. Like this year, I have gotten about 11 certificates. We need to teach them psychology; we need to teach them ethics of the job, ethics of the Nigerian populace, the philosophy to love your neighbor as yourself. There’s another area that we can teach Police, it is called Criminal Statistics.
Criminal Statistics involve mathematics and graphs. If you watch, how many DPOs use graphs in doing their statistical data about criminals? If you’re in a situation, in a place as a DPO, you should be able to get boys that are very good in Geography and in Mathematics. They’ll be able to draw what we call crime statistics. Oshodi, Ikeja has this crime record, stealing is this number, murder case is this number, cybercrime is this number. Why are they committing these crimes? How can we get these people committing these crimes? You draw the graph and know the one that is higher, and find out why this crime is higher, in this particular area. Do we have those that can draw graphs in the police? No. but I teach this in the University of Lagos. This is because of my wide experience.
How it affects crime detection in Nigeria
Without being told, we must know that you cannot give what you don’t have. I have earlier said that police are doing their best but those of us that have more experience in detecting crime using graphology, mathematical analysis, graphs should be allowed to be lecturing them in all the police colleges and in every police stations so that they will perform more than what they are doing.
How it can help the state of insecurity
The security situation, almost everybody is aware of, one of the problems is unemployment, and another one is illiteracy. These things should be tackled and if you watch, parents and teachers are no longer controlling their children. When you want to admit people, do we check the type of people we are admitting? They should be profiled, where do they live, how can we check whether they are cult people. These things should start when we are admitting people, we need to start checking if they are fraudsters, are they in cyber crime, and are they yahoo yahoo Boys. Do we check these things before admitting people in the school, no we don’t do that.
The same thing in the police force, same thing in the army, we don’t do profiling, we don’t have profilers. We need to have profilers, who would check people’s profiles. We have an intelligence section everywhere. Even before they enter school, we should start checkmating these things from the school. When people are sentenced, their fingerprints are not recorded, the lawyer will not talk about it, the judge will not talk about it, now everybody is pushing it to the police.
It is not only the police. Whenever you see something you say something. Security is everybody’s business but in Nigeria, are we taking it as such? Those days when people are fighting they are reported. How many people are reporting cases to the police again? Most people don’t report cases to the police again. So when cases are reported to the police and the record is made then the crime would start reducing.
Role of telecommunication in crime detection, fighting
The telecommunication companies are not even helping the police. When you are talking about this person, when suspected money enters into account, will the police be alerted? If the police are alerted, police will do their job. And when we are talking about security, the bank should help the police when there is a suspicious amount, entering someone’s account because the bankers know the kind of job each person is doing. So, when a sum of money enters into someone’s account, they will alert the police, they will not, and this is one of the things that are causing crime to increase. So, if the bankers can help us, if the telecomunicators can help the police, then the police would do well.
Role of forensics in fighting kidnapping, Boko Haram etc
Forensic will play a lot in reducing crime, that is if they allow them to come in fully because, as I told you, when you are talking about forensics, you are talking about the scientific way of establishing cases or to prove your case in court. What we should do is to train more people on forensic, when we train more in the police on how to check mate crime, fraud of any type, why is crime in this area prevalent? Once that graphing, the statistics is done, then it is a counter measure, it will reduce crime.
Detecting activities in crime scenes
Activities in the crime scene, that one will also pay a lot. I have visited so many crime scenes, uncountable. I have worked on so many crime scenes that they still call me to come and give evidence as a police expert witness and I have gone to so many places to give evidence. But where our base is, let us start by reducing crime while those that are fighting Boko Haram will continue fighting it.
Then the police at their level, the DPO’s, those in the training school should be properly trained. Police that are serving in various places should be trained, they should know more about this forensic, about detecting crime. No how to draft charges, know how to draw graphs about crime. Do you know any police station where they use graphs? We need to use graphs to analyze crime, to know crime statistics in particular places but the problem we are going to also have is finance.
Were you frustrated out from the police?
Well, I can’t say I have not achieved my best because I have done great in the police and the police they know up till now, I am still a police expert witness and I am a lecturer in a University, University of Lagos. I lecture criminology. The police can invite me anytime to lecture people from one college to the other. I can do that, from one police station to the other. They need to get this knowledge; I have gotten some sought of knowledge indifferent areas that the police cannot offer. I thank God I have written so many books even in the section where I work. I am the first person that has written a book on Forensic fingerprint and that goes a long way. In that book, you have the history of finger print, how fingerprints started, the importance of fingerprints, when fingerprints can be destroyed and how to compare fingerprints.
Future projection about
My projection is that if I can be given a very good appointment in the Nigerian Police Force or outside the Nigerian Police force by the State or the Federal Government, given an appointment where my voice can be heard, I will do great for the country. I will elevate both finger printing and graphology in the force.
Advice on managing crime scenes and forensics
The advice I will give to the Federal Government and IGP is that they should collaborate. The IGP should continue to meet the Federal Government to assist in financing the police because the police are poorly financed. If you go to the DPO level, the DPO has nothing, no money. I think it is N30,000. What can he do with that? Can that one fuel Car? Can that one do the analysis we are talking about by drawing a graph, by visiting a crime scene, by analyzing, that one cannot do it. So, the Federal Government should come up wholeheartedly to assist the Nigerian Police Force and also assist Education because some people need this education.
Education is very, very important. I used to tell my children, seek you first the kingdom of academic glory and all other things will be added unto you. If I am not well educated now, you will not call me for this interview. I will not know the problems of the police. I know the problems of the police even if I am sleeping and I know how it can be solved but my voice cannot be heard because I have not been given an appointment. If I am given an appointment where my voice can be heard, where I can work with the Federal Government or the State Government, things will change, things will go higher. If I am given an appointment, maybe adviser to the IGP, adviser to the Federal Government, Special Adviser on security or forensic, I will do much.
Still on fingerprints and forensic
As I told you, forensic science is that science that has to establish facts, evidence in any criminal or civil offences. It doesn’t through operation but what it means is that people must be taught how evidence can be used. How evidence can be prepared, how crime scenes can be visited. It is the area where forensic comes in, the knowledge. There is nothing like a fingerprint. Finger print is very, very important. So when you’re talking forensic, it hinges on finger print because if the fingerprint of suspects is not recorded, it means you don’t have any record. It means there’s no criminal record. So, people should be trained on finger print. Once they are trained on finger print, crime scene that’s forensic, they should be able to record finger print of suspects. So many people are sentenced without recording their fingerprint. Forensic is moving forward.
On Central Criminal Registry
We have a central criminal registry that started in 1992. It started at Hunter Street, Lagos. The new name now is kaka Street in Lagos Island by Tinubu. That is where Force CID started. That is where forensic started. The first born of forensic is finger print. People must be taught forensic; how to record fingerprints, any suspect caught, before you are sentenced, your finger print must be recorded. So many people are released from prison without their fingerprints being recorded. We have a manual database but fingerprints should be well recorded and anybody going to court should be recorded. For now, we have little equipment, we are still on manual, why Ghana is digital.
However, it is of utmost importance to digitalize the Nigerian police force criminal record and also we are ripe to have a national data bank. Once you enter this country, your fingerprint should be recorded in the database. It is like NIM but it is not, the database is everybody, in the country their name should enter into the database and their fingerprints so that whenever police want to use that, they can go there and get information.
What about BVN and Co?
When I went to represent police Central criminal registry from Lagos branch in Abuja, they were talking about BVN, they were talking about NIM and their record is incomplete. The fingerprints they take are just the thumb and index, while the police take the full fingers. The police are very reliable. Whenever you are recording fingerprints, it should be the complete ten fingers, the template, so that if anyone uses any finger to commit crime you will be able to track and get the person.
But why banks are using this is that they thought that in most crimes you can use these two to commit crime, that is the philosophy why they normally use these two. Many of them including INEC don’t know this. They need to be well trained on forensic. When we are talking forensics, we are talking about fingerprints. If the fingerprints are not well recorded, it can be like yours, it can be like mine. If it is well recorded, there is nowhere in the world where two people’s fingerprints can be the same. Strangely, in Nigeria, somebody’s child fingerprints opened the mothers phone. It is defective. It was not recorded by an expert. That is why people should be taught.
What about electronic transmission?
All these fingerprints they are using for election, if you watch they are not recording the fingerprints very well. For a fingerprints to be good, to be correct, the ink must be very light, the data must be there, the call must be there, all the rich characteristics must be very clear. I highlighted this when I talked about sanitizer, that sanitizer does not wipe fingerprints, those that are saying sanitizer wipes fingerprints they don’t know what they are saying, they don’t know the characteristics of fingerprints. There was a letter from the federal government for clarifications over the issue of sanitzer by the police but we said no.
There is no way sanitizer can remove fingerprints or the ridges in our hands. Those lines on our hands are called ridges. Those ridges are well arranged and there are some characteristics there called lake. So if you aren’t a fingerprints expert, how would you know you have recorded a good fingerprint. That is why people must be taught about fingerprints. Fingerprints are very important.
There is no regret because I have acquired the knowledge that will help Nigeria. Because they will look for me one day, I am a certified security specialist and I am a senior lecturer in the university, if I am given vice chancellor I can do well, if I am given commandant, I can do well, if I am given head of any university I can do better. With my 35 years in the police and all the universities that I have attended and all the qualifications, I will do fine.