National Assembly

When quacks gather together to label themselves as professionals, quackery first rears up its ugly head in the uncertainty of what is being promoted: Is it Forensic Investigative Professionals or Forensic and Investigative Professionals? Let me remind Nigerians that these people started as forensic auditors and up till now, they are not sure what they are…

On February 10, a newly proposed piece of legislation titled, “Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (Est) Bill”, 2021 (SB.615), sponsored by Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, came up for first reading on the floor of the Nigerian Senate. There is another bill currently at the House of Representatives with the title “Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (est) Bill, 2020.”

Within two weeks the bill passed the first, second and third readings in the Senate, and the news following on March 3 was that the Senate had passed the bill. When it gets to the House of Representative, harmonisation will take place, I was made to understand. The speed of lightening with which the Senate passed this bill shows that it is more important to them than the security challenges confronting the country presently or the current economic sufferings of citizens, none of which has attracted any bill from the upper legislative chamber. There was no public hearing on the current bill, but a mad rush, a hasty passage, designed to take the people unaware.

It defies logic and reasoning how the Senate President arrived at a view that, “the new institute should provide the kind of services that would ensure that corruption in public and private sectors (are) identified and nipped in the bud such that we do not need EFCC”. That may be speaking from the perspective of a grand patron of the Institute, which was conferred on him during the Eighth National Assembly.

As such, no answer was given to Senator Adeola when he sought clarification about the fundamental flaws in and observations pertaining to the bill, which was passed in the Eighth Assembly, but which President Muhammadu Buhari refused accent to, because of these said flaws. That was the more reason why the present bill should have passed through a public hearing to see if its inherent flaws could be addressed.

The first observation concerns the unprofessionalism and uncertainty in what is being promoted – a “Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (Est) Bill, 2021 for the Senate and a Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (est) Bill, 2020 for the House of Representatives. When quacks gather together to label themselves as professionals, quackery first rears up its ugly head in the uncertainty of what is being promoted: Is it Forensic Investigative Professionals or Forensic and Investigative Professionals? Let me remind Nigerians that these people started as forensic auditors and up till now, they are not sure what they are – the proliferators and “bastardisers” of the profession?

Uncertainty about what they want to practice leads to the question of whether forensic is a stand-alone profession, going by international best practice? A dictionary definition of “forensic” is “scientific methods and techniques used in connection with the detection of crime”. Crime, not fraud; but what crime?

Uncertainty about what they want to practice leads to the question of whether forensic is a stand-alone profession, going by international best practice? A dictionary definition of “forensic” is “scientific methods and techniques used in connection with the detection of crime”. Crime, not fraud; but what crime? Crime can be located within different professions and does not stand on its own. If it stands on its own, then it is within the remit of organs like the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to deal with. So there is no profession that detects crime like the NPF, otherwise it is a proliferation and bastardisation of the profession.

If we go by the Senate President’s view of “kind of services that would ensure that corruption in public and private sectors (are) identified and nipped in the bud” then prepayment audit undertaken by internal auditors of the accounting profession already does this better. But let us interrogate the crime further.

An idea of the crime referred to in the forensic bill can be gleaned from what the bill seeks to empower its members to practice.

Section 3(2) of the Bill provides that, “members of this Institute will practice as forensic investigators in the following specialised areas of forensics – (a) Fraud prevention, detection and investigation (b) Cyber and computer forensics (including digital and multimedia forensics) (c) Forensic and trace evidence analysis (d) Forensic Linguistics (e) Criminalities and crime scene investigation (f) Forensic Auditing (g) Cyber Crimes Auditing (h) Litigation Support and Expert Witness (i) Cyber Security Forensic (j) Forensic voice and facial recognition (k) Forensic Sciences (l) Forensic Investigations (m) Forensic Pathology, anthropology and Toxicology

These are investigations located within identifiable and well established existing professions. For example, criminalities and crime scene investigation are within the purview of the NPF; cyber and computer forensic and cyber security forensic are within the domain of Computer Society of Nigeria; and forensic auditing is within the domain of professional accountants and there are already two professional accountancy bodies in Nigeria recognised by International Federation of Accountants. Forensic pathology, anthropology and Toxicology are within the domain of Pharmacy, Medicine and Anthropology.

…it becomes clear that this bill seeks to encroach, disrupt and appropriate to itself the practice of other professions in which its members are not trained, have no skills in, do not practice and therefore are non-existent. Professions derive from practice, for which prior training and certification must have been obtained. 

The above provides conclusive evidence of the proliferation and bastardisation of the profession, which this bill seeks to institute in Nigeria. My independent investigation revealed that all over the world there is no profession called “Forensic”, neither is there anything such as “Institute of Forensic Professionals” or “Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals” backed by any law; at best you have associations.

This is because “forensic” and forensic investigation cut across all professions. It is a specialist area reserved exclusively for only experts who have attained the highest level of proficiency in their professions. It is therefore surprising that this bill is proposing that the highest level of proficiency in Medicine, Pharmacy, Accounting, Auditing, Engineering, and Architecture should be ceded to outsiders and not those who have distinguished themselves within these professions.

Thus, it becomes clear that this bill seeks to encroach, disrupt and appropriate to itself the practice of other professions in which its members are not trained, have no skills in, do not practice and therefore are non-existent. Professions derive from practice, for which prior training and certification must have been obtained. It is not a theoretical reading or one that is memorised, which can be recited. Therefore, in this bill, there is a fraudulent claim to practice, which all members of the so-called forensic investigative professionals do not have, and therefore should be charged for. They are behaving in an unprofessional manner and are not worthy of being associated with a profession.

I will therefore suggest that, first, the Senate President rejects the title of “grand patron” conferred on him by these un-professionals, so that a clear vision develops. Members of the Senate and Federal House of Representatives should disassociate themselves from this bill, lest they and Nigerians become a laughing stock among the comity of nations. Members of the so-called forensic investigative professionals should be advised to go and subject themselves to the rigorous training of those professions whose practice they seek to encroach upon, disrupt and appropriate to themselves. They should stop cutting corners, seeking the easy way out, as that is against professional behaviour. The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigerian (APBN) should intervene and advise the Senate appropriately, while calling this non-existent body to order to avoid impugning the reputation of Nigeria.

Innocent Okwuosa is the Chairman, IFRS Experts Forum (IFRSEF), Nigeria.

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