Forensic Professionals commend National Assembly over passage of Forensic Bill
PASSAGE OF CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA BILL 2021 : COMMENDATION/APPRECIATION OF THE 9TH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIAGTIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA (CIFIPN) BILL, 2021; AND ITS RELEVANCE TO THE PRESIDENT MAHAMMADU BUHARI’S FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION AND INSECURITY IN NIGERIA.
The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday 2nd March, 2021 and Wednesday 19th May, 2021 at the Plenary Sittings of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively made history by passing into law, the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria Bill, 2021 (SB.615 and HB. 791), after it was read for the Third Time in the two Chambers (SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE). This is in line with the principle and practice of bi-cameral Legislature we operate in Nigeria. The passage of this Bill is a clear demonstration of the lawmakers’ patriotism and direct response, targeted at strengthening and re-invigorating national frontiers in the fight against fraud, corruption and cybercrimes, which has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria as a nation. With the passage of this Bill, the 9th National Assembly under the distinguished and able leadership of His Excellency, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Ph.D, CON and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiala has shown clearly, its ardent resolve to carry out its legislative functions in line with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. This also attests to the fact that the National Assembly is alive to the performance of its complementary role(s) with other arms of Government in the fight against corruption.
Consequently, I, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria wish to, with deep sense of gratitude, use this platform to thank the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the House of House of Representatives for this noble feat, and to let the whole world know what the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria is all about and the unique concept we are bringing on board in order to complement national efforts in its quest to ride the country of corruption, fraud and Cyber-Crimes and other related crimes.
As you may well be aware, the Bill to establish the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN), has been one of the most viciously attacked and antagonised Bill in the National Assembly in recently times. Sadly, the attacks came from those who ought to be partners in progress in the fight against endemic corruption in Nigeria. However, they rather designated themselves as enemies of the general good. And as you know, anything that is good, is good, it has no substitute, so also it is with anything that is bad. No matter how long it takes, good always prevails over the bad, just as the superiority of light over darkness remains constant and unquestionable so has the Bill to establish the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) prevailed over its antagonists and today, the two Chambers of the National Assembly have passed the Bill into law, though not without series of thunder bolts from detractors who were determined to go to any length to see that any legislation that would be helpful in assisting the Buhari led administration to fight corruption, does not see the light of the day. However, the firm and courageous legislative stance of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, saw the passage of the Bill through.
On this note, it is very important for the public to know that (CIFIPN) is not just a noble body but a novel one in Nigeria that is targeted at bridging the gap that has long been existing in the forensics space. Today, the journey to having a standard body that would regulate the practice of forensics in Nigeria is at its peak and Nigerians must rise to challenge the few professional bodies that would want to sabotage this great noble step.
The passage of this Bill by the National Assembly, no doubt, is quite historic and symbolic, coming at a time that Nigeria is in dire need of legislation(s) that will give more bite to its anti-corruption drive in view of the raising spate of criminal and corrupt practices, across the globe. As we all know, crime generally, has assumed a new dimension, due to advancement in science and technology in the 21st Century. Therefore, the passage of this Bill is apt and timely and it has shown clearly that we have flexible and responsive Legislature that is in tune and in touch with emerging global realities and are ever-ready to enact legislations that will meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
It is apposite to also state that the journey, which culminated into the passage of this Bill, began in the 8th National Assembly whereby, our Bill was sponsored by Distinguished Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Ph.D, CON, the current President of Senate when he was the Senate Leader. His decision to sponsor the Bill then, was aimed by the strategic importance and relevance of the Bill to the anti-corruption drive of this administration. For the benefit of hindsight, when our Bill was introduced in the two Chambers during the 8th National Assembly, all-inclusive public hearings were conducted by the relevant Committees of the respective Chambers. Thereafter and in spite of opposition from stakeholders who were in the minority, led by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), the National Assembly passed the Bill, in view of its significance and the part it will play in the fight against corruption. Afterward, the Bill was forwarded to Mr President for Presidential Assent, which was not given before the Dissolution of the 8th National Assembly in June, 2019. It is on the strength of this, that the Bill was re-introduced in this 9th National Assembly and this time around, it was sponsored by Distinguished Senator Abdullahi A. Yahaya, the current Leader of the Senate, in view of the importance attached to it. We are constrained to make this clarification in order to clear the air on the cheap propaganda being propelled by our distractors that our Bill was rejected by the 8th National Assembly.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that our Bill has been mistaken for similar Bills, which were recently introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives’ Chambers. These Bills, upon our close scrutiny, we discovered that they are merely duplications of the intents and purports of our Bill. It must be stressed that none of these Bills were introduced in the 8th National Assembly, other than our Bill. As such, we are the first to ever come up with a Bill of this magnitude, (Forensic), having seen the urgent need to establish such great Institute. The decision to establish the Institute was taken after a painstaking study of how the Institutes operate in other jurisdictions and how well they have helped in crime detection, investigation and prosecution.
It is instructive to note that our Institute has been in existence since 2009. And over the years, we have trained professionals in the field of forensic science and technology, targeted at inculcating the requisite skills and acumen in the pragmatic areas of forensic investigation and management, to wit: forensic analysis to eliminate material misstatement, whether caused by error or fraud; voice recognition analysis; fingerprint/signature analysis; digital forensic and cybersecurity; crime scene investigation; global anti-corruption compliance and enforcement; litigation support, forensic investigation capacities, preparation of forensic reports, fraud risk management, corporate fraud analysis, fraud prevention, detection and investigation, etc.
You will agree with me, distinguished ladies and gentlemen that in today’s world, the conventional ways of investigating crimes, with a view to fighting it has become obsolete. As such, for us as a nation to do something meaningful in this regard, it is paramount that we align ourselves with the global trend and emerging innovations, targeted at fighting corruption. It is in line with this reasoning that the idea of establishing this Institute was conceived with a well-structured laudable objectives that are relevant to the anti-corruption drive of this administration. Time will not permit me to highlight all the objectives of the Bill here. However, I wish to crave your indulgence to highlight a few of the objectives of the Bill, for the purpose of this address, as follows:
1. To establish a Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals in Nigeria in order to develop and train Professionals in this specialized field, through systemic and professional examination and certification that will enhance the acquisition of the requisite skills in the use of science and technology for fraud detection, investigation and prevention;
2. To provide a platform for training and re-training of intending professionals in the usage of Forensic Science and technological tools and techniques in the investigation of frauds in both public and private sectors of our economy, in line with international best practices;
3. To promote high professional standards, ethics and etiquettes amongst practitioners in the field, in a bid to stem fraudulent and corruption practices, and as well develop a mechanism for fraud prevention, as a proactive measure against corruption generally;
4. To fill the existing huge vacuum in our archaic and conventional system of investigation with the introduction of a unique operation of forensic science to help the country from expending its scarce foreign exchange to hire foreign expatriates to do forensic investigations in Nigeria;
5. To develop a broad-based mechanism and training programmes that cut across all the strata of our investigation architecture, involving professionals such as Lawyers, Criminologists, Security Experts, Judicial Officers, Court Registrars, and Economists. This would enhance effective and efficient disposition of cases in line with global best practices; and
6. To enhance Nigeria’s anti-fraud mechanisms, through the provision of a legal framework for the professional development and discipline of forensic and investigative professionals in Nigeria, among others.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that the role of this Institute is quite strategic and important. It is also pertinent to reiterate that forensic science is a very wide and all-encompassing field, which requires effective and efficient regulation for the attainment and sustainability of high level professionalism and ethical standards. The broad spectrum of the scope and focal point of the Institute, includes but not limited to – forensic toxicology; forensic investigation; forensic auditing; digital forensics and cybercrimes, forensic autopsy; forensic law; forensic accounting; forensic nursing; forensic pathology; forensic engineering; forensic psychology; forensic DNA analysis; forensic anthropology; forensic linguistics; forensic deontology; forensic dentistry; forensic archeology; forensic graphology, forensic entomology, etc.
Accordingly, stemming from the above, you will also agree with me that our Institute is bringing on board, a unique concept of crime detection and investigation in conformity with international best practices. This concept is far beyond the reasoning of those whose myopic view about the purports of our Bill have beclouded their senses of reasoning, due to narrow-mindedness and inordinate desire to monopolise a system, which is outside their jurisdiction and scope of operations.
On a lighter note, I wish to draw the attention of everyone to the funny scenario that is playing out now, and as a matter of fact, it should be a source of concern for all well-meaning Nigerians. When the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria Bill was introduced in the 8th National Assembly, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), came out vehemently to oppose its passage because according to them, it is an unnecessary duplication of functions already undertaken by their Institute. However, upon the re-introduction of our Bill in this 9th National Assembly, and having seen the overwhelming and accelerated legislative supports, our Bill has received from the two Chambers, ICAN has now realized that forensic science is a unique field of practice, and as we speak, they have introduced a similar Bill that is currently before the House of Representatives, having failed woefully in their attempts to stop the passage of our Bill. One may ask, what has changed between now and the past, where ICAN holds the view that there shouldn’t be any Institute other than theirs to regulate the practice of forensic science? your answer is as good as mine.
Before I end this address, I wish to also inform you that the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), is not left out of this funny theatrical episode. Just like their ICAN counterpart, they have also introduced a Bill in the House of Representatives with the nomenclature “the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria Bill”, which was initiated and being promoted by ANAN. I decided to bring out all these facts so that Nigerians and even the international communities will understand the extent to which some people can go in order to achieve their aims. However, we are not perturbed by these developments because we believe in the credibility and ability of the National Assembly and indeed the Presidency to do what is right and not to allow themselves to be manipulated in any way, by these unnecessary distractions, so as not to make a mockery of the entire thing.
The known practical and antagonist of this Bill has remained ICAN for reason that is now becoming obvious. They engaged several bystanders into writing frivolous petitions some even targeted at the leadership of the Senate with a tone of blackmail. Having failed woefully at the Senate, the antagonists shifted their attention to the House of Representatives with the same bystanders, writing all manner of publications. Yet again, they failed.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, ordinarily by legislative procedure, a Bill that has been passed by the Senate would only require concurrence by the House, safe for where there are observations. But in the case of the CIFIPN Bill, the antagonists fought the passage of the Bill until truth prevailed and on Wednesday 19th May, 2021, the Bill for the establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria for Effective Regulation, Registration of Members and Determination of what Standard Knowledge and Skills to be Attained by Persons seeking to become Registered Members and Qualify to Practice as Forensic and Investigative Professionals; and for Related Matters (HB. 791) was passed into law by the House of Representatives on 19th May, 2021.
It is noteworthy to also bring to the fore that ICAN is still not relenting in its resolve to play the spoiler game as it has now introduced a Bill in the House of Representatives, titled: REPEALING AND RE-ENACTMENT OF ICAN’S ACT. The Bill seeks to duplicate the functions of our Institutes through introduction of provisions for the practice of forensic in the extant Act. The Bill also seeks to establish a Forensic University in Nigeria, which intends to make it mandatory for everyone who is desirous to practice forensic science in Nigeria to attend and failure to do so, would lead to imprisonment. This is being proposed without recourse to the existing forensic Institution in the Country. This, to us, sounds so strange in a country full of enlightened people. My joy is that Nigeria is NOT a Banana Republic no matter the level of Corruption therein. The almighty God will definitely deliver Nigeria from the taskmaster and salvage us from people that have no genuine interest of the country at heart, other than their own self-interest.
We are already challenging the passage of a parallel Bill introduced by the House of Representatives just same day after the passage of CIFIPN Bill. It should be noted that the basis for challenging the Bill, is not borne out of malice or ill will, but because we are certain that the purpose of this Bill, we believe, is to halt Presidential Assent under the guise of “existence of similar legislation”. We will not allow ourselves and Nigerians to be deceived by their antics.
You would recall how ICAN vehemently opposed the enactment of CIFIPN Bill in one of its sponsored publications by the Association of professional Bodies of Nigeria, led by Engr.(Chief) Olumuyiwa Alade on the 24th May, 2019, who made frantic effort to say that ICAN under its enabling laws, is empowered to practice Forensics and therefore for CIFIPN Bill to be passed, it would amount to duplication of laws. However, today ICAN is presenting its ACT to be repealed and re-enacted with the inclusion of Forensics in their new proposed law. The question is, what has changed? The same law that ICAN has always told the public that it has forensics, is the same law, they are now seeking for its repeal and re-enactment for inclusion of provisions that would allow them to practice forensic science.
As always, while we are not opposed to any group proposing the inclusion of forensics in its laws, we are however concerned that a body should not try to present itself as being the master of all. ICAN, ANAN and its cohorts have realised their inability to stop the passage of CIFIPN Bill and so decided to embark on this show of shame to create a forensic body that should be an independent body for the purpose of check and balance within itself. What they are scared of is checks and balances, as they don’t want another professional body to investigate their activities because they know what they are doing to the economy of this nation. How can they constitute themselves as judge in their own case? This sounds so strange. On this note, we are calling on the National Assembly to beware of the antics of these groups. They cannot be speaking from both sides of their mouths and expect the National Assembly to be cajoled.
Furthermore, it is imperative to let Nigerians and indeed the entire world know, the reason(s) why the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), have tried everything within their powers to frustrate the passage of CIFIPN Bill, since it was introduced in the 8th National Assembly to date. It is common knowledge that the unprecedented high level of corruption, which has ravaged this country since our independence till now, were perpetrated by accountants who are the ones showing public officers the way the nation’s treasury can be looted, without being detected, for their own selfish reasons. This has always been the problem because Nigerians are not looking at it from this direction at all. There is hardly any fraud that can be committed in any organization without the active connivance of accountants in that particular organization. Therefore, ignoring this fact in the fight against corruption is like getting rid of an unwanted tree by just cutting the stem and allowing its root to still remain, which undoubtedly, will sprout again.
Hence, upon the introduction of forensic science and methodology in the detection and investigation of fraud and crime, they are now threatened by the fact that their well-hidden secrets will now be exposed, if nothing is done to checkmate the passage of the Bill, which seeks to establish our Institute. The method of forensic investigation we are bringing on board is in line with emerging global trend and international best practices, but our distractors are making it to look as if we are doing something that is alien and different from what is being practiced in the developed world. Obviously, from the apprehensions and the desperations shown so far, it is abundantly clear that they are not oblivious of what our Bill will do to them when it is eventually enacted as an Act of the National Assembly. As a result, they have deployed all manner of gimmicks to befuddle our resolute effort to ensure the passage of our Bill. Their desire is to continue to keep Nigerians in the dark by keeping to the spent and archaic ways of detecting and investigating crimes and frauds, which have not yielded any meaningful results, due to sophistication and advancement in science and technology in the 21st Century.
To further adumbrate on the above-mentioned assertion, these enemies of our Bill, having failed in all ramifications to stop the passage of our Bill, they have resorted to play the spoiler game, having realized that they cannot stop us because the Legislative Arm of our Government has seen the need and the strategic importance of the unique concept we are bringing on board in the fight against corruption through this Bill, which is one of the cardinal policy thrust of this administration. As a result, these antagonists decided that if forensic science must be regulated, they must be the one to champion and pioneer such movement for them to continue to do what they have been doing as they are unamenable to innovative ways of fighting corruption in Nigeria. This, I make bold to say, is the reason behind the introduction of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria Bill, introduced and promoted by the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) to provide protection for accountants to the detriment of Nigerians. In fact, it is their intention to hijack the whole process through this proposed Bill so that they will become judges in their own courts in order to ensure that any fraud or crime perpetrated by their practitioners would be concealed from another independent body or from the searchlight of the public. This is a well-orchestrated plan that should not be allowed to see the light of the day because they cannot continue to hold this country to ransom.
We want to yet again appreciate the doggedness of the 9th National Assembly in ensuring that our Bill was passed. Nigerians are more than ever before convinced of the readiness of this administration to combat corruption, through every possible means and would at all times encourage legislation that is aimed at achieving this goal. We are confident that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari will not hesitate in assenting to this Bill, as soon as it gets to his desk.
On this note, we are calling on all Nigerians to come and be part of the Forensics Profession. The profession is open for all professionals in the various field of endeavours. There is a training arm of the Institute that will studiously guide you and equip you.
In conclusion, I wish to thank you all and to also reiterate our resolve and commitment to upholding ethical standards in line with global best practices, in rendering our professional services and trainings that would bring about innovative ways of fighting corruption and financial crimes, generally. Finally, I wish to appeal to all stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to support this noble course and to implore us all to make frantic efforts so that collectively, we can surmount the menace of corruption, the plethora of security challenges, across the country and other associated crises.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Dr (Mrs) Enape Victoria Ayishetu, PhD, FCFIP, FCNA, FCTI, FCFA, CFE, CPFA, MNIM
Pro-tem President, (CIFIPN)
The 1st Nigerian to author of a book titled Practical Steps to Forensic Auditing and Fraud Investigation
Dated this 21st day of May, 2021.