Innocent Okwuosa argues that the bill should be thrown out
On 10th February, 2021 a bill titled “Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (Est) Bill,2021 (SB.615) sponsored by Senate Leader, Sen. 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 this bill passed first, second and third reading in the senate and the news following on 3rd March is that the senate has passed the bill. When it gets to the house of representatives, harmonisation will take place, I was made to understand. The speed of lightening with which the senate passed this bill shows it is more important to them than the security challenges confronting the country presently or the present economic sufferings of the citizens, none of which has attracted any bill from the senate. There was no public hearing on the current bill, but a mad rush, a hasty passage, designed to take them 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 were 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 assembly.
As such no answer was given to Senator Adeola when he sought clarification on the fundamental flaws and observations about the bill which was passed in the eight assembly but accent refused by President Muhammadu Buhari, because of these flaws. This is the more reason why the present bill should have passed through public hearing to see if these flaws have been addressed.
The first observation is the unprofessionalism and uncertainty in what is being promoted- “Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (Est) Bill,2021 for the senate and 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 Nigeria 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 on its own 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 were 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, criminality 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; 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 anthropologists.
The above provide a 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 as “Institute of Forensic Professionals” or “Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals” backed by any law, at best you have association.
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 profession. It is therefore surprising that this bill is proposing that the highest level of proficiency in medicine, pharmacy, accounting, auditing, engineering, architect 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 to which its members are not trained, have no skills, do not practice and therefore non-existent. Profession derives from practice, for which prior training and certification must have been obtained. It is not a theoretical reading or that memorised which can be recited. Therefore, in this bill, there is fraudulent claim to practice which all members of the so-called forensic investigative professionals do not have and therefore should be charged. They have behaved 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 “grand patron” title conferred on him by these un-professionals, so a clear vision develops. Members of the Senate and Federal House of Representative should disassociate themselves from this bill lest they and Nigeria be made 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, disrupt and appropriate unto themselves. They should stop cutting corners, taking the easy way as that is against professional behaviour. The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigerian (APBN) should intervene and call both the senate and this body to order to avoid Nigeria becoming a laughing stock among comity of nations.
––Dr. Okwuosa FCIB is Chairman, IFRS Experts Forum, Nigeria.
It is surprising that this bill is proposing that the highest level of proficiency in medicine, pharmacy, accounting, auditing, engineering should be ceded to outsiders and not those who have distinguished themselves within these professions