How Crime And Justice Lagos Worked Its Way to Awards and Acclaim

How Crime And Justice Lagos Worked Its Way to Awards and Acclaim

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

If you ask me, the best episode of the remarkable Crime and Justice Lagos series is the third one. Titled Oro, the episode takes place during the eponymous festival in Yorubaland. Famously—or infamously—known for requiring the absence of people, women especially, from the streets, the festival and its rituals are at the centre of this episode.

When it begins, the viewer is treated to strikingly beautiful overhead shots of men in white wrappers moving at night-time. After a few minutes, we see a vehicle drop off what appears to be two drunken women, who then walk right into the path of the Oro adherents. As you can imagine, there will be blood. And Detectives Kelechi and Danladi of the Serious and Special Crimes Unit division of the police, around which the series is based, will need to figure out what happened and who, if anybody, deserves punishment.

Two choices elevate the episode: one is within the frame, the other outside it. We arrive at the former in a scene about halfway into the episode. In the scene, a masquerade is brought in for questioning and instructed to take off his mask by the investigating police. He reluctantly takes it off only to reveal the same mask on its face. He takes off this second mask and there is an identical one underneath it. And on and on. The police are looking for a face to tie the crime to. But, you see, the masquerade’s mask is its face. The sequence is a brilliant depiction of one of the foundational esoterica of Nigerian tradition.

As for what lies outside the frame, the viewer would have to consider the resolution of the episode. To prevent spoilers, it should be enough to urge you to find the series on the Showmax platform and observe how the series takes on the thorny issue of modern crime and punishment vs ancient rites and practices. A police procedural series tackling a crime with spiritual aspects inevitably makes a statement about metaphysical traditions. In Crime and Justice Lagos, that statement is respectful and in sync with the occasional surrealism of Nigerian reality.

And yet, this praiseworthy episode isn’t the favourite episode of Kola Munis, the show’s head writer, who’s based in the UK. He picks the fourth episode, Clash, as his beloved. “It’s my favourite because virtually every Nigerian can relate,” he said, explaining that back in the day he had a comparable experience. 

It’s easy to understand his choice. The pivotal scene in Clash involves a group of young people getting accosted by the police after leaving a nightclub. The encounter turns fatal. It’s a fine episode that’s instantly relatable, given how deeply etched untoward events involving law enforcement are in the mind of the Nigerian public. Every viewer will make the connection between life on the streets and fiction on the screen.

Maggie Osuome made the connection. She plays Simi, the SSCU’s tech and research expert, in Crime and Justice Lagos. When we spoke over the phone, she first told me her favourite episode is Oro but when I tell her one of her colleagues chose Clash, she changes her mind. In the end, she sticks with Oro as her first choice and says Clash is a close second. “It is a really good thing that it is hard to choose,” she said, laughing, “because the writing is so good and the show touches on several relevant issues: female genital mutilation, organ harvesting, cultism, police brutality.”

Asked how the subjects and stories came together, Munis says that two researchers were contracted to work on the project. Their first task involved scanning crime cases in Nigeria from which “elements could be used or cases that could be adapted for the screen”. Following this research phase, a list was presented to the Showmax team from which about a dozen ideas received approval. The aim was to produce eight episodes, just like the Kenyan version. That didn’t happen.

After a particularly brutal turn in the wobbling Nigerian economy, plans changed. The team of producers returned to Showmax with bad news. Even though a contract had been signed, it was impossible to deliver the number of episodes on the same budget. “To their credit, they were understanding,” said Yinka Edward, the show’s director of photography and executive producer.

The six episodes currently available were then approved. Despite a few challenges, shooting started in Lagos in July last year and ended in October.


Munis struggled a bit with assembling a team and with the peculiarities of Nigerian budgets—after all, his bills come in pound sterling. Still, it appears the project was always going to happen, if only because when Munis met Edward years ago through the entertainment industry titan Kingsley Ogoro, they had immediately hit if off based on a shared appreciation for great storytelling and a desire to reproduce that which they had enjoyed in their own projects.

Something similar may have been in the air for some other members of the team, perhaps because there are very few people working in Nollywood with Edward’s record of excellence. As Jammal Ibrahim, who plays the Danladi, told me, “If Yinka is working on something, it is definitely not mediocre”. Folu Storms agreed, saying that the show’s quality is the result of “the team’s effort, directors Mak Kusare and Onyinye Egenti, and especially because of the way Yinka envisioned it”.

Indeed, you won’t find too many arguments to a claim that Edward is the best cinematographer working in Nollywood today. He is definitely the most acclaimed. Looking through his list of projects is like looking at the track list of New Nollywood’s Greatest Hits album. The two films that spearheaded the New Nollywood era had him peering behind the camera: He was cinematographer for the relatively big budget The Figurine, the film that announced Kunle Afolayan to the world; he was also behind the ultra-indie Confusion Na Wa, which launched the impressive career of its director, Kenneth Gyang. 

Recently, the first and only time the Nollywood Oscar Selection Committee chose a film to send to the Oscars, it chose The Milkmaid, which was lensed by Edward. Genevieve Nnaji recruited him for her directing debut, Lionheart, which ended up on Netflix for a figure rumoured to be unheard of in Nollywood. In fact, Edward’s relatively low profile and the massive acclaim and popularity of projects he has worked is one of Nollywood’s biggest paradoxes.

Asked how he came to make Crime and Justice Lagos, Edward provides a terse answer: “We saw the Kenyan version and asked if we could do the Nigerian version.” 

The answer was yes, and Edward got to work, calling on Eustace Okwechime as producer. Both men have been friendly for two decades and Okwechime was keen to get on the project because of the nature of the show. “I grew up on Law and Order, so this was a chance to do something of the sort in Nigeria,” he said. 

When it was time to choose the leads, Edward was certain he wanted to represent Nigeria. “We wanted to make a show that cuts across Nigeria, so it was important that we have characters from the north and from the south,” Edward said, adding that it took some time to find the right actor to play Danladi but then he tapped into his experience as a filmmaker and his background, having grown up in Jos. He had worked on The Milkmaid, which had starred Ibrahim. The man eventually came in for an audition and the crew knew they had found their man.

Beyond the geographical, the show also found space for other forms of representation. Notably, Osuome’s Simi is on a wheelchair and is the designated genius of the SSCU division. Once she was informed about the character, Osuome told me she took up the role as an “interesting challenge”. She had never played a character living with a disability, and she was glad the script treated Simi with respect.


As with the first season of most shows, Crime and Justice Lagos has a question looking to be answered: Is there going to be a second season?

Folu Storms welcomes it. “There is so much story available for the show to explore,” she said. Ibrahim feels the same way. “I’m more than excited to get back to Danladi,” he said and then he directed me to speak to the men behind the camera for the definitive response he couldn’t supply. But Edward couldn’t supply a conclusive response either. It would make him happy to get a second season, but “I don’t know,” he said finally.

The uncertainty must be frustrating for producers, especially because everybody in the business of entertainment now knows that streaming platforms keep most of their metrics to themselves. And yet, there are two reasons to argue for at least one more season of Crime and Justice Lagos.

First, even a cursory look at the news suggests that there are so many stories about Nigeria that can be told through Nigerian crime. Edward describes some of these stories as “jaw-dropping”.

Second, to my mind, Crime and Justice Lagos is the best of the commissioned shows currently on Showmax. If none of the Nigerian Showmax Originals get renewed, the platform would be sending a signal that its first roster of relatively high-level shows failed, which isn’t such a great message to send to the industry. If one does get renewed based on quality, Crime and Justice Lagos should be getting that slot. But it isn’t up to this reporter to choose. 

Still, the view on the show’s quality appears to be shared by the judges of the 2023 AMVCAs. At the announcement of nominees in April, the show’s name was mentioned five times and now stands a chance to win Best Cinematographer, Best Picture Editor, Best Lighting Designer In Movie Or TV Series, Best Art Director (Movie Or TV Series), and the big one, Best Television Series when the ceremony is held on the 20th of May. 

“Our nominations came in five really technical categories, which speaks to the quality of what the AMVCA jury saw,” said Osuome, who sat through the nominations and excitedly sent live updates to the show’s group chat.

Nonetheless, the decision on renewal will be made by the suits at Showmax. So, while we keep our fingers crossed on the decision, dear reader, see Crime and Justice Lagos if you haven’t. I’d say to pay special attention to episode three. But do watch the whole thing. Edward is correct when he tells me that, “Although the show may start slow, by the second episode, you’ll be hooked.”

  • Aigbokhaevbolo writes from Lagos

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