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The perspective of the forensic professionals in curbing the impact of COVID-19 in Nigeria

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INTRODUCTION:

It is no longer news that the world is today experiencing one of its sore shares of an unprecedented plague ravaging the face of the earth code named COVID-19, and Nigeria is no exception to this global emergency.

The world crisis that we are currently experiencing is linked to COVID-19 which is affecting every Country without exceptions and this is not random. We are concerned and we have to break silence at this point and talk about the looming impact of this global crisis.

While commending the efforts of the Federal Government, the World Health Organisation, relevant Government Agencies, Health workers as well as the organised private sector and good-spirited individuals in the fight against this scourge, CIFIPN wishes to lend its support and to join hands with all concerned to defeat the scourge.

Corona virus (COVID-19) is a major concern of every person globally. This health problem that leads to financial crises and economic breakdown/shutdown globally is quite simply inscribed in a cycle of life, and it is designed and allowed by God Almighty to bring closure to a cycle in order to usher in a new one. We encourage our members as well as the general public to be calm and remain positive at a time like this and see how things play out knowing that we are on top of the matter.

With more than 3,300,000 cases and 234,765 deaths reported worldwide as at the time of this paper, Government, individuals and organizations are taking aggressive actions to stop the pandemic and protect the most vulnerable countries. A lot of people have died already, and the whole world is shaking and terrified. But God is totally in control and he know what to do because he cannot have shortage of ideas and cannot be incapacitated no matter the danger.

WHY THE CORONA VIRUS:
The world has gone crazy. War, political threats, lack of recognition of the supremacy of God Almighty, killings, wickedness, abuse of power, fraud and corruption, bad behaviours, lawlessness, indiscipline, inhuman treatments, immorality, climate change, human rights abuse and debates, all manner of evil indulgence, and of course lately, the huge never seen before COVID-19 crisis, sometimes one just wonder why all of these are happening, how it can be true. But it is real.

I have come to understand that the world is too hard, too fast, too centered on material issues rather than on humans. And it is difficult to evolve and be happy in this kind of environment. The Almighty God is fully aware of what the world is going through at the moment, and he who allowed it will remove it as we keep calling on Him and do what is expected of us.

STATEMENT MADE BY DR ENAPE VICTORIA AYISHETU IN 2017:
COVID-19 Pandemic is tagged war without ammunition. This is a technological war what I talked about in my book which was launched in year 2017 at International Conference Center Abuja, Nigeria titled PRACTICAL STEPS TO FORENSIC AUDITING AND FRAUD INVESTIGATION. The statement can be found in 2nd edition chapter one introduction) page 3 paragraph 5 which is the last paragraph on that page. It reads: “It is said that if there is a Third World War, it will not be fought with arms and ammunition, but it will be a cyber war, along with an increase in technological development and technology dependency day by day. Threat of attacks and fraud are also increasing with the same magnitude” Oh yes that is it. What we are seeing in the world today may be called THE 3RD WORLD WAR.

This year 2020 will mark the beginning of every important discovery, technology, a whole new world will reveal itself to us. And it will be more intense now, because the past discoveries were made to improve life, but now, scientists and thinkers have to come with new ideas to fight the situation, and Forensics have to be in the forefront of breaking into this new frontier. Which means there will be great changes in our ways of living sooner than we expected.

HISTORY: In fact, if you look at the whole history before now, you will see that it’s not the first time a pandemic of like this is happening. For example, in 1918, the world suffered the Spanish flu. In the centuries before there was the plague. And more recently, in 2009 we discovered the swine flu. This is no coincidence, things like this are always evolving so only the strongest, the faithful, the just, the righteous, those that have faith in their Creator and sincere ones can thrive. The wicked, insincere people, corrupt people, heartless ones shall be swept away except there is a change of behaviour from bad to good.

And it is not just about nature in history; it’s also about human actions, like the war or economic crisis. They all happen for the same reasons every time: to conquer a land, to revenge or impose a culture, because people were acting without thinking about their consequences.

The crisis the world is going through right now will definitely be the most intense of the 21st Century. In the decades to come, the next generation will remember it as we remembered the innovations, where they reward creativities, where they respect creativeness than playing politics with a matter that concerns the future of their countries, and where they do not allow parochial interest of any group of persons to override the interest of their countries and the future of their children. Forensics played very strategic roles in these global crises in other climes, but Nigerians are yet to know this. In any case, I believe they will get to know that soon, and the earlier the better.

NOTE: It might interest us to know that It is only in Nigeria we claim not knowing that issues like COVID-19 pandemic need forensic professionals involvement. It is a pity that our country Nigeria did not even have a forensic regulatory body till now, simply because one group of persons who have some skeletons in their cupboards said they do not want it, and did everything, used everything at their disposal to ensure that the Bill to establish the CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIVE PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA is not signed by the President till this very moment. My heart bleeds as I write and I know that God Almighty will bring all lies against forensic body in Nigeria to light in no distant time and expose the whole truth about it. We are persuaded more than ever, that no man can stand in the way of the God Almighty. Therefore, may his will be done.

They didn’t adapt to their needs. I am sorry to announce that there is going to be a very serious economic recession in the world after the global crises, and everybody knows that already, but the question to ourselves in Nigeria precisely is, how long will this recession last? What will become of Nigerian economy after COVID-19? How many will survive this crisis? All depends on what we do with the management of the COVID-19 now and after it. The ball is in our court and it is left for us either to play it well or play politics with it as it were. But the truth of the matter is, no one can escape the post COVID-19 experience if you escape COVID-19 itself, because one thing is sure there are consequences.

As we speak, the economy of Nigeria is already dazzling and anything can happen to it anytime, and you know what will happen after COVID-19. The Nigerian economy has been a shadow of its self and Nigerians do not see the reality. Nigeria has been in serious debt before these crises, and right now the federal government is planning to go into another foreign debt of about three billion, four hundred dollars ($3.4b) in addition to previous foreign debt. If that happens, it means that the future of Nigeria will be mortgaged, if nothing is done to salvage Nigeria from ever borrowing to continue increasing foreign debt and never doing anything to stop the borrowing and add to our foreign reserve and the excess crude account. The unfortunate situation we found ourselves in right now is the current situation of crude oil in the market. What will Nigeria do now that the price of crude oil has crashed? This is a very serious question begging for answers.

There wouldn’t have been any need for Nigeria to borrow money for any reason in the first place if there is a Forensic body in Nigeria, because Forensic wouldn’t have been able to train Professionals that will prevent fraud that drained our country’s economy, dig out those funds hidden by some dubious people and those that aided them, and the money will be made available for government use. Can you see why the fight against forensic Bill in Nigeria. The taskmasters are the one kicking against it because they are afraid of being exposed by Forensic. However, that is just one aspect of Forensic that cannot prevent the existence of the body that have several branches.

Nigeria can still be salvaged if we do the needful, but failure to take the right steps in the right direction will lead our country Nigeria into an un-bargained and untold suffering.

Indeed, the outbreak of the COVID-19 has presented the world and Nigeria in particular with another phase of challenges as well as the opportunity to demonstrate not only our resilience as a people but also our will-power to emerge victorious and surmount any challenge that presents itself in our national journey. But what we do with this COVID-19 now matters a great deal.
NOTE: Right now Nigeria is the only country that does not have a forensic body backed by law. This is a slap on us, and it’s high time we wake up to reality and do the needful. In some other climes where COVID-19 started before Nigeria, they engaged forensic pathologists, investigators, etc to fight it. Forensic plays a vital role in the fight against COVID-19, and those that are fighting the establishment of a forensic professionals body in Nigeria should know that it goes beyond their imagination.
Forensics has many branches as shown below;
FORENSIC FIELDS: These includes, Forensic Toxicology, Forensic Investigation, Forensic Auditing, Digital Forensics and Cyber Crimes, Forensic Autopsy ,Forensic Law, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Nursing, Forensic Pathology, Forensic Engineering, Forensic Psychology, Forensic NDA Analyst, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Linguistics, Forensic Deontology, Forensic Dentistry, Forensic Archaeology, Forensic Graphology, Forensic Entomology, Forensic Science, etc

Having seen the fields of forensics as listed above, it amounts to an injustice for just a group of people to say that all these fields of forensic listed above should not have a regulatory body in Nigeria because they want to practice just forensic Accounting, even when nobody stops them from doing so. I want to believe that some of those moves were done out of ignorance. We pray that the Almighty God should open our eyes to know how important Forensic investigative Professionals Bill is in Nigeria, and to know the truth of the whole thing, because it looks somehow and sounds so strange in this digital age for such an important idea to be ignored.

How on earth would a group of people always want to be the ‘know it all and do it all’ in a county of about over 200 million people, blessed with young and vibrant brains, having potentials of coming up with new ideas at any time to the benefit our country? May God deliver Nigeria. Other countries of the world including some smaller African Countries already have forensic regulatory bodies for many years ago, but Nigeria is still contemplating on either to have it or not. Forensic profession is not just about one field like Forensic Accounting, because forensic accounting is just one branch of forensics which deals with financial forensic, but Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria is broad covering all the fields of forensics mentioned above. Membership is not for only Accountants, it cut across other professions like Law, criminology, psychology, sociology, cyber security, information technology, security experts, etc. As you can see, the work of forensic investigators is not just all about forensic accounting as some are thinking. We hereby advise people to do proper research and get the whole truth about this current trend. We refuse to blame people that think otherwise, because the forensic is new to majority of Nigerians, we will blame you if you continue to be ignorant after now.

Recall that few months back, Mr President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR ordered for Forensic Audit of NDDC, and one of the requirements stated was that the person that will qualify for the job of Forensic audit of NDDC must be a member of Forensic regulatory body in Nigeria. Meanwhile non Forensic regulatory body in Nigeria as at the moment, untill the Bill to establish the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria transmitted to the President by the 8th assembly is signed into law. Oh my God! What is happening in Nigeria? Doest it mean they didn’t know that the Bill was not signed when such statement was made, or they thought the Bill was already signed that time? Forensic Bill was still on Mr President’s office waiting for assent when that advert came out in the newspaper. This implies that government of Nigeria knows the importance of Forensic regulatory body in the country, but were forced against their wish by the enemies of Nigeria unknowingly to keep the Bill in one corner. We give kudos to Nigeria government on that because they have said the right thing, only that they forgot to do the right thing by giving assent to the Bill before such requirements. It’s like our government thought the Bill was already signed when that statement was made. If not why would the government ask for a requirement they knew quiet okay that does not exist? In any case, that is very good because it is now evidently clear that the need for Forensic regulatory body in Nigeria is obvious, but some personalities are blocking it just for a self interest reasons to continue keeping Nigeria in perpetual bondage. Please, I stand to be corrected on this statement.

FRAUD AND CORONA VIRUS:
Importantly, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria wishes to draw a parallel between the corona virus pandemic with the endemic fraud and corruption in our country, which is that, as at today there is no specific cure for COVID-19, the remedy lies in early detection and application of preventive measures. It is in line with this parallel that CIFIPN wishes to once again urge the Nigerian nation to embrace preventive and early detection of pervasive fraud and corruption which CIFIPN stands for, especially in the face of judicious and effective use of available resources running into billions from grants and donations in the fight against COVID-19.

The global approach to dealing with the crisis so far revolves around containment through strict adherence to hygienic and sanitary measures prescribed by health professionals; even as research and investigations using forensic methodologies have revealed greater severity and resilience of the deadly virus.

Fraud and corruption over the years have destroyed the economy of Nigeria and has sent thousands of people to their graves untimely. Such incidence would have been prevented if Nigerians were proactive. It would have been prevented if half of attention we are currently giving to preventive measures in the fight against COVID-19 was given to fraud prevention. Fraud is more deadly than COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a passerby, and just as it came suddenly, it will soon disappear suddenly if we do the right thing and take the right steps, but fraud has been there from time, and has been killing people every day directly or indirectly, yet little or no serious attention is given, simply because of the categories of people suffering the effect (The poor). And any attempt made by any person or group of persons to stop it just like forensic professionals intend to do will attract enemies. But COVID- 19 is receiving a joint war from right left and centre because it affects the big and the small this time around.

If anybody or group of persons deliberately decided to stop the emerging trend (Forensic Profession) in Nigeria as it is being practiced in other climes, just for a parochial interest, selfish reasons or because it does not emanate from them or for whatever reasons best known to them, they should know that such action is like a man throwing a stone into a market place who may also have his relatives in that same market without knowing it. The implication is that the effect of not having such body (FORENSIC) in Nigeria will affect all directly or indirectly except you return to doing the right thing not minding where it emanated from. What we should look at is the relevance to Nigerians as a country.
Fighting COVID-19 and preventing it is very important, but more importantly is prevention of fraud in Nigeria to reduce number of casualties. Fraud is more dangerous and deadly than COVID-19, but Nigerians do not seem to understand how deadly it is, and that is why they keep nurturing and celebrating it until it was given allowances to take root and now assumed a very strategic position in Nigeria, and became a celebrity by those who enjoy the proceeds. In any case, we pray that the Almighty God should open our eyes to see the urgency of having a forensic regulatory body in Nigeria to train and regulate forensic professionals as proposed by the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria.

Fraud is becoming a way of life in Nigeria to the detriment of the masses and future generations. Almost 70% of Nigerians have made fraud and corruption their daily songs during public address, but in the real sense little or nobody is actually fighting it, rather the name corruption is always used as a cover to commit more and bigger corruption without any person knowing it. I stand to be corrected anyway. This is quite unfortunate and worrisome, but we want to encourage all to ensure that all hands are on deck in the prevention of fraud in Nigeria using the same strength that we are using right now to fight Corona virus.

Corona virus will disappear soon and no doubt about that, but let us continue to fight the senior brother of COVID-19 (Fraud) with the same momentum until we bring it down by making sure that the Bill to establish Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria is signed into law. There is no going back on this noble project until we reach our promise land.

IMPORTANCE OF FORENSIC PROFESSIONALS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
According to Dr Judy Melinik, a forensic pathologist with Alameda County Sheriff Coroner, Oakland, California, “the COVID-19 is more resilient in that it sticks around the dead body that is, it lives on in blood after death”, however in-road is being made in terms of developing a cure or vaccine for the virus.

Dr. Judy Melinik has performed autopsies under many different circumstances. According to her, the current COVID-19 pandemic, however, poses new challenges in terms of protecting herself and her colleagues and limiting the spread of the deadly virus. “We are used to dealing with contagious pathogens like tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV. COVID-19 is different only in that there is currently no treatment… and it is more resilient in that it sticks around the dead body after death.’’

She added that , Autopsy is of great significance to the elucidation of the pathological changes, pathogenesis and cause of death of corona virus disease and can provide theoretical basis for more scientific and accurate prevention and control of the outbreak. Based on related laws and regulations, such as Law of the People’s Republic of China on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, the clinical manifestations and epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19, and the related guidelines on the prevention and control of the outbreak, combined with the practical work of forensic pathology examination, the Guide to the Forensic Pathology Practice on Death Cases Related to Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19 Trial Draft) has been developed. This guide includes information on the background investigation of the cases, autopsy room requirements, personal prevention and protections, external examinations, autopsy, auxiliary examinations, and so on. This guide can be used as a reference by forensic and pathological examination institutions, as well as examination staff.

CYBERCRIME IN HEALTH CARE AND FRAUD:
Another issue of concern is the emergence of cybercrime in health care and the possibility of disaster fraud. It is obvious that cyber criminals are constantly scouting for loopholes in systems and vulnerable persons to defraud. The COVID-19 pandemic provides such ample opportunity for fraudsters as most businesses and economic activities and even public sector entities now have to rely on digital platforms to continue operations, noting that majority of these players have not mastered the use of e-systems and digital platforms in their operations.

This situation increases their vulnerability to cybercrime, a development that can result in an economic catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude.
From the foregoing, it is therefore expedient that we deploy the services of forensic professionals ranging from forensic investigators, Cyber Crimes and Digital forensics, pathologists and toxicologists to cybercrime specialists to put in place preventive measures and also, detect and investigate already existing cases. To this end therefore, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) wishes to assure the Nigeria public that its members have determined to avail themselves to be of service to Nigeria when there is a need now and in future once the Bill to establish Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) is assented to.

COMMITTEMENT OF FORENSIC PROFESSIONALS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
Based on the relevance of forensic professionals in the fight against Corona virus, we need to state here that Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria would have been better equipped and at the forefront of this fight now in Nigeria just as it was in China where this pandemic originated from, if we were invited but it’s like the government of the day do not know the importance of forensic professionals in the fight against COVID-19 yet. However, within the extent of our ability, we restate our commitment to Project Nigeria.
As part of the Forensic Investigative Professional’s commitment to our country as earlier promised in the first address, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria has distributed sanitizers, face masks, bags of Rice, cartons of Indomie, bags of Salt, cartons of Biscuits, physical cash etc to some less privileged and the vulnerable in Abuja and suburbs, and we promise to do more as occasion demands. Forensic Professionals also have been involved in COVID-19 sensitization and awareness campaign within and outside Abuja using our resources.
We also encourage our members and indeed the general public to support the fight against COVID-19 while we are hopeful of the government giving CIFIPN its proper legal frame work without further delay for efficiency in its responsibilities.

The Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria is also committed to training of about 500,000 Nigerians in Forensics to enable Nigeria have enough man power and make the fight against COVID-19 a success, and to ensure that the effects on our economy is minimal.

CONCLUSION:
The role of forensic professionals in the fight against COVID-19 Pandemic cannot be overemphasized. We wish to reinstate that the fight against COVID-19 can be better fought with the assistance of forensic investigative professionals, because forensics goes beyond the surface, they go deeper to find out why, where, what, who, when and how. We need forensic professionals to train those personnel in the field on how to handle COVID-19 patients and protect themselves from being infected with COVID-19. We are concerned about the future of the economy of our country and how it affects the future of our children. This implies that whoever that have contributed and will contribute to the success of the establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria in time past and even now directly or indirectly like the 8th National Assembly who took their time to work on the Bill and passed it and as well transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for assent, such persons shall be blessed, and posterity will definitely remember them for the good work.

Finally, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) wish to appreciate Mohammadu buhari for the fight against Covid-19, and pledges to continue to joind hand with him to ensure that Nigeria bounch back will after this global crises called Coronavirus Covid-19. We were not contacted by the government of Nigeria officially to assist anyway, but we have volunteered our services and we have been involved in the fight against COVID-19-19 on our own by providing palliatives for the poor and the vulnerable, and we have also promised our continued support. Even though the Bill to establish Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria which scaled through the two Chambers of National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) has not been signed till now, we are optimistic that your labor and the labor of the members of the Institute can never be in vain. The will of God must be done because such an important Bill cannot be swept under carpet no matter who is involved, provided God is still on the throne and he is behind this noble course.

Thank you

Dr.(Mrs) Enape Victoria Ayishetu, PhD,FCFIP,FCNA.FCTI,FCFA,CFE,MNIM,CPFA
Pro-tem President, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN)


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