Rising Security Concerns and the Call for It- Based Surveillance and Investigation

The spate of incidents relating to terrorism and wanton attacks on lives and properties in Nigeria, has motivated calls for more advanced methods in the fight against insecurity. Major roads in the country are now hot spots for kidnapping and killings, while in many parts of the country bandit’s herdsmen and extremists have unleashed mayhem and terror on innocent citizens. Asides the deployment of the Nigerian military and other security agencies for combat and physical engagement, there is need to intensify intelligence monitoring of suspicious activities and criminal hangouts and leverage such monitoring with I.T. and Artificial intelligence (A.I.)


Hitherto, Security agencies relied on human baits and spies or agent provocateurs for covert surveillance. While these methods are still in use, they have in recent times proved to be cumbersome, risky and less effective. There is evidence of increasing resort by security agencies to the use of A.I. in the surveillance and monitoring of hangouts or hideouts of criminals or potential hotspots. Common devices used are phone taps, CCTV and drone technology. An example of such instance, was the use of drone airstrikes on Boko-haram logistics hideouts in Yobe State in March 2016 by the Nigerian Air-force which brings the total number of such operation to 55.

Along with the use of A.I, there are numerous applications by the State seeking judicial approval for the deployment of IT assisted monitoring of telephones, locations or identities of persons suspected to be criminals and terrorists for the collation of evidence intended to be relied on by the prosecution. Correspondingly the framework for integrating identity management with telecommunications services has been considerably strengthened with the linking of National Identity Numbers (NIN) with SIMs.

Notwithstanding any of the mechanism put in place for the fight against insecurity, the goal is the trial and eventual conviction of these suspected criminals. Only then can one truly acknowledge that justice has been served. However, before these persons can be charged to court, sufficient intelligence must first be gathered and analyzed before being compiled and presented in court as evidence by the relevant prosecuting agency.  While one must bear in mind that not all intelligence gathered during investigation can be admitted as evidence, the admissibility of computer generated evidence as provided for in section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011, stipulates that documents which are generated by computers or any electronic device are generally admissible in courts as evidence. These include clips from live and recorded videos, audio recordings, CCTV footage and other documents printed or stored in the computer. There are numerous concerns about the reliability of IT-based evidence one of which is the fact that computer generated evidence can easily be manipulated. The courts are therefore justifiably cautious in admitting such evidence especially in the absence of any corroborative evidence incriminating the accused person.  In relying on computer generated evidence the courts do not only look at the substance but also the form and method by which the evidence was acquired.

The general standard of proof in criminal proceedings laid on the prosecution is to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubts, in STATE v AJAYI (2016) LPELR – 40663 (SC), Okoro JSC at page 50 held that “It is trite that in criminal proceedings, the onus is always on the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and the prosecution will readily achieve this result by ensuring that all necessary and vital ingredients of the charge or charges are proved by evidence”

As we shift from human/fixed surveillance into IT and A.I in the fight against insecurity, State security agencies must also ensure that they comply strictly with the standards of evidence to ensure that their efforts are not done in futility. Such documents and Intelligence to be relied on must be properly analyzed and certified to ensure it passes the test materiality and reliability.