Lie Detectors & the Judicial System


As the years keep moving, so does technology and inventions influence our different activities as well as state activities like Transportation, investigation, security etc. This article is centered on a device which is known as lie-detector (polygraph). The article also goes further to analyze the good the Nigerian judicial system will experience if the lie detector machine is being used in judicial proceedings. As the name implies, the machine is nothing more than a machine that is specially and expertly designed to determine whether or not someone, being put through its test is telling the truth or not. Many have commented that results from lie detector test are not accurate, and that its results could be misleading, my response to this perception is on the fact that the importance, convenience, and accuracy of this machine is one which has made security agencies like the F.B.I, C.I.A, Secret security service and investigating departments all over the world utilize it till date, due to previous convincing results that have been obtained while putting suspects, as well as others persons through it.
Furthermore, the reliance, assurance and accuracy of the lie detector machine has moved It to a stage, where certain government as well as private jobs require the lie detector test for intending employees, also where an employer believes that any of his employees is involved in stealing of funds or embezzlement from the company he would most preferably put such an employee through a lie detector test. It is very important to note that when a lie detector test is undergone, in order to arrive at an accurate result as usual, the questioner being known as PSYCHO-PHYSIOLOGIST is not anyone who is just merely deemed to be a questioner, but one who is well experienced and conversant with the use of the lie detector machine (polygraph), that one should not quickly conclude that the machine is inaccurate.

Its common amongst us that when telling lies, we get to stutter, breath fast, salivate, perspire unusually or just become uncomfortable at that particular moment, not because we desire to. During a lie detector test, what both the machine and the certified examiner look out for are not more than these. Here, about four to six sensors are being connected to him, the sensors usually observe as well as record the person’s breath rate, pulse, blood pressure, perspiration. Obvious uncertainties like consistent blinks, hair twitching, voice rising and falling etc are also looked out for by the psycho-physiologist.

The use of lie- detectors machines in Nigeria, is not new, in that the machine has been in existence for about half a decade now. Research has it that Halogen Security Company Limited Nigeria being the best private security company with 20 years’ experience was the first to venture in rendering polygraph examination services.
In pre-judicial sessions (investigations and questioning suspects), which relevantly precedes trials, it’s no surprise, that the methods as to which confessional statements are most times obtained from suspect is by way of torture, threats, inhumane treatments etc. and this has been in operation from time immemorial. It should be noted that this goes against Section 34 (1A) of the 1999 constitution as amended in 2011, which states as follows;

(1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly 

(a)  no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment. 

Also,  8 (1) A and B of the ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT, which provides as follows.

A suspect shall

Be accorded humane treatments, having regards to his right to dignity of his person and 

Not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

A further reading of the Administration of criminal justice Act in Section 11, Nurses the desire to use the lie detector machine with the aid of a certified expert. For proper understanding of this, section 11 of the Administration of criminal justice Act provides as follows: 

Where a suspect is in lawful custody on a charge of committing

An offence of such a nature and alleged to have been committed

In circumstances that there are reasonable grounds for believing

That an examination of his person will afford evidence as to the 

Commission of the offence, a qualified medical practitioner or

Any certified professional with relevant skill, acting at the request of 

A police officer, may make such an examination necessary in order 

To ascertain the facts which may afford the evidence……. 

The need for upholding the rights of suspects from extreme torture and inhumane treatments as       also provided for in Articles 15 of the Africans Charter is among the numerous reasons why the lie detector machines was made. The right to freedom from torture is so important when breached entitles even a confirmed criminal to a cause of action, as stated in SOLOMON ADEKUNLE V ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OGUN STATE (2014) AELR 3353, KALU V THE STATE (1998) 13 NWLR. 
Furthermore, during both civil and criminal proceedings the use of a lie detector test for witnesses during cross examination will be of great importance. The trial courts, are privileged to have a live view of the demeanor of a witness during cross examination. According to black’s law dictionary, the term demeanor is used to characterize the appearance, look, and attitude of a witness. The courts where necessary, places value on the demeanor of a witness. The trial courts evaluate the oral evidence given by the witness bearing in mind the witnesses demeanor in court, Per GUMEL, JCA in the case of CHIKA MWOMEH V THE STATE (2013) AELR SUIT NO CA/AK/16C/2010. However, it takes barely nothing to create a false demeanor which is very capable of affecting the value which the court gives to that oral testimony, positively or Negatively, but where the lie detector is used in this circumstance, the detection of untrue statements will be much easier. 
In my opinion also, the use of the lie detector machines and its test should be captured in the matrimonial causes act, that before the petition for the dissolution of a marriage commences (listening to the substantive suit), the petitioner, respondent, and co respondent should be through a lie detector test in closed doors separately, in order to see if the results will tally with the affidavits as well as the dire need to get genuine answers in such a case, in order to guide the courts in the processes of adjudication, which is very sensitive, for marriage itself is a social institution and should not be broken down easily unless where necessary.
In as much as the Importance of the lie detector is being appreciated, its application and use in the courts in Nigeria cannot just unfold, but its use and admissibility will first have to be primarily captured in the evidence act 2011. The drafters of the Act received numerous commendations and applauds for the admissibility of electronically generated evidence, which has had great impact in the country’s judicial system. Same would apply, if the lie detector machine (polygraph) and its test are included in the evidence act.