DNA and Forensic Centre, MOJ Train Lagosians on the Importance of DNA Analysis for Criminal Investigation
As part of its training on the use of DNA analysis in assisting criminal investigation, with the aim of ensuring that criminality is easily detected through the use of technology, the Lagos DNA and Forensic Centre (LSD&FC) in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, held its 4th Forensic Symposium last week.
The two-day symposium, held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, provided an opportunity for Forensic Scientists, Judges, Lawyers, Police, Investigators, Military, Emergency Responders, Academia, Students and Medical Examiners, to meet annually in Africa to discuss local, regional and global trends, as well as interact and exchange knowledge and experience.
Declaring the symposium open, Lagos State Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Funlola Odunlami, said Forensic Science is a very important part of the Criminal Justice System, because it supports investigations and it can facilitate the speedy identification and conviction of perpetrators and exoneration of the innocent.
Odunlami said Lagos State Government recognises the importance of forensic analysis, which is why the Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre, was established to support investigations conducted by the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies.
According to her, the Centre which was commissioned in September 2017, and the Forensic Biology/DNA Unit and the DNA Database and Matching system attained ISO 17025: 2017 accreditation in February.
The Solicitor General said the Lagos DNA and Forensic Centre, has played a significant role in over 100 investigations; including suspicious deaths, identification of exhumed human remains, disaster victims identification, child trafficking, rape, burglary, and over 300 cases involving paternity issues associated with inheritance.
"With the ever changing and evolving crime patterns, the State Government must constantly innovate, in order to make the State a safer place to live, work and visit", she further stated.
Director of the LSD&FC, Dr. Richard Somiari, in his remarks, said the Forensic Chemistry and Forensic Texicology Units of the Centre are presently being developed, and will become operational in the fourth quarter of next year.
Somiari said the units would be deployed against the use of narcotics, and other illegal substances.
“The Forensic Chemistry and Forensic Toxicology Units are presently being developed, and these disciplines will be operational by the 4th quarter of 2020. These units will help with the fight against the illegal use of controlled substances and drugs”, he said.
The LSD&FC Director said sexual assault was the biggest of the investigations carried out by the DNA centre during past years, describing the development as "a big problem".
He said LSD&FC works very closely with the Nigeria Police, and its services are available to other law enforcement agencies, the military, NGOs, investigators, prosecutors, defence attorneys, hospitals, security agencies, immigration services, customs, emergency services, and the public.
Dr. Somiari made a case for a legislation that will enable the Centre to collate profiles of offenders from different sources, and establish a data base to enable them determine easily if they were at a crime scene after initial conviction.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Lagos Command, Yetunde Longe, remarked that "a homicide investigator must be thorough, focused, unbiased, experienced and intelligent", to achieve a successful crime investigation.
She listed some of the cases successfully investigated with the assistance of the LSD&FC to include that of the murder of Chief Opeyemi Bademosi by his Togolesse cook, Sunday Aniene, who has been convicted and sentenced to death by the court; Danish man, Nelson, presently on trial for alleged murder of his wife and daughter, Zainab and Petra, respectively; Otike Odibe presently on trial for allegedly killing her husband, Syme Odibe, and severing his manhood from his body among others.
“In the course finding out the author of crimes, the Department (SCIID) enjoys a very robust relationship with the Lagos DNA and Forensic Centre, the Department of Public Prosecution, the Coroner and the Department of Pathology at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. Their immense contributions over the years can never be over emphasised”, DCP Longe added.
A forensic specialist from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dr. Elif Eskikoy, urged the Federal Government to develop a mass fertility master plan for Nigeria to care for hundreds and thousands of deaths in emergency situations.
"These plans acknowledge that people are going to die in emergency situations, insurgencies and natural disasters, and how the bodies of victims are managed to ensure proper identification", she stressed.
The two-day symposium, which was co-sponsored by GIZ (German Agency for International Development), GE Healthcare Lifesciences, UK, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and BODE Technology, USA, featured topics which include, Domestic and Sexual Assault Investigations, Basic Body Fluid Identification in Forensics, Touch DNA in Forensic Investigations, Controlled Substance and Toxicology Investigations, Forensic Evidence Admissibility and Weight in Nigeria.
Other Speakers at the symposium include Director, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Dr. Babajide Martins, Head of Component, GEZ Police Program for Africa, Mr. Hartmut Zander, DNA Technical Leader, Guardian Forensic Sciences, USA, Arthur Young, F-ABC, Law Enforcement Officer, Lake Country Crime Lab, USA, Mr. David Green, Director & DNA Technical Leader, LSD&FC, Annette Alehin MS, Sr Business Development Manager, GE Healthcare, Lifeservices, UK, Mohammed Abdo, Drug Chemistry Technical Leader, LSD&FC, Yannis Charles MS, Vice President, BODE Technology, USA, Manzar Ahmed, DNA Analyst 1, LSD&FC, Afeez Akande, and DNA Analyst 1, LSD&FC, Adesola Onabanjo.