Whodunnit? Lagos DNA Lab Solves Crime & Paternity Issues

So what do crime and the issue of paternity have in common? While sociologists may want to find some tedious link between both, the answer is a little more straightforward – DNA lab testing.

But first off, what is DNA? DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix.

An important property of DNA is that it can make copies of itself. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell. Very simple.

With the setting up of the Lagos DNA lab, the first of its kind in the country, the question “who’s the father?” should be a little easier to answer now. Previously, paternity disputes were resolved by divine supplication or expensive DNA tests in a few private hospitals, or as it often happens, while the family is abroad on vacation.

While the government of Governor Ambode may have had more noble plans for the DNA lab, there is no doubt it will do very brisk business settling the minds of long worried supposed-fathers, especially with the rising cost of bringing up children in the State, let alone having to bring up someone else’s child.

Some men may well breathe sighs of relief having engaged the services of the DNA lab, but what then happens to the innocent children, themselves victims of a moral crime. In this sense, we may say therefore that there is indeed a link between a certain moral crime and paternity.

The Story: In furtherance of its commitment to the criminal justice sector reforms and take the fight against crime to a greater level, the Lagos State Government on Tuesday announced that it has concluded plans to establish the first ever high-powered DNA Forensic Laboratory in Nigeria which will take off within the next six to 12 months.

The lab, which would be called the Lagos State DNA Forensics Centre (LSDFC), when fully operational, will fulfill an unmet need for DNA profiling which is a unique forensic technique that is now being used all over the world.

Addressing journalists at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa on Tuesday, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, said the establishment of the centre was another eloquent testimony of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s sincerity and seriousness towards fighting all forms of criminality.

Mr. Kazeem, who addressed the media alongside senior officials of the Ministry, said Governor Ambode had been at the vanguard of the war against domestic, sexual and violent crimes, and that the centre was geared towards vigorous justice sector reforms.

He recalled the ground-breaking donation of equipment worth N4.8 billion to the Nigerian Police, the Light Up Lagos Project, and the recent solidarity visit of the Governor to crime flash points like the Isawo area of Ikorodu where criminals have been terrorizing innocent citizens, among others as further proofs of the Governor’s determination to tackle crime.

Speaking on the importance of the forensic centre, the Commissioner said the facility which would be driven by the Ministry of Justice with active support of the Governor, will focus on DNA analysis to support the justice sector in diverse areas such as “collection and preserving reference and evidentiary DNA which can later be used in identifying criminals; decoding familial relationships of individuals which could also be a tool for the judicial system; and identifying victims and remains after natural and man-made calamities.”

Mr. Kazeem also explained that DNA profiling is an extraction of DNA from body fluids, semen, nails, hair and other DNA generic sources, adding that the centre would greatly help to controvert evidence of alibi and confirm physical presence of suspects at the scene of a crime and the origin of DNA to such suspects.

He said: “Even though the role of DNA in forensics, law enforcement and the justice sector is well known globally, a high-powered DNA analysis centre is not available in Nigeria. This means that most, if not all the DNA lab testing needs are performed outside Nigeria, a situation that leads to longer turnaround times and an overall higher cost of bringing closure to investigation and prosecution of crimes.”

He said when operational, the centre would serve the DNA needs of the state, members of the public, other states and neighbouring countries, saying it would be of international standard which all stakeholders including security agencies would benefit from.

On the areas of focus, Mr. Kazeem said the DNA lab would be deployed for criminal investigation to identify criminals with incredible accuracy and exonerate suspects mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes.

The Centre, according to the Commissioner, would also aid investigation on domestic and sexual violence cases, boost family and paternity proceedings, and help in identifying victims of natural and man-made disasters.

The Commissioner expressed optimism that the Centre would be a unique solution to fighting crime in the quest of the present administration for a safer and secured Lagos, adding, “Lagos is a unique place with a unique Governor who has continued and will continue to provide unique solutions.”

He further said the government was partnering with experts in the DNA field on the project, who would build, operate and transfer to government after about two years, a period within which the officials of the state must have been trained on how to run the Centre.

Fielding questions on the challenge of collecting database for the centre, Mr. Kazeem said data collated along the line, would be stored, and that other government ministries, departments and agencies would equally collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to effectively deliver on the mandate of the DNA Lab Centre.



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