3 October 2012

Nigeria: Varsity Dons, IGP Call for National DNA Database

University dons from Africa and the United States at the weekend spoke with one voice and asked the Nigerian government to acquire DNA database in order to bring down the rate of crime in the country.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar has said that in order to aid DNA test and track down perpetrators of crime, the Federal Government should acquire a national database for its citizenry.

The I.G who made this plea during a two-day DNA forensics colloquium, titled; From Crime Scene to the Courtroom, held at the University of Lagos said the rate of crime in the country would have been reduced to the barest minimum if a database was instituted where there will be no hiding place for anyone who commits crime, adding, "The issue of Boko Haram insurgence would have been a thing of the past."

Speaking through the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Forensic Science Service), Mr Ovie Oyokomino, he noted that if a police detective in the process of crime investigation comes across fingerprint, palmprint, saliva, blood stain or any other means of identification at crime scene, we can compare it with the ones already stored in the database through DNA to know the actual suspect.

The Police Force boss who sponsored 20 police officers to the programme which attracted speakers from the US and South Africa, noted that DNA test is a new technology that aids the investigation of cases.

According to him, the unique thing about DNA is that any part that is left at the place of crime contains DNA that helps to solve the crime.

He explained that DNA test can be used to identify individuals except an identical twin, stressing that their fingerprints are, however, different from each other as God has created fingerprints to identify different individuals.

However, he pointed out that the setback in DNA test is that since a lot of criminals know that fingerprints can implicate them, they resorted to wearing gloves. With gloves, you don't leave fingerprints at the crime scene.

Nonetheless, if in the process of committing the crime, he gets injured, he may leave blood stains somewhere or if his hair falls, DNA could be carried out on it and the perpetrator will be discovered.

"Besides, if the criminal smokes, we can get the DNA through the remains of the stick of cigarrate or if he drinks, we can get his fingerprints on the glass or beer bottle."

It is not limited to criminals alone, he said, adding that DNA test could also be used to detect the paternity of a child where two men are claiming ownership of the child from the same women. "Not that we cannot use other methods to detect this, but the best approach is DNA test."

Again, when a crime is committed and the victim's body is no longer at the scene, but the blood stain or hair is found, DNA test could be performed on their relatives to get the similarity of the victim's blood.

A typical example of such is during a plane crash where victims' bodies could not be identified because they were burnt beyond recognition, a DNA test will be carried out on the victim and a family member to see if they are the same.

He said: "The Nigeria Police Force are in the process of building DNA capability. We have trained three officers to that effect. The necessary equipment are being put in place. However, DNA technology as known all over the world, is not cheap to acquire so because of the cost, we are taking it in batches. Our personnels received their training in the USA.

"We have two more phases to go to complete the process, so that if any thing happens that demands DNA test, we will not be referring them to foreign laboratories.

We have used DNA to solve a number of cases. In 2007, we used DNA test to identify the killer of the Dutch woman who was murdered in Ikoyi. Even as we speak, we have cases that the public may be helpless saying that the police is not doing anything. But, we are using DNA test to arrive at the proper identification and prosecution of the offenders."

Speaking in the same vein, the Director of Nebraska Institute of Forensic Sciences, US, Dr Matthias Okoye who delivered lectures on Crime and Crime Scene, DNA Evidence Presentation in Court and The Need for Legislation said, the limitation of forensic sciences is based on the knowledge of people who practise it, it should be collected, preserved and analysed appropriately. From where it is taken to the laboratory for analysis, the person is important because it can destroy the whole process.

Was the sample appropriately collected before it was brought to the lab for analysis? Was it done according to standards? There must be a good quality control in DNA test.

Because of the importance of DNA, many cases have been thrown out of court in the US and other parts of the world."

On the inability of DNA test to detect the perpetrator of a crime by a twin, he said the twins must be identical before it can be difficult for DNA test. If the twins are not identical, DNA test can detect the one who actually committed the crime. If they have similar profiles, it will be difficult to identify.

However, with DNA test and police investigations, you identify the crime suspect even if he is an identical twin. Forensic investigation, police, individual investigation and other experts will help to arrive at a perfect investigation. Many of us in the diaspora are trained experts in the field of forensics."

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