Nigeria: #EndSARS Panel - DNA Test Result Contradicts Petitioner's Maternity Claim Over Child

2 December 2021

<i>The EndSARS panel has referred the case to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for appropriate action.</sub>

The report of a DNA test presented before the <a target="_blank" href="">#EndSARS</a> panel probing cases of police brutality in Abuja has excluded a petitioner as a possible biological mother of a male child.

Esther Tanko, the woman in her mid-30s, had said in her petition that the police helped to rescue her kidnapped son but refused to release him to her since 2019.

In her testimony in November last year, she told the panel that the child, whom she identified as Elijah Tanko, was kidnapped in Dutse Alhaji, Abuja, on September 9, 2019, but was discovered by the police some months after he had been allegedly sold for N8 million.

The child is now said to be held at an orphanage at the instance of police authorities.

Mrs Tanko said up to eight other women had since come forward to claim to be the mother of the boy, whom she said was only a year and some months' old as of the time of the kidnap in September 2019.

The claimant, whose petition alleged abduction and enforced disappearance of her son in her petition, insisted to be the child's genuine mother, and begged the panel to help to retrieve the boy for her from the police.

An earlier DNA test overseen by the police failed to resolve the maternity dispute.

The panel led by a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima, had rejected the outcome of the earlier DNA test and ordered a fresh examination to be conducted.

The fresh DNA test was overseen by a four-man committee raised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the agency that set up the Mr Galadima-led #EndSARS panel.

Report presentation

The chair of the four-member committee, Nduka Ezenwugo, who is the director of the NHRC's department of women and children, tendered the report of the fresh DNA test at Wednesday's proceedings, and subsequently invited a clinical pathologist to give the details of the report dated November 30, 2021, to the panel.

In his presentation, Isuajah Chukwuka, a medical doctor and clinical pathologist from Synlab Clinical Laboratory, who led the test, said the report of the maternity examination revealed that 16 markers used in the analysis of the boy and the petitioner excluded her as his biological mother.

Mr Chukwuka said the buccal swab samples were collected from the mouths of the boy and Mrs Tanko.

He explained that the cells in the samples contained DNA, genes and short tandem repeats used in determining the similarities of two DNA samples.

According to him, the genotype of the boy, based on the outcome of the test, which he said was confirmed to be almost 100 per cent error free, did not match that of Mrs Tanko in nine out of the 16 markers used.

He said further that these differences were not supposed to be more than three if truly Mrs Tanko was Elijah's biological mother.

He concluded by saying Mrs Tanko is not the biological mother of Elijah.

Mrs Tanko, who was present at the proceedings, showed no reaction to the report on Wednesday.

With the earlier DNA test directed by the police pointing to a different person as the boy's biological mother, she appeared not to be surprised at the outcome of the fresh test.

She left the panel quietly just before the proceedings ended on Wednesday.

'Margin of error far less than one per cent'

Responding to a question by a member of the panel, Uju Agomoh, Mr Isuajah said the margin of error in the test was about 0.001 per cent.

He added that a quality control test was done on the parties' samples to ensure the test was error free.

He explained that the quality control test was carried out to discover the sexes of the parties.

Another woman claims boy's maternity, panel rules

Another woman claiming to be the boy's mother, Rosemary Diakeocha, appeared before the panel, begging to be joined as a party to the petition on Thursday.

The woman, who was represented by a lawyer, Kevin Okorore, told the panel that the boy should be handed over to her client, whom she said the initial DNA test overseen by the police, adjudged to be the biological mother of the child.

The panel rejected the request and directed that she remain an observer in the case.

In view of the DNA test report earlier presented during the proceedings, the panel chairperson, Mr Galadima, referred the case back to NHRC "for appropriate action".

Esther Tanko's petition

Mrs Tanko had claimed in her petition that her abducted three-year son was in police custody.

Testifying before the panel on November 17, 2020, Mrs Tanko said was on heading to the clinic with her son when her son was abducted on September 9, 2019.

She said on her way to the clinic, she met a man and a woman whom she identified as Chioma.

According to her, the two persons whom she said claimed to be interested in buying land in Ushafa, Abuja, ended up 'hypnotising' her and her son.

She said the strangers drove them to Dutse Alhaji, Abuja, "where my son was kidnapped."

She said by the time she gained consciousness and inquired about her son's whereabouts, the woman she identified as Chioma informed her that the boy had been buried.

She told the panel that the matter was reported to the chairman of Bwari Area Council, Abuja, who was said to have taken the case to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Testifying further, she claimed to have subsequently seen her child on television with three other children who were said to be lost but found by the police.

The petitioner said she proceeded to the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team's office at Abattoir in Abuja, the police unit that was said to have presented the children on the television, to claim her own child among them.

"We went to Abba Kyari's (prominent cop) office at the Abattoir with a policeman from Bwari, a driver and my elder son, Samuel.

"They showed me different pictures of my son and I identified him. They brought the boy and asked him if he knew me and he recognised me, his father and elder brother. But they said they would not allow me to take him home that day," she said.

Mrs Tanko told the panel that new twists to the matter would later emerge.

She said two other women from Enugu and Aba showed up and claimed to be the mother of her son.

She added that the police eventually conducted a DNA test to confirm the biological mother of the boy, and asked them to come after a month for the results.

"About two months after, my pastor called Desmond, and asked of the result but he told him that the doctor is confused and that they wanted to go to Lagos," the witness added.

She said she took the matter to a popular dispute resolution radio programme, named Brekete Family, where the police officer in charge of the case disclosed that eight other women had come out to claim her son.

Mrs Tanko said the investigating police officer (IPO) identified as Mr Desmond, told them at the FCT Police Command in Abuja that her son was with an orphanage.

She added that he disclosed that the DNA test result was out and but that the "police were confused about it and were still investigating the case".

She then decided to take the case to the #EndSARS panel <a target="_blank" href="">which</a> was set up in the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest.

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