It is a worthwhile project that should be encouraged
The Lagos State Government recently announced its plan to establish a DNA forensic laboratory centre, the first of its kind in Nigeria. The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, who announced the plan with the Solicitor-General, Mrs. Funmilola Odunlami, and Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, said the decision was taken because Lagos “has continued to face more sophisticated crimes and criminals who are determined to escape the long arm of the law”.
This is a good project that needs to be encouraged by all Nigerians who are worried about the widespread criminality across the country. Lagos, and indeed the entire nation, has continued to face more sophisticated crimes and hence our crime fighting must be measured and concerted, especially when it comes to the use of technology that makes investigation, prosecution and adjudication more effective. For instance, an investigator can use DNA in blood, skin, semen, nail or hair found at a crime scene to identify an individual by matching DNAs through a process called profiling or genetic fingerprinting. This way, criminals can easily be identified and crimes unravelled. Besides, modern medical research is almost impossible without a DNA facility.
High profile cases that had been stalled in the past due to lack of DNA laboratory to investigate them could be relatively easy to crack. Besides, the laboratory will also fulfill the growing DNA profiling needs in cases of disasters like plane crashes and on issues of paternity/maternity claims. We remember with pain the time and money lost, besides the emotional strain, when Nigerians had to wait almost endlessly for the DNA samples of bodies of victims of the 2012 Dana plane crash and later the Synagogue Church tragedy in Lagos, to be taken to Europe, United States or South Africa for forensic analysis and identification. These were pointers to the urgent need for a standard forensic laboratory. Moreover, it could also become a revenue generating source for the state by serving the public, other states and some of our neighbouring countries within the ECOWAS sub-region.
However, while we applaud the effort of the state government in establishing this laboratory, we advise that it should be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to support all levels of DNA collection from people and objects, evidence examination and analysis. It must also come with all its full components and a contractual agreement with the personnel that will man and train Nigerian law enforcement officers on its usage. The DNA Laboratory and Database Centre set up in 2010 by the Nigeria Police at the Special Fraud Unit in Lagos was abandoned after the facility was burgled and some vital items of the sensitive machine stolen. This project must guard against such sabotage.
In addition, we also think that the DNA centre should focus, specifically on criminal investigations, cases of domestic and sexual violence, family and paternity proceedings, and identifying victims of natural and man-made disasters.
We are on the same page with the state attorney-general who explained that DNA investigations are now used to scientifically solve all types of cases, in less time and with less cost and effort compared to traditional methods. For a government that has elevated the fight against crimes and criminals through the donation of equipment worth N4.8 billion to the Nigeria Police among other interventions, the plan to establish the DNA laboratory is further proof that the authorities in Lagos are determined to instill law and order, no matter the cost.