LSD&FC aid in forensic investigation to convict Danish murderer

Since its first use in the mid-1980s to solve crime, forensic DNA testing has played an important role in the criminal justice system through aiding conviction of the guilty and exoneration of the innocent. It has also proved to be one of the most important and effective tools in crime investigation. When biological material is transferred between a perpetrator and victim in violent crimes such as murder and rape, the DNA recovered has the power to potentially identify the perpetrator. 

Forensic DNA analysis is being used to solve crimes globally. It can help when there are no eyewitnesses and no suspects. It is also useful to confirm or refute suspect/witness statements, reconstruct an incident, solve cold cases, and free convicts incarcerated for years. DNA is one of the most powerful forensic tools used by the police and prosecutors to bring criminals to justice by unequivocally linking them to a crime.  

An example of a case where forensics played a role in Nigeria, is the just concluded case between Peter Nielsen (the accused) and the Lagos State Government presided by Hon Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile. The accused was recently convicted on a 2-count charge of murder brought against him by the Lagos State Government in 2018. The Lagos State DNA and Forensic Center (LSD&FC) forensic scientists processed the crime scene, examined all evidence collected and performed DNA analysis of critical items of evidence, including fingernail clippings of one of the deceased. The forensic evidence submitted by LSD&FC assisted the investigators and prosecutors resolve the case. You can read the full story here: https://www.thestar.ng/dane-sentenced-to-death-for-killing-nigerian-wife-daughter/

Forensics investigation is no doubt a significant form of support for the criminal justice system and LSD&FC can help. For more information, contact LSD&FC via phone (+2348131123820) or email (info@lsdfc.org)

Specialized DNA Collection and Handling Training on March 1

DNA testing can provide answers to questions, in areas such as biological relationship, genealogy, ancestry, medicine, forensic science and more. Successful and reliable testing requires proper collection and handling of the DNA sample to avoid breakdown, contamination and unreliable results.
As a solution focused company, Concurrent Technologies and Services, along with LSD&FC, is committed to bringing tailored DNA and Forensics solutions closer to individuals and organizations that need it. It is on this premise that we are organizing a specialized training on March 1, 2022, for our strategic DNA Partners in Abuja.
Our partners are reputable hospitals and labs located in various parts of Abuja. They will be adequately trained in many areas including, DNA collection, packaging, preservation, chain-of-custody, and client relations, after which they will become Certified DNA Collection Centers.  
This exercise will ensure that the community they serve will have access to experienced DNA test providers, state-of-the-art technologies as well as accurate and reliable DNA results. It brings our services closer, and makes it easily accessible to our customers in the Federal Capital Territory.

One more victim of Ikoyi building collapse identified

Forensic expert, Dr Richard Somiari, has informed an Ikeja Coroner’s Court that one of the five hitherto unidentified victims of the Nov. 1, 2021, 21-story building collapse at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, has now been identified.

The News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that with this the number of unidentified victims now stands at four.

Somiari, who is the Director of the Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre, said this on Friday while testifying as to the eighth coroner witness at the inquest.

NAN also reports that testifying during proceedings on Thursday, the seventh coroner witness who is the acting Chief Medical Examiner of Lagos State, Dr Sokunle Soyemi had told the Coroner’s Court that five of the 50 victims were still unidentified.

Led in evidence by the counsel to the Lagos State government, Mr Akin George, the forensic expert said he received news on his way to the inquest that a DNA match had been established for one out of the five unidentified deceased.

“We received 57 unique samples. In disasters, there could be dismemberment and we may not have 57 bodies.

“We got a total of 102 reference samples from all families that presented and still counting because we might still need some more samples.

“Using those reference samples, we were previously able to identify 45 bodies.

“There are three bodies that have generated DNA profiles, but no reference profiles have matched those profiles.

“In such a situation, we will invite additional family members or use of personal belongings like toothbrushes to establish identity,” Somiari said.

Throwing light on why four of the deceased are yet to be identified, he revealed that profiles had been generated from the bodies, “but profiles generated from the family references did not match.

“The claimed biological reference is not what science is showing. We will use other methods like personal effects from any missing person suspected to be in the building collapse.

“This is the challenge we are facing. In most disasters, you cannot use DNA all the time to complete identification.”

Somiari, however, said the process of identifying the unknown deceased was ongoing, and additional biological material would be used to identify the bodies.

He noted that the likelihood of a DNA mismatch for all that died in the building collapse was very slim.

Under cross-examination by the counsel to the African Women Lawyers Association, Mrs Amanda Demechi-Asagba, Somiari revealed some of the challenges faced in identifying some of the deceased.

“Some families may be unaware that their loved ones are missing.

“That is why in disasters, all bodies are not always identified. There might be alternative methods that could be explored.

“That is the limitation of DNA as a reference because you will always need a reference,” he said.

The Coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, adjourned proceedings until Feb. 25 for the continuation of the hearing.

NAN reports that of the three high-rise buildings (Blocks A, B, and C), which were situated on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Block B (21-storeys) collapsed, killing 50 persons.

One of the deceased was Mr Femi Osibona, the Managing Director of Fourscore Heights Ltd., the contractor of the project.

Read this article on the Guardian: https://guardian.ng/news/one-more-victim-of-ikoyi-building-collapse-identified-forensic-expert/

5th Annual Lagos Forensic Symposium

The 5th Annual Lagos Forensic Symposium (LFS) organized by the Lagos State Government, Lagos State DNA & Forensic Center (LSD&FC), GIZ German Embassy, Nigeria  and ITSI-Biosciences, Johnstown, PA, USA took place August 10-11, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for the health and safety of all, the 2021 Symposium was virtual. You can find the Program Booklet here.

LFS 2021 brought together experts in Forensic Biology, Toxicology, Chemistry, Crime Scene Processing, Crime Scene Investigation, Arson Investigations, Trace Evidence, Forensic Pathology, Prosecution, Defense and Humanitarian Forensics.

Posters and Presentation recordings can be found on the LFS website.

CSI Nigeria: Inside Lagos’ DNA and Forensic Centre

DNA profiling made its way into criminal investigations sometime in the late 1980s.

One popular early case was the OJ Simpson murder trial in 1994, which ended with an acquittal following the establishment of “reasonable doubt” concerning the validity of the DNA evidence put forward by the prosecution. The defendant’s blood samples that were analysed had allegedly been mishandled by lab scientists and technicians.

OJ Simpson’s case spotlights the importance of a DNA forensic laboratory, setup with all the proper mechanisms to ensure the reliability of the results of DNA analysis and to make it admissible in court.

The Lagos State DNA and Forensics Center (LSD&FC) was commissioned in 2017, and was hailed as the first “high-powered DNA forensic laboratory in Nigeria” with the mandate to conduct scientific investigation of crime in the state, using DNA analysis. Early this year, the centre was accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for forensic DNA testing.

I visited the LSD&FC and spoke with Dr. Richard Somiari, the Center Director.

Dr. Richard Somiari is the Center Director at the Lagos State DNA and Forensics Center. (Photo: Omoregie Osakpolor)

“We are very different from other laboratories that perform DNA tests in Nigeria because we are a crime laboratory and maintain very stringent standards. We must produce accurate, reliable and unbiased results that can be used in court all the time,” explained Dr. Somiari during a tour of the centre.

Security at the centre is tight, to preserve the integrity of the DNA collection, processing and analysis carried out on the premises. Everyone who enters the building is tracked from the point of entry until they leave, and both staff and visitors carry automated pass cards that grant different levels of access within the building.

He said the centre was first conceived as a joint project of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Science of the Lagos State government. However, it became apparent that the needs of a DNA centre for each ministry would differ as a result of the processes. For example, the International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements for a forensic DNA centre (which is what the justice ministry required) is much different from one that would be set up for health purposes.

Dr. Somiari explained that a centre setup to profile DNA for the Ministry of Health may not have a need for such stringent security measures as necessary for the centre.  

“To date, the centre has supported 85 forensic cases and 191 relationship cases. Support includes crime scene investigation and testing of evidentiary items recovered from crime scenes or submitted by police and other law enforcement agencies.”

“Forensic cases include investigations concerning murder, sexual assault, suicide, burglary, child trafficking and human body part trafficking, whereas the relationship cases include disaster victim identification (like the victims from the Otedola Bridge fire incident) and resolution of paternity and maternity disputes.”

The centre operates sophisticated equipment that must be calibrated and serviced.

Finding certified technicians to work on the core equipment and ensuring that standards were met proved a challenge for the centre. Some of these technicians had to be brought in from outside the country.

Also, being the first DNA forensic lab in Nigeria, there were no experienced analysts on the ground in the country. “There are many people with the requisite education from foreign and Nigerian universities but zero practical experience, because they had no opportunity to work in a DNA forensic crime laboratory.”

“You must work in a crime lab for many years under supervision to gain experience before becoming a forensic analyst. To be able to start offering services immediately we had to bring in technical leaders with over 20 years’ experience from the USA to start working on real cases, and to use the cases to train new people hired.”

Then, the matter of processing crime scenes and collecting evidence brought in by people with no training or experience means, according to Dr. Somiari, that DNA samples may be compromised by improper handling or documentation of collected samples or contamination when DNA from one source gets mixed with DNA relevant to another case.

The temporary fix has been to send out the laboratory’s scientists to help with collecting and processing evidence. Dr Somiari said they will eventually set up a dedicated crime scene unit made up of individuals with adequate knowledge and experience in collecting and processing samples to assist law enforcement agencies and reduce cases of compromised or contaminated evidence.

There are also plans underway to expand the centre beyond DNA forensics and become a full forensic laboratory that can analyse most materials recovered from any crime scene. “We have started the establishment of two more disciplines–toxicology and chemistry. Toxicology will allow the center to test body fluids for the presence of alcohol, drugs, chemicals and controlled substances. The chemistry section will allow the center to test suspicious substances recovered from suspects or found at crime scenes,” says Dr. Somiari as he showed the parts of the centre under construction that will house these new sections. This would pave the way for improved crime investigation in Nigeria that relies on scientific methods for evidence.  

In response to a question on whether the centre would not eventually be affected by the inefficiency of government owned agencies in Nigeria, Dr. Somiari said that, “Although the center is established under the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, we have put in place an operational and organizational structure that gives it independence to operate in an impartial manner, and without the type of management that exists in typical government agencies.”

“It is expected that the model we have established will be sustained perpetually. That is, a private company will always take care of the management and operational aspects while the government, through the ministry of justice and a public safety advisory board will provide oversight. This will insulate the center from excessive government bureaucracies and mitigate the inefficiencies that exist in typical government agencies.

Otedola Bridge fire: 8 families show up for DNA testing

Eight families have showed up for DNA testing in connection with the Otedola Link Bridge fire.

The Head of the Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre, Dr Richard Somiari, made the disclosure in an interview with the Newsmen on Thursday in Lagos.

Somiari, a forensic expert, said that more families were still expected to visit the facility in connection with the deadly explosion that occurred on June 28.

“There are two categories of people that come for the testing, those who believe strongly that their family member died and needs to be identified.

“The other category includes people who just do not know because the family person is missing.

“So, we will expect that those two categories of people will come.

Somiari said that the duration needed to complete the DNA process and results interpreted could not be ascertained because of protocols that must be followed, due to the magnitude of the accident.

According to him, there are two processes involved, including the actual DNA matching and the process by the pathologist, who takes samples from the remains that were recovered.

“The actual process in our laboratory is fast. The thing is the quality of the sample that is coming from the victim.

“So, until we get those samples from the pathologist we do not know how long it will take.

“If it is significantly degraded, then it means we have to go through multiple steps of isolation and clean up before we do the profile generation.

“These samples are not as clean as reference samples and we do not want to make a mistake in the process.

“We realise that everybody will like to get the result fast and bring a closure to this but at the same time we want to be careful. “

On July 2, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, confirmed that 12 people died in the incident.

Idris said the government would be conducting DNA forensic studies so that the right bodies could be handed over to the appropriate families for proper burial.

According to him, the entire cost of management and treatment of the surviving victims and DNA forensics for the dead and their families would be borne by the state government. (NAN)

Read the story here: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/07/otedola-bridge-fire-8-families-show-up-for-dna-testing/