+How DNA works and how much it costs
DNA is a short form of deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a long molecule that contains the unique generic of all human beings. It was first established in 1985 by Sir. Alex Jeffreys.
DNA has become a popular way of establishing the paternity of a child and useful tool in criminal investigations.
DNA came into the consciousness of most Nigerians in 2007, when it was announced by the Executors of late MKO Abiola Will and Testament that 25 of his 113 children failed the DNA test. Six were exempted and 21 did not show up for the test.
The story of Pastor Chika Mbonu of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) City of David Chapel, Victoria Island, Lagos, whose DNA showed to be the biological father of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bassey’s two children Emmanuel (8) and Tahila (6), few years ago is still fresh in our memory.
In all of these, the DNA tests were either conducted abroad or the samples were taken abroad because there were no DNA centres in Nigeria.
But in that last 15 years or less, some DNA centres have sprung up. All of them however still send their samples abroad before final results of the test could be made.
On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, Lagos state government through the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the State, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem announced to the world that it was planning to establish a world class DNA forensic laboratory. The DNA laboratory when established will produce its own results right here in Nigeria.
ENCOMIUM Weekly met with one of the operators of DNA centres in Nigeria to know the prospects and the role the centre has played in solving paternity and criminal investigations in Nigeria.
We spoke with Abiodun Salami of DNA Centre, Ikeja, Lagos…
When did you open your DNA centre?
- That is almost 12 years now.
What would you say informed your opening such a centre?
A good friend of mine wanted a DNA test and we discovered that there was no such facility where we could do such a test in Nigeria. We had to do it in the UK and it cost us a lot. We didn’t get the result until about three months.
I felt if we had such facility in Nigeria, it would ease the stress of going abroad to do it since there were so many people looking for it. So, I thought that should be a niche market one can tap into. Apart from that, I also studied Genetics in school overseas.
Are you a medical doctor?
No, I am a geneticist. I studied Cells and Genetics.
How will you describe the business of DNA in Nigeria in the last 12 years that you have been doing it?
It is encouraging. When we started, the awareness was not that much. These days, people will tell you physical attributes are enough. I have this child and he looks like me, why worry.
But now, science has made it much easier. About 12 years ago, we were using blood as samples and people were afraid of taking their blood. But now, it’s just a spark. The technology has moved forward. The awareness is there. People are getting to know that DNA is the best way to ascertain paternity. It’s been good.
What are the reasons for DNA?
There are many reasons. Number one, in Nigeria it’s actually the issue of infidelity in marriage. I am suspecting my wife. This child does not look like me. I have been hearing stories when my wife was pregnant. That is the number one reason most men do the DNA test especially when there is lack of trust in the marriage, when the husband suspects his wife of having extra marital affairs.
There could be medical reasons too. We’ve seen children that have different genotypes from their fathers. For example, I am AA and my wife is AA too. If we have a child that is AS, I will certainly demand a DNA test to be conducted.
Another reason is immigration issue. Probably you just won an American visa lottery, The Embassy will tell you to go for DNA test to be sure the children are actually yours. Those are the basic reasons why people do DNA test.
What would you say has been the rate of success of men that come to test the paternity of their children?
If you are the father it will be probably 100 percent or 99.9 percent but if you are not, it will be zero percent. In terms of the results, most times it’s negative. Out of every 10 that we do, probably six or seven will turn out to be negative.
Does negative mean the man is not the father of that child?
Yes. If 10 men came (to do the test) probably six or seven are not the fathers. Averagely, if you take 10 homes and you do a paternity test for 10 homes at least three will show that there is a child in that home that does not belong biologically to the person he or she is calling his father.
Has there ever been a situation where a father comes with his four children and none of them belongs to him biologically?
Of course. We’ve seen cases, week in, week out. We’ve seen cases of somebody bringing all his children and none of them is his own biologically. We’ve seen cases whereby somebody brings six children and four are not his.
Most times it happens to first borns. Most times all the first borns are not biologically owned by their fathers. For example, if somebody brings four children and he discovered that two or three are not his own, most times the first borns are always included. What we always advice men is that the earlier the better. From my years of experience, we have seen a lot. It’s crazy. Week in week out we counsel men that discovered that their so called children are not theirs biologically.
Does your statistics confirm the insinuations that Nigerian women are very promiscuous?
Yes, it exposes infidelity in marriage. It is both ways. We should not put the blame on the women alone. It’s both ways. We’ve seen cases of men denying pregnancies and when they come, we discover that they are the father of the child. It is both ways. But because we are Africans, we always blame the women.
Most times men deny the paternity of their children. Paternity test has exposed infidelity both ways, women and the men.
What does the process of DNA test involve?
Once they come we take samples from the alleged father and child. Mother’s sample is not really necessary. We take the genetic profile of the alleged father and child. Every human being takes the genetic profiles of his father and mother. Half of the father, half of the mother. If you are the father, the child must have half of your genetic profile and the other half to the mother.
If that half of the child does not match with that of the father, then you are not the father. If you are the father, it has to match. Your child must take exactly half of your genetic profile.
Sometimes we advice the mother to partake (in the DNA test), though it is enough to get samples from the father and child.
Let me share a case with you. There was a time we did a paternity test for a man and the result came. It showed that the man was not the father. But the woman swore with everything available that since she got married, she had never slept with another man.
I now suggested that we do another test but with the sample of the mother. We did it and when the result came, we discovered that the mother too was not the mother of the child. So, neither the man nor the woman are the parents of the child.
That must have been a case of Asigbe omo ward (mistakenly child swapping in the matrimony ward).
Yes! It was a baby switch from the hospital for a child that was almost three years. So, we told them to go back to the hospital where the child was delivered to see whether they can locate the family who held their own child. That was the best we could do at that circumstance. I am sure it was a birth switch because the woman was not the mother of the child.
How many days does it take to complete a DNA test?
Once you come to our office, we take your sample and then two or three minutes we are done. The results will be ready within three to five days.
Is it true that the samples are usually taken abroad before results are known?
Of course, yes. For us at DNA Centre, Ikeja, Lagos our head office is in United States of America. We are the only DNA centre registered in Nigeria. Once we pick your samples within three to five days, the result is out.
How do you do that?
We streamline the process. Once we get your sample, we take it to the airport, somebody picks it up in the US and three to five days later, the result is here.
How much does it cost to do a DNA paternity test?
As it is now, between N70,000 and N80,000 for the father and child. If the family has to do it for all their four children, that is between N250,000 and N360,000. That is a lot of money. In this case, what we do is give a discount of about N30,000 on each child.
So far, would you say having DNA is a lucrative business in Nigeria?
I wouldn’t really say it is lucrative because sometimes if you don’t have passion for it, it is not a business you do to make money. For example, here at the DNA Centre, all the doctors are geneticist. That is what we studied. We have Masters in DNA or Forensic. I did my first degree in Genetics, Masters in Forensic in DNA. I studied in a university in United States of America. I also worked in a laboratory in the United States of America before coming to Nigeria. In this job sometimes you cannot profit. Sometimes we do free of charge as part of our social responsibility.
If somebody denies the pregnancy of a poor girl because he has rich family members and the case is with the court, we will do it for free so that people will know the truth. Sometimes the Ministry of Women Affairs will come and we don’t charge them. We have done it several times.