Dr Oyinwola Azeez Oni is the Managing Director of NAZO Medical Diagnostics Services, Lagos. He studied Heamology and has been in the business of medical diagnostics for decades. His diagnostic centre is also reputed as one of the DNA centres in Nigeria for decade now.
He told us in this interview that going by his experience as DNA expert, 40 percent of first children born out of wedlock or by couples living separately are bastards…
DNA business seems to be booming in Nigeria these days. Do you agree with us, Sir?
I don’t know of booming but I think the awareness has been created. From time immemorial, there has always been doubt about the paternity of some children by the father and of unfaithful wives. But there are no means of confirming or removing this doubt than as it is now.
The availability of internet has further improved the ability to confirm the paternity and even the maternity of any child right now. Now people’s fear about the paternity of their children can be allayed with less stress.
What would you say informed your going into DNA business?
Let me use this opportunity to clear the misconception people had about what I said in my past interview with City People magazine. I did not say 40 percent of first born are bastards. What I said was that 40 percent of children born out of wedlock or when the couples are not living together as husband and wife. Particularly, those the husbands are abroad and the wives are here in Nigeria, are not really the biological children of the person they call father.
Now, on how I came into the business of DNA: I am a medical laboratory scientist. I read Hematology, the study of Blood and Blood Group Physiology. In those days paternity testing was only based on blood group testing.
For example, if husband is blood group O and the wife is also blood group O, they can only have a child with blood group O. If the child is of blood group A or B or AB, something has gone wrong somewhere.
But at the end of the blood group testing then we will still conclude our investigation by writing that the result is subject to DNA test because blood group test has its own short comings. But where do we get the DNA test to confirm the blood group test?
The opportunity came to me about 10 years ago and I seized it and I have done a lot of DNA tests for so many people.
I don’t want to go into my personal experience again. But I can give you many of the experiences that we have seen here.
We will appreciate that, Sir?
I will just give you about three including a maternity case. The first case is about a wealthy man, I wouldn’t mention his name. He married a beautiful lady after losing his first wife who bore him four children. His new wife happened to be his secretary. The man is from South East geo-political zone of the country and he used to travel a lot.
Each time he wants to travel abroad he comes all the way from the East with his new wife and the driver. When he leaves, the driver drives the wife back to the East. The driver doubled as the man’s PA (Personal Assistant) and the man trusted him a lot to the extent that he (driver) virtually lived with them even though the man has built a house for him in his village.
This was the situation between the man and his driver cum PA for several years until one day when he came back from a trip and discovered that some amount of money in foreign currency was missing. It was later discovered that the driver was actually the one who stole the money and he was arrested by the police on the order of the rich man.
The situation got so messy that the rich man threatened to kill his driver. The driver told him that killing him would not remove the fact that he is the father of his three children from his second wife.
That was how we were contacted to do the DNA of the three children by the second wife. Yours truly, when we did the DNA, the children by the new wife were for the driver.
Waoh! What did the man do?
Let us leave that one. There is another recent case of a landlord and his tenant. They are both living in the same building. While the landlord lives on the first floor, the tenant and his own family live on the ground floor. I don’t really know what went wrong between them that the landlord gave the tenant quit notice after living in the apartment for 10 years.
The tenant told the landlord he was ready to go but not without his four children that his wife bore for him. We were contacted and again and behold all the four children of the landlord were for the tenant.
You said this is a recent case?
About two months ago.
Here in Lagos.
Yes. So many things happen in the DNA world. Here was a case of a woman from Ile-Ife. She called that she wanted to do DNA test for her twins. She said she needed it in-order to take them back to US. She needed to get them visa. I went to Ife, I collected the sample and she paid us. I took the sample to our centre in US.
Five days later, I went back to collect the result. I opened the result and to my surprise, the result showed that she was not the real mother of the twins. I told them at the laboratory that they should do a re-run of the test because I took the samples myself. They told me that they were sure of the result, that the two children were not from the same mother.
I was told they were not born on the same day. They said one was eight weeks old while the other was seven weeks old. When I came back to Nigeria, I called the woman to my office here. When she came I told her to give me the phone number of the doctor that took delivery of the twins. She said she did not deliver in the hospital. I asked where were they delivered? She said with one herbalist. I said okay, give me the phone number of the herbalist. She became jittery. I told her I had reported her case to the police before she came and that the police officer is right here in the building waiting to arrest her if she did not say the truth now.
She excused herself and told me she was coming. She told the man to listen to what I was about to say. I told her that the result showed that the twins were not from her womb. It was there and then she told the truth that the man she brought in was her Pastor that he collected N250,000 from her promising her that the DNA results would turn out in her favour.
She said since the samples were taken abroad she has been on the mountain top praying and fasting that the DNA results will turn out in her favour. I felt pity for her and told her that with all her exposure of living in USA, a pastor here in Nigeria told her that the DNA of children that are not biologically hers will turn out to be hers and she believed him.
So, many cases of paternity and even maternity issues that are yet to be resolved, only DNA can resolve them. Therefore, paternity testing is inevitable at any stage of life. This will surely bring peace of mind and prevent future confusion, embarrassment and fear.
Is paternity or maternity the only reason people do DNA?
We have two types of DNA. We have peace of mind and legal DNA. Peace of mind is when you come on your own quietly to make sure you are the father of your children. Luckily in doing DNA test, you don’t need the mother. So, the father can bring the children by one way or the other. We will collect the sample of the man and the children and the man gets the result and has peace of mind.
On the other hand, the legal DNA is usually initiated by the court. They will have to be a paper from the court asking for the DNA test to be conducted on some people. When you want to collect the samples, court officials and lawyers would have to be around.
At times, we take the photographs or video of the taking of the samples. When the results come, we will put seal on it and send it back to the court. The court will not open it until the day the case is mentioned and it will be opened in the presence of everybody.
The legal DNA usually revolve around issue of divorce cases?
Not only divorce cases. Issue of Will too may lead to doing DNA test. There was a case of a man with 10 wives and 25 children. This man I am talking about left in his Will that any child that passed his DNA test should be given N25 million either in cash or property. He knew he was going to die because he had prostate cancer at the age of 85. So, he left his DNA sample and he eventually died at the age of 91.
One particular child failed the DNA. DNA test was done somewhere else not with us. But there was doubt that the DNA was manipulated against the only child that failed the DNA because he is the only child that his mother had for the man. So, they came to us. Since we did not have the man’s DNA sample with us, what we did was siblings test.
We got the samples of one of the children that passed the DNA and match it with the one that failed the DNA. Before the two children came here, I received a call from a woman who claimed to be the mother of the boy that failed the DNA test. She pleaded with me to make sure that her boy passed the test. She promised me N2 million out of the N25 million the boy will be getting if he passed the DNA.
When the result came 10 days later, the child failed it again. I sent the result to the family lawyer straight.
What is the average of DNA tests you conduct in a week?
Here we do an average of 10 every month minimum of 10 every month.
What is the average result?
About 60 percent to 40 percent. Six will pass and 4 will fail.
What is the average cost of doing DNA in your lab?
Because we run our test in USA.
You also have your lab in USA?
That is our certificate (showing a certificate hanging on the wall). We run our DNA in a very reputable laboratory in USA.
Where in USA?
Cincinnati. Our test from the day of collection is five working days. In two working days, it is there and in another two working days, the result is back with us here in Nigeria.
How do you send the sample, do you take it there yourself?
No, we send it through DHL, while I enter the database to get result here.
How much does it cost?
It depends on the exchange rate. In those days when we started, it was N65,000. Now it is N100,000. That is for a father, a child with or without the mother.
Apart from the sample, we collect from the mouth, we can use any other thing like toothbrush. For example, if you don’t want the child to know as a father, we just ask you to come with the toothbrush of the child. We will get enough material there. We may even use the chewing-gum from such a child.
What do you normally collect from the mouth? Is it blood?
No, we don’t collect blood. We just rob the two cheeks with cotton wool for 20 seconds each. Technology has advanced a lot. For example, if you want to know, if you are the owner of a pregnancy, you don’t have to wait for the child to be born before you know it. You just have to wait for eight weeks. As soon as the pregnancy is eight weeks old, we collect her blood, her buccal sample and mouth sample and we will know if the man is the owner of the pregnancy or not.
From your experience in this DNA business, would you say Nigerian women are promiscuous?
That might be too strong a word to use because at times a woman might know and at times she might not know. Most times, they know and in some cases they don’t know.
If a woman is dating two men and makes love with the two men within a period of 10 hours, if she becomes pregnant, she might not know the real owner of the pregnancy between the two men.
I had a case of such recently. A lady slept with her boyfriend in Surulere and later slept with another one in Ahmadiya (Ojokoro LCDA) on the same day. She got pregnant and eventually got married to the Ahmadiya boyfriend and gave birth.
The Surulere guy started texting her that she should give him his child. Confident that she has not had any sex with the Surulere guy for a long time before her marriage. she showed the text to her husband. They told their pastor. Pastor advised them to do DNA test to put their minds at rest. When the result came five days later, the husband was not the father of the baby. It belongs to the Surulere guy.
That still shows she is unfaithful or promiscuous?
Faithful or not, let us leave that one to God to judge. But what I am saying is that she did not do it deliberately.
Will you then say the business of DNA is a booming one in Nigeria?
We are not running only DNA. We are an approved diagnostic centre. We do a lot of other tests, cancer, everything. DNA is just one of the many tests that we do here. We are known everywhere in Nigeria because of our high integrity. We collect samples everywhere in Nigeria.
Where do you hope to see DNA business in Nigeria in the nearest future?
We will get there. Not that we cannot run the test here but the level of integrity has to be very high. If the integrity of the owner of the DNA centre is high, what about those working with him? That is why I am comfortable running my test in Cincinnati lab in USA. I can stick out my neck for their result anytime. If you are in doubt, you send a code to the lab in Cincinnati, they give you information.
DNA test is not a test that you have doubt about the result. There is no half way to it. It is either yes or no. So, to do such a business, your integrity has to be very high.