The Chief Pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), John Obafunwa, on Saturday said the 99 bodies recovered during last year’s protests against police brutality have not been properly identified because they are yet to carry out DNA test on them.
Mr Obafunwa, a professor of forensic pathology, spoke while testifying before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS-related Abuses and Other Matters.
His evidence came just before the panel announced it was adjourning indefinitely. No reason was stated for the decision.
He had, in July, submitted the autopsy reports on the bodies – recovered from across the state between October 19 and 24, 2020 – to the panel.
Resuming his testimony on Saturday, Mr Obafunwa said it was worrisome that one of the recovered corpses was sutured and it made “certain interpretation” difficult.
He said to identify the bodies, DNA samples had to be taken during autopsy.
“The next stage will be to invite those who might have lost somebody to come forward and provide DNA samples, what we refer to as reference samples,” said Mr Obafunwa.
“Of course, you have to belong to a specific group to qualify for that either both parents, siblings or children…
“We are then required to send the DNA sample and reference sample to the DNA laboratory where the profiles will be determined and comparisons made with one sample, that is the reference sample, to see who matches who.”
So far, only 25 families have come forward to identify the bodies of their loved ones, Mr Obafunwa said.
He added that although samples were collected from those who had come forward, no DNA analysis had been done yet.
Explaining why it was so, Mr Obafunwa said the appropriate authority has to be approached, “that this is how much it will cost to do this thing, if we don’t get the go ahead we cannot do it.”
He noted that in the past, the state government always bore the cost of the analysis.
“I’d advise that we do this thing quickly, it’s close to a year,” said the pathologist.
“I have been bothered about certain things. Every now and then, there is power failure and samples are in the freezer, if we are not careful, decomposition, other growth, and I’m talking about post-mortem samples, might affect viability.
“It is for this kind of reason that I will want to see the analysis done.”