August 13, 2013 – The Federal Government has set up a state of the arts DNA Banking and Analysis Centre at the Mogadishu Cantonment formerly known as Abacha Barack, Abuja, Nigeria.
The centre is expected to speed up the process of identification of military personnel who die in situation where identification of corpses becomes highly impossible except through a test involving he deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
Speaking at the inauguration Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu described the development as a giant stride towards aiding in the identification of personnel when the need arises.
He stated that the event also marks a significant milestone in the on-going efforts of the Armed Forces to balance its pursuit of professionalism with emphasis on human capital development.
The minister, noted that the application of DNA technology, as a valuable investigative tool to improve military identification capabilities, has led to the development of a global approach to medical preparedness in major incident management and support.
He pointed out that Armed Forces worldwide are keying into this trend. “It is heart-warming to note that the Nigerian Armed Forces are also in the forefront of this lofty achievement. The attendant destruction of modern warfare and the imperative to bury fallen heroes in marked graves call for the most effective and technologically sophisticated approach (in identifying their bodies). Just as it is necessary to identify members of Armed Forces for administrative purposes or identify casualties before burial, so it is in civilian air crashes and terrorists attack leading to mass civilian casualty situation”, he said.
The minister called for collaboration with the Armed Forces not only for routine purposes but also during disasters, adding that, now that the Armed Forces is going into high tech molecular diagnosis, it will be important in the context of the recent challenges of Ebola outbreak to extend this facility to other diagnostic facilities.
In his remarks, the Minister of Defence, Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Gusau (Rtd), said the establishment of the centre marks a significant milestone in the military’s effort in ascertaining the true identity of all its personnel as it will help in restoring the dignity of the fallen heroes even in death.
“The ability to correctly identify our deceased personnel in all circumstances is a responsibility which we owe them and their families”, he noted adding that the centre will facilitate identification of the deceased so they could be appropriately recognized and honoured in accordance with their religious beliefs, which is the wish of the bereaved families and the will of the deceased.
He emphasized that the centre is also essential for the living personnel in establishing the true paternity of civilians and other relationship when the need arises. Gusau also said that the centre would save the Federal Government and families of deceased personnel time and resources involved in sending samples abroad for DNA test.
Speaking at the event, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, explained the imperative of the DNA centre, saying that on few occasions when multiple fatalities were recorded and individual corpses could not be identified, mass burials were resorted to.
“ Such mass burials deny such heroes the privilege of being buried properly while robbing the bereaved families the honour and satisfaction of seeing their loved ones being accorded befitting burials,” he said.
On Wednesday, 21 May 2008, 46 soldiers from the 234 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Monguno, Borno State, who were involved in an auto crash in Siminti village along Bauchi and Yobe states border, were burnt to death when the vehicle in which they were travelling collided with a petroleum tanker. The victims were so much charred that it was not possible to identify them individually. Hence the Federal Government decided to bury them in the National Cemetery, Abuja rather than their respective hometowns, a decision that did not go down well with the then government and some of the family members of the deceased.
It is against this background that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) decided to establish a DNA Banking and Analysis Centre called the “Defence Identification Centre (DIC)”.