A police toxicologist, Benedict Agbo, on Tuesday told a Coroner in Ikeja that he didn’t get any request to test the black substance found in the intestine of late Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr).
The black substance was found during the second autopsy conducted by a senior pathologist, Dr Sunday Soyemi at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in December last year.
In February, Dr Soyemi had During cross-examination ruled out poisoning, saying the black substance could have been faecal matter mixed with the embalmment fluid. He also said he couldn’t present the unknown substance for toxicology tests because certain body fluids had been sucked out during the embalming.
At the resumed hearing of the Coroner’s inquest set up to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of the 12-year-old, Magistrate Mikhail Kadiri asked the forensic toxicologist some questions before handing him over for cross-examination by counsel in the matter.
“Was any black substance sent to you for any examination from LASUTH?” Femi Falana (SAN), the lead lawyer for the deceased’s family asked.
“No, I didn’t get any request,” he replied.
The witness, a PhD holder, is a Chief Forensic Scientist at the Nigeria Police Forensic Science Laboratory, Alagbon, who has worked as a toxicologist for the police for about 25 years.
He said he was contacted by the police Area Commander in Warri, Delta State that an autopsy was going to be done on the deceased.
He said after the autopsy was carried out, he discussed it with the pathologist in the state, Clement Vhriterhire and received some samples for chemical analysis.
The samples sent to the toxicologist are tagged A (containing cake dark brown labelled heart blood), B (containing greyish liquid substance labelled stomach content), C (sample note containing a greyish brown mass of flesh labelled liver), a sample bottle containing light reddish coloured liquid labelled fluid from the eye).
“You were the one that suggested to the pathologist in Warri what to send to you? Mr Falana asked.
The toxicologist replied in the affirmative.
Is it normal to use clotted blood for toxicology? The lawyer asked.
“Yes, if that is what is found,” the toxicologist replied.
Mr Agbor said that the police laboratory in Alagbon is a “functional laboratory for toxicology” adding that it was commissioned in 1997.
“In other words, yours is the only functional toxicology in Nigeria?” The lawyer asked.
“I won’t say that. I’m not aware,” adding that the equipment sometimes breaks down and some people are called to fix it.
When he was asked about the condition of the equipment between November and now, he said, “I will have to go back and take stock.”
When the lawyer insisted, he mentioned that “for our DNA, the…gas chromatography,” was faulty.
However, the witness stressed that the functionality of a toxicology laboratory does not depend on the equipment, “it depends on the expertise.”
Do you have equipment for testing poisons? The lawyer asked.
The witness replied in the affirmative.
He said in testing the samples, he used solvent and solid extraction procedures.
“You will agree with me therefore that if the biochemical assay has not been carried out, you cannot conclusively say that your report is final? The lawyer asked.
“No, I can’t say that,” he said.
According to the witness, a biochemical assay “is to know if the liver, heart and other vital organs were functioning very well before the cessation of life.”
The Coroner fixed the next hearing to the 11th and 12th of April while noting that there are about nine more witnesses to be summoned.