There is tension in the political arena as a court in the United Kingdom will today pronounce sentence on a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice, and a Nigerian doctor, Obinna Obetta, for organ trafficking.
They were found guilty of conspiracy of organ trafficking in March by the Westminster Magistrate Court, an offence that contravenes the Modern Slavery Act.
Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President, represents Enugu West Senatorial District in the current Senate.
He was arrested in June last year for bringing a young Nigerian to the UK with a view to harvesting his organ to treat his daughter, Sonia, who is suffering from kidney disease and needs a transplant.
On Wednesday, the Nigerian Senate appealed to the government of the United Kingdom to pardon Ekweremadu, who was found guilty of organ trafficking in that country.
This was a sequel to a motion moved by Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) during the plenary on Wednesday.
Utazi, in his motion, expressed worries that the Senate had been silent on the ordeal Ekweremadu was facing in the UK.
He demanded that the Senate should appeal to the UK Government considering the relationship between the two countries to temper justice on Ekweremadu.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, therefore, urged the British government to temper justice on the former Deputy Senate president, saying the sentencing, if required, “should not be too harsh.”
He expressed disappointment with the situation, noting that it is unfortunate “a great man” and “a great leader” like Ekweremadu will be going through such an ordeal.
Lawan noted that he had personally sent a letter to the UK government seeking clemency for Ekweremadu on the organ trafficking offence he was found guilty of.
“It should be considered that this is the first time that Ekweremadu will be facing this crime. We promise to be law-abiding inside and outside our country. The British should look into the sentencing, it should not be too harsh,” he said.
The upper legislative chamber urged the UK government to facilitate soft sentencing conditions for the lawmaker.
It was, however, silent on Ekweremadu’s wife and the doctor.
The House of Representatives had on Tuesday during plenary pleaded with the UK government to temper justice with mercy in Ekweremadu’s case.
On March 23, Ekweremadu, his wife, and Obeta were convicted of organ trafficking by a UK court.
In what it described as the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act, the accused were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
The jury found that they criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney.
Ekweremadu was arrested and charged by MET Police last June for conspiracy to traffic a man whose name was later revealed to David Nwamini (Ukpo).
It was reported that Nwamini was not a minor, based on the details provided by the Nigerian Immigration Service and Westminster Magistrate Court last June and July respectively.
Nwamini according to the UK Guardian newspaper was offered an illegal reward to become a donor for Ekweremadu’s daughter who has a kidney disease that forced her to drop out of a master’s degree in film at Newcastle University.
“In February 2022 the man was falsely presented to a private renal unit at Royal Free hospital in London as Sonia’s cousin in a failed attempt to persuade medics to carry out an £80,000 transplant. For a fee, a medical secretary at the hospital acted as an Igbo translator between the man and the doctors to help try to convince them he was an altruistic donor, the court heard,” UK Guardian reported.
The prosecutor Hugh Davies told the court that the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”.
He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
The behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Davies told the jury.
He said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact.”
“What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal. It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty,” UK Guardian quoted Davies as saying.
Ekweremadu denied the charge, claiming he was the victim of a scam.
In the same vein, the doctor, Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.
Ekweremadu’s wife, Beatrice, denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy while his daughter, Sonia, did not give evidence.
WhatsApp messages shown to the court revealed Obeta charged Ekweremadu N4.5 million (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Ekweremadu and Obeta later admitted to falsely claiming Nwamini was Sonia’s cousin in his visa application and in documents presented to the hospital.
The prosecution lawyer, Davies said Ekweremadu ignored medical advice to find a donor for his daughter among genuine family members.
“At no point in time was there ever any intention for a family member close, medium or distant to do what could be paid for from a pool of donors,” he said.