A Nigerian senator, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife who was earlier convicted by the United kingdom over an organ harvesting plot involving a young Nigerian man who was trafficked to the UK to exploit his kidney, have been jailed, together with the doctor that was involved according to statement released by the Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The UK’s Central Criminal Court (also known as the Old Bailey) sentenced Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, and Dr. Obinna Obeta to terms of nine years and eight months, four years and six months, and ten years in jail, respectively.
The verdict represents the country’s first conviction under its contemporary slavery laws. In March, the three were found guilty of trafficking a 21-year-old street trader to the UK to give a kidney for their daughter. Sonia Ekweremadu, the daughter of the defendants, is suffering from a deteriorating kidneys and requires frequent dialysis, as stated in the CPS statement. The victim was allegedly brought to the United Kingdom with the promise of a job and a reward of up to £7,000 ($8,810), but he had no idea that he would be forced to donate a kidney in exchange.
This was a horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim.
However, the plan to remove the young man’s kidney was foiled by a medical expert who, upon becoming aware of the unfolding circumstances related to the conspiracy, began to harbor suspicions about their legality. Thereafter, the victim fled, sleeping homeless for days until reporting the plot to UK police in May, as contained in the CPS statement. According to the Chief Crown Prosecutor, Joanne Jakymec, who was quoted for this statement, “This was a horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.”
Jakymec went on to explain that the guilty defendants exhibited complete contempt for the victim’s safety, health, and well-being and utilized their powerful influence to maintain a high level of control all through, with the victim having little awareness of what was planned for him and the whole situation. Detective Inspector Esther Richardson of the Met’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Command called the conviction “landmark” and praised the victim for his bravery in standing out against the perpetrators.
Many prominent Nigerians wrote to the UK court appealing to be lenient.
Former Nigerian Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu’s plight garnered widespread sympathy from Nigerians who saw him and his wife as unfortunate victims who were doing everything they could to care for their ill daughter. Many prominent Nigerians, including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote to the UK court appealing them to be lenient with him prior to when he was sentenced. Also, Nigeria’s Senate President Ahmad Lawan reportedly appealed with the British judicial system on Ekweremadu’s behalf to “temper justice with mercy.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila praised Ekweremadu as “a brilliant lawyer, a distinguished public servant, and a dedicated family man.” Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the speaker of the parliament of the West African regional body ECOWAS, claimed he had also written to the Old Bailey Court’s head clerk appealing for leniency on behalf of the Ekweremadu’s. Be aware that Ekweremadu was the speaker of the ECOWAS parliament’s presiding body from 2011 to 2015.
Nigerian questioned the appeal of a convicted criminal.
Nevertheless, the UK court was unfazed by the appeals of Nigeria’s high profiled persons, while several in Nigeria questioned the rationality of using their influence to appeal for the release of a convicted criminal. A tweet by IPC Justice, a non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption in politics asserts that “If the Speaker of the House of Representatives advocates for clemency for someone convicted of a serious crime, it could give the impression that Nigeria condones criminal activity.”