In what can be described as tragic and a dent in Nigeria’s image, a former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice and a medical doctor, Dr Obinna Obeta, have been convicted of organ trafficking by a United Kingdom Court on Thursday, in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.
The UK Guardian also reports that Ekweremadu, 60, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obeta, 51, 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 Court in London.
The jury also found that the Ekweremadus and the doctor criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found.
But the court did not find the daughter, Sonia Ekweremadu, who needs the Kinney transplant, guilty.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been offered an illegal reward to become a donor for the senator’s daughter after kidney disease forced her to drop out of a master’s degree in film at Newcastle University, the court heard. Sonia Ekweremadu was found not guilty.
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.
The prosecutor, Hugh Davies KC, 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.
Davies further told the jury that 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”.
He added that 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”.
Davies further told the court that: “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.”
Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he was the victim of a scam. Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.
Beatrice also denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy while Sonia did not give evidence.
WhatsApp messages showed to the court revealed Obeta charged Ekweremadu N4.5million (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted falsely claiming the man was Sonia’s cousin in his visa application and in documents presented to the hospital.
Davies said Ekweremadu ignored medical advice to find a donor for his daughter among genuine family members.
He said; “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.”
Having listened to the parties, the judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, found the Ekweremadus and Obeta guilty as charged, saying he would pass the sentence on May 5.