In breaking news, former Nigeria Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, have been found guilty of conspiring to traffic a Nigerian to the UK to harvest his kidney.
Ekweremadu and his wife were charged with conspiracy to arrange the travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting, in June 2022. The kidney to be harvested was for the child of the former lawmaker.
Here’s what we know about him.
Who is Ike Ekweremadu?
Ekweremadu is a Nigerian lawyer and politician from Enugu state. He became Deputy Senate President (DSP) under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was in that position for three consecutive senate assemblies, the sixth, seventh and eighth. In June 2019, he tried again to run as DSP. He lost to Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
How did Ekweremadu find himself in an organ trafficking scandal?
In June 2022, news broke that Ekweremadu had been arrested concerning organ trafficking in the UK. A jury found that Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice, and Dr Obinna Obeta facilitated a young man’s travel to Britain. He was a 21-year-old Lagos street trader whose kidney they planned to use for their daughter, Sonia, who suffered a kidney disease that made her drop out of a Master’s degree in film at Newcastle University.
[The Ekweremadus / The Guardian]
According to The Guardian, in February 2022, the unnamed man (for legal reasons) 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 convince them he was offering his kidney willingly.
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.
The prosecutor argued that what the Ekweramadus did was “exploitation and criminal” and that it was not a defence to say he did it out of love for his daughter at the exploitation of someone in poverty.
Ekweramadu and Obeta denied the charges, arguing they fell victim to a scam.
WhatsApp evidence presented at the court showed that Dr Obeta charged ₦4.5 million to facilitate the procedure.
The court found the Ekweremadus and their doctor guilty. However, their daughter Sonia was found not guilty. The verdict is considered the first under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act. Sentencing will be passed on May 5, 2023.
That’s when we will know what their punishment will be. According to the Act, the couple could get anything between a twelve-month sentence to life imprisonment.