One day you’re a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the next day you’re a guest in a UK prison. That’s currently the (developing) story of Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
Ekweremadu first won an election to the Senate to represent Enugu West senatorial district in 2003. He’s also Nigeria’s longest-serving deputy senate president, from 2007 to 2019.
But before he became a parliamentary Methuselah, Ekweremadu bagged a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law and also served in the Enugu State government between 1999 and 2002.
What’s he done now?
British media outfit, Sky News, reported on June 23rd, 2022 that Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka, had been arrested by the Metropolitan Police. Authorities accused the couple of conspiring to harvest the organs of a child in the United Kingdom (UK). They were charged to court for arranging the travel of a homeless Nigerian boy for an organ-donation operation in the UK.
What are the issues?
The Ekweremadus have four children: two sons and two daughters. Their UK prosecutors told the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court that one of their daughters, Sonia, suffers from kidney failure. This made it necessary for her to get a kidney transplant to save her life.
It’s important to note that the average wait time for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor is two to three years in the UK. But this wait time drops down to between three and six months for a living donor transplant. Crucially, living donors must also be aged 18 years or older according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). But the Ekweremadus said:
In contravention of this requirement, the living donor procured from the streets of Lagos by the Ekweremadus is only 15 years old. The minor in question has been identified as Ukpo Nwamini David. The UK prosecutors told the court that the facilitation of his travel for exploitation took place between August 1st, 2021 and May 5th, 2022.
The Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime unit launched an investigation into the Ekweremadu family in May after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation.
The two suspects were finally arrested on June 21st, 2022 at Heathrow Airport in London. Prosecutors said they were on their way to Turkey, still trying to make the organ donation procedure happen for their daughter.
What are the suspects saying?
Senator Ekweremadu and Beatrice have denied the allegations in signed statements their lawyers presented to the court. Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Gavin Irwin, said his client has led a blameless life as a public servant and can’t possibly be guilty of what he’s accused of. Beatrice also claimed she has an unblemished record and couldn’t be involved in illegal trafficking.
A letter has surfaced online showing Ekweremadu notifying the British High Commission that David was a potential donor for Sonia. But the UK’s issue appears to be David’s minor status which makes it impossible for him to be a donor.
What’s going to happen now?
The court has adjourned a further hearing of the case till July 7th, 2022. The Ekweremadus were also denied bail and will remain in prison until the adjourned date.