In connection with an organ harvesting conspiracy involving a young man who was smuggled to the UK for his kidney, a Nigerian senator, his wife, and a doctor were sentenced to prison on Friday, according to a statement from the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
In the first conviction of its kind under British modern slavery laws, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, and Dr. Obinna Obeta were each given prison terms of nine years and eight months, four years and six months, and ten years at the UK’s Central Criminal Court, also known as the Old Bailey.
The three were convicted guilty in March of smuggling a street vendor, age 21, into the UK in order to obtain a kidney for the Ekweremadus’ daughter Sonia, who the CPS claims has failing kidneys and requires frequent dialysis.
According to the prosecution, the victim was lured to the UK with the prospect of employment and a reward of up to £7,000 ($8,810) but was not made aware that he would also be required to donate a kidney.
The transplant was postponed after a medical expert grew suspicious of the circumstances surrounding it, and the victim escaped. He camped out for many days before telling UK police about the plot last May, according to the CPS.
“This was an horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney,” Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor, was quoted as saying.
“The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health and well-being and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having limited understanding of what was really going on here,” she continued.
Detective Inspector Esther Richardson, from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Command said: “This is a landmark conviction and we commend the victim for his bravery in speaking against these offenders.”
A respected public servant
Ekweremadu, a respected public servant, served as Nigeria’s deputy senate president for 12 years. His story drew sympathy in Nigeria, where some considered him and his wife as unfortunate victims who were eager to assist their ill daughter.
Before his sentence, some members of the country’s political establishment, including the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote to the UK court pleading for mercy.
Ahmad Lawan, the president of the Nigerian Senate, claimed on Wednesday that he had written to the British judiciary on Ekweremadu’s behalf, pleading with them to “temper justice with mercy.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Femi Gbajabiamila, referred to Ekweremadu as “a brilliant lawyer, a distinguished public servant, and a dedicated family man.”
Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the speaker of the ECOWAS parliament, claimed that he had also written to the chief clerk of the Old Bailey Court to request clemency for the Ekweremadus.
Between 2011 and 2015, Ekweremadu presided over the ECOWAS parliament as speaker.
But the UK court did not heed the pleas for mercy, and other Nigerians wondered why prominent politicians were using their clout to support a convicted felon.
IPC Justice, a non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption in politics wrote on Twitter: “… Nigeria has a reputation for not enforcing laws against political elites, which could lead to the perception of condoning criminal activity if the Speaker advocates for clemency for someone convicted of a serious crime.”
Government officials should not use their position of power to influence legal proceedings or advocate for individuals who have been convicted of a crime, especially if the crime was committed in another country and the convicted individual has already been sentenced.
— IPC Justice (@ipcjustice) May 3, 2023
Although understandable that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, may have business and personal connections with Senator Ike Ekweremadu and wish to see him receive clemency,
— IPC Justice (@ipcjustice) May 3, 2023