Choices bind everything in life. The one taken by former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, in June 2022, has now earned him 10 years jail term.
A United Kingdom court on Friday sentenced Ekweremadu to a total of nine years and eight months imprisonment, while his wife, Beatrice, was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment for plotting to harvest a man’s kidney.
The third accomplice, a medical doctor, Dr Obinna Obeta, was jailed 10 years.
Ekweremadu, his wife and Obeta were found guilty at the Old Bailey for conspiring to arrange the travel of the victim, a young man, with a view to exploiting him for his body part.
The Punch reports in March 2023 that the jury found they criminally conspired to bring a 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney.
The court heard that the young man was falsely presented as a cousin to Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, in a failed bid to persuade doctors to carry out an £80,000 private procedure at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The young man was said to have been offered an illegal reward of £7000 to become a donor for Sonia after a kidney disease forced her to drop out of a Master’s degree in film at Newcastle University.
Road to jail
Ekweremadu, who has represented the Enugu West Senatorial District for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party since 2003, was arrested on June 21, 2022, by the UK Metropolitan Police for organ harvesting.
He was arrested alongside his wife, Beatrice. The duo was charged with conspiracy to facilitate the travel of another person for organ harvesting.
On June 23, 2022, the Ekweremadus were denied bail at the Uxbridge magistrates court in west London and remanded in custody by a UK court over the allegations.
Immigration probes victim’s passport
On June 27, 2022, it was reported that the Nigeria Immigration Service began investigating the authenticity of the passport obtained by the victim, a certain David Nwamini, who was alleged to have been trafficked to the UK for organ harvest by Ekweremadu and his wife.
A trending picture of the victim’s passport, however, indicated that he was born on October 12, 2000. The passport with number B00569974 was issued in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on November 5, 2021 and would expire on November 4, 2026.
The NIS, however, denied reports that the passport issued to the suspect was fraudulently procured, adding that the service followed due process in issuing the document.
Ekweremadu’s lawyer claims
The lawmaker’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on July 2, 2022 that the victim had offered to donate his kidney to Sonia, Ekweremadu’s daughter.
The lawyer added that the victim was not 15 years as claimed and that he had allegedly told his client that he was 21 years. He added that Ukpo had also allegedly told the British authorities that he was 15 years and that he did not want to return to Nigeria, after being asked to do so.
Nigerian officials’ solidarity
A high-powered delegation led by a former Senate President, David Mark, was in court in solidarity with his erstwhile deputy when the Westminster Magistrate’s Court on July 8 remanded Ekweremadu and his wife in custody and adjourned the case till August 4, 2022.
Others were former Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Adamu Bulkachuwa, and officials of the Nigerian High Commission.
On July 23, 2022, a UK-based doctor, Dr. Obinna Obeta, was accused of conniving with Ekweremadu and his wife to traffic the victim into the country to harvest his kidney for their daughter.
Obeta, 50, from Southwark, south London, was charged under the Modern Slavery Act. He was charged with arranging the travel of the victim from Nigeria to the UK and accused of conspiring with Ekweremadu to arrange or facilitate the travel of the victim for exploitation.
Ekweremadu blames EFCC for ordeal
The lawmaker on December 14, 2022, told Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was responsible for his travails at the London Court where he had been in detention over alleged organ harvest.
Ekweremadu denies offering to buy kidney
On February 9, 2023, it was reported that the lawmaker denied offering money to a prospective kidney donor to save his sick daughter.
Also, on March 14, 2023, Ekweremadu’s wife denied involvement in the search for an organ donor for their ailing daughter.
But reports on February 22, 2023, states that in body-worn footage shown to jurors, the trafficked victim appeared to be crying and distressed when he walked into the police station.
He said, “I don’t know anywhere, I don’t know where I am. I have been sleeping three days outside around, looking for someone to help me, save my life.”
He told the receptionist he had been brought into the country by a man he met in Lagos. “He carried me to the hospital to remove my kidneys. The doctor said I was too young but the man said if ‘you do not do it here, he would carry me back to Nigeria and do it there,’” he said.
However, on March 23, Ekweremadu and his wife were found guilty of organ trafficking in the UK. The duo alongside Obeta were found guilty of facilitating the travel of the young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
But the long arms of the law on Friday caught up with the trio. While Ekweremadu bagged a total of nine years and eight months imprisonment, his wife was sentenced to four years and six months and Obeta was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Assuredly, Ekweremadu, Beatrice and Obeta’s choices that landed them behind bars would create separate unforgettable moments for the trio.