Nigerian senator sentenced to over nine years in prison in organ trafficking case
MISE À DAY
He had brought a young man from Lagos to remove a kidney from him and transplant it to his daughter: the influential Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu was sentenced on Friday to nine years and eight months in prison by a London court.< /p>
The 60-year-old elected official, his wife Beatrice and a doctor who acted as an intermediary were found guilty in March of having organized the trip to the United Kingdom of their victim, a street vendor aged 21 years from Lagos, to remove a kidney.
They were convicted under Britain's Modern Slavery Act, first used in an organ harvesting case.
Mr Ekweremadu's wife, 56, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison, while the doctor, Obinna Obeta, 51, received a 10-year sentence. All three risked life in prison.
“You all played a part in a despicable trade”, launched the judge Jeremy Johnson in handing down his decision, which the defendants accepted without showing emotion .
“Trafficking in human organs is a form of slavery. He treats human beings and their body parts as materials that can be bought and sold,” he insisted.
The couple's daughter, Sonia, 25, has been cleared. In court on Friday, she waved to her parents as they were led out of the courtroom.
The case is closely followed in Nigeria, where – as the prosecution recalled at the start of the trial – the Ekweremadu family has “power and influence”. A former vice-president of the Senate, Mr. Ekweremadu is still officially a member of Parliament, as the new Senate elected earlier this year has not yet taken office.
In this case, the defendants “have used their political influence and power to control a young man who was vulnerable because of his economic situation,” Andy Furphy, head of the modern slavery and child exploitation unit in London police.
“Modern slavery in the UK is very serious and the sentence reflects that,” he added, noting that the phenomenon has increased over the past five years.
Unlike the Ekweremadu couple, the victim is a disadvantaged young man, street vendor in Lagos. According to the prosecution, he had been promised up to 7,000 pounds sterling (7,800 euros), together with the promise to work and stay in the United Kingdom.
During the trial, the young man said he thought he had been brought to the UK to work. He said he only realized once in front of the British doctors that it was an organ transplant.
The kidney was to be transplanted to Sonia and the Ekweremadu family had asked the victim to pretend to be the cousin of the young woman. In the UK, it is legal to donate a kidney altruistically, especially for a loved one, but illegal to do so for a financial or material “reward”.
After understanding the true reason for your came to England, the victim had surrendered in May 2022 to the police “looking for someone to (him) save his life”.
The operation did not take place and the Ekweremadu couple had been arrested at Heathrow Airport in London in June.
Elected from a constituency in southeastern Nigeria for the opposition People's Democratic Party, Ike Ekweremadu did not was unable to stand in the recent elections because he was in pre-trial detention, the prosecution having put forward the risk of absconding.