Ike Ekweremadu, Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, could face life imprisonment when sentenced on Friday, May 6th, in London’s Old Bailey criminal court. He was found guilty in March of conspiring to traffic a young street trader into Britain for his body part, specifically to harvest his kidney for his sick daughter. Also convicted were Ekweremadu’s wife Beatrice and Obinna Obeta, a doctor who acted as a middleman in the plot. However, Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia was cleared of the same charge.
This is the first case of organ harvesting conspiracy charges to be brought under the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Although it is legal to donate a kidney in Britain, it is illegal to do so for financial or material gain. The victim was recruited by a doctor working for the politician and believed he was coming to the UK to work. But upon arriving in the UK, he was taken to London’s Royal Free Hospital for preliminary tests, where he discovered he was there to donate his kidney.
The maximum sentence under the Modern Slavery Act is life imprisonment. During the trial, the victim testified that he had been flown to Britain by the Ekweremadus to harvest his kidney in return for up to £7,000 ($8,800) for Sonia, who remains on dialysis with a renal condition. He fled after doctors at the hospital told him he would not be a suitable donor following preliminary tests. He later walked into a police station last May seeking help.
The trial judge denied Ekweremadu bail after agreeing with prosecutors that he could try to flee the UK. Lawyers for the four accused insisted the victim was acting “altruistically,” and Ekweremadu told jurors that he feared he was being “scammed.” Nigeria’s parliament has appealed to the London court for clemency for Ekweremadu, arguing that he was a first-time offender who had made valuable contributions to politics in West Africa.