A UK court has sentenced former Nigerian senator, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife and a doctor to prison for organ trafficking. The trio were convicted of trafficking a 21-year old man from Lagos to the UK to donate a kidney for the Ekweremadus’ daughter Sonia, who suffers from kidney failure and needs regular dialysis. The victim was offered a reward of up to £7,000 ($8,810) and the promise of work in the UK, but later came forward to say he was not aware that he was expected to give up his kidney in return. The transplant was cancelled by a medical consultant who became suspicious of the situation before reporting the case to the UK police last May.
Ekweremadu, who was a deputy senate president in Nigeria for 12 years, was sentenced to 9 years and 8 months in prison for his role in the plot. His wife Beatrice was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison for her involvement. The doctor, Obinna Obeta, who acted as the middleman to facilitate the arrangement was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge said that Ekweremadu was the “driving force throughout” and that he showed “utter disregard” for the victim’s welfare, health and well-being. He also said that Ekweremadu used his considerable influence and wealth to control the victim, who had limited understanding of what was going on.
This is the first case of its kind under modern slavery laws in the UK. The case has attracted attention and sympathy in Nigeria, where some saw Ekweremadu and his wife as victims of circumstance who were desperate to help their sick daughter. Some of Nigeria’s political leaders wrote to the UK court appealing for leniency ahead of the sentencing, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The president of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said he wrote to the British judiciary on behalf of Ekweremadu asking them to “temper justice with mercy”. The speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, described Ekweremadu as “a brilliant lawyer, a distinguished public servant and a dedicated family man”.