The former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, and their doctor, Obinna Obeta, were recently convicted in a UK court under Section 2, Sub-section (1), of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. They were found guilty of attempting to illegally harvest a kidney to give to their ailing daughter.
To recap, a British visa was expedited for David Ukpo, a 21-year-old Lagos street hawker, to fly to London and “donate” his kidney. However, when interviewed at the London hospital, it became clear that David didn’t even know what a kidney was, let alone that he was supposed to be willfully donating one of his!
When the British doctors realised that David didn’t understand what he was getting into, they declared him a mismatch. This didn’t mean his kidney was unsuitable, it meant that all requirements had not been met. An overriding legal requirement is that both the procedure and the health risks associated with organ donation must be explained to the donor, and the facts must match both the science governing the procedure, and the law. David’s kidney matched the scientific requirement, but the facts didn’t match the legal requirement.
The issue only came to light when they tried to return David to Nigeria rather than give him a job in the UK and send him to school as promised. Unsurprisingly, he ran away, and reported himself to the police, who established that a crime had been committed when he admitted receiving N270,000 for his kidney.
In a typically Nigerian twist to the deal, British police ascertained that Ekweremadu paid N4.5 million to Dr Obeta to be given to David, but because he distanced himself from the crime and never dealt directly with David, the doctor duped both of them and pocketed the bulk of the money!
Ekweremadu’s behaviour is typical of “big men” who get involved in criminal activities. Irrespective of his protestations, it simply made no sense that he never wanted to meet the person “donating” a kidney to his daughter. At trial, the jury decided that his non-direct dealing was not evidence of innocence, but a deliberate attempt to evade legal responsibility.
Even worse for Ekweremadu, it was proven on three different official documents that he lied by stating that David was his daughter’s cousin and, in effect, his nephew! In sharp contrast to the sort of immoral and illogical judgements routinely handed down by the Nigerian judiciary, the British trial judge, Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson’s judgement, was well-composed and littered with moral lessons for Nigerian political leaders.
Justice Johnson said in effect that “people trafficking” across international borders for the harvesting of human organs is a form of slavery that treats human beings and their body parts as commodities to be bought and sold. It’s a trade that preys on poverty, misery and desperation and the guilty parties each played a part in the despicable trade.
He went on to say that what is clear is that, having done a similar thing before, Ekweremadu had learnt that it’s possible to manipulate and corrupt the regulatory system by using fabricated documents, untruthful affidavits, and lying.
This sort of behaviour is routine among Nigerian politicians! Justice Johnson pointed out the irony that Ekweremadu was a member of the National Assembly, which enacted the law making such behaviour a criminal offense!
The judge aptly summed up the hopelessness that political leaders have led ordinary Nigerians into when he said to Ekweremadu that “you exploited the vulnerability of his poverty”. Justice Johnson quite correctly ignored pleas for mercy from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian Senate, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), all of whom should hang their heads in shame. All they achieved was to ridicule African leadership, advertise their immorality, publicise their total disregard for the welfare of the common man, and display their disdain for enforcing human rights.
Lamentably, the Nigerian Senate in particular continues to bring itself into disrepute by routinely endorsing illegalities and any unconstitutional behaviour that benefits them financially.
The inescapable sad truth is that the Upper Chamber accommodates many treasury-looting former governors who showed total disrespect towards their states’ legislatures when in office, and whose unjustifiable pensions have permanently handicapped the economic prospects of their states. Many of them should be in detention rather than sitting down and making laws, which they routinely break but expect decent people to follow. Responsibility for our national decline lies squarely at their doorstep.
Their routine approval of inappropriate and nonsensical budgets, is the reason why the nation has no standard hospitals and Nigerians travel overseas for proper medical treatment.
Truthfully, David had no reason to donate his kidney altruistically, as he knew neither Ekweremadu nor his daughter. Ekweremadu was truthfully taking advantage of David’s poverty, which he has a major responsibility for, especially considering that nothing was put in place for his post-surgery and future healthcare needs.
David Ukpo was lucky to get justice. Nigerians can never rely on the Nigerian judiciary to find political bigwigs guilty of breaking the law. There is little doubt that if Ekweremadu had committed the offence in Nigeria, where “common” citizens are deprived of their rights, he would be walking free and David would most likely be in detention!