A senior Nigerian politician has been sentenced to nine years and eight months in a UK prison for masterminding a scheme to extract a kidney for his ailing daughter from a young man he had trafficked to London.
The politician was deemed to be the “motivating factor” behind the plot.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former deputy president of the Nigerian senate, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty by an Old Bailey jury in March in the first organ trafficking conviction under the Modern Slavery Act.
They were found to have conspired to bring a 21-year-old Lagos street trader to a private renal unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital as a potential kidney donor for Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia.
On Friday, during his sentencing statement, Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson stated that the three co-conspirators were all involved in a reprehensible business. He declared, “The act of extracting human organs is a type of servitude. It reduces human beings and their physical forms to commodities that can be traded.”
Addressing Ekweremadu the judge said: “You played a leading role in the offending. You did so in order to secure the material advantage, namely a human kidney for your daughter. I am sure that you were the driving force throughout.” The guardian uk quoted in a report.
The senator was also involved in bribing a medical secretary at the Royal Free, the judge said: “You were involved in the corruption of a member of hospital staff.” The judge said Ekweremadu must serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison and the remainder released under licence.
There are reports that Nigeria’s senate and the Economic Community of West African States had urged the judge to show clemency to Ekweremadu, a political ally of the former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Beatrice Ekweremadu was sentenced to four years and six months, with half spent in custody. Obeta, who helped organise the organ harvesting plot after himself receiving a kidney transplant at the Royal Free in July 2021 from another man allegedly trafficked from Nigeria, was sentenced to 10 years, two-thirds of which must be served in prison.
In March 2022, a hospital rejected the kidney transplant attempted by the Ekweremadus.
Later, it was discovered that the family had been attempting to traffic individuals for organ transplants, and in May, the victim (referred to as C) went to the police in fear of his life, believing that he was being lined up for another transplant in Nigeria.
C remained fearful of reprisals against himself and his family and was worried that his father had been approached to drop the case. The prosecutor Hugh Davies KC stated, “Kidney donation for reward is a substantial, internationally prohibited commercial industry that exploits economically vulnerable individuals.”
Ike Ekweremadu played a significant role in the 2014 legislation that prohibited the activity he engaged in.
The victim was being supported by Justice and Care, a charity that campaigns for the victims of modern slavery.