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Ekweremadu: Trial Of A Stray Lion

Ekweremadu: Trial Of A Stray Lion %Post Title

hen the British tabloid, Daily Mail, first ran a story that a “Man and woman are charged with conspiring to harvest organs from child,” they had no idea who the subjects were, even though they identified them as “Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55, and Ike Ekweremadu, 60.” For a notoriously gossipy newspaper, it was only a matter of time before they picked up the soundbites of outrage over the story in the politician’s home country, and their headline was predictable a few hours later: “Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu and wife charged (with) trafficking a child to UK for organ harvesting.” 

Their report was based on a revelation by London Metropolitan Police that the couple is being accused, under UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA 2015), as follows: “[A] Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. [B] Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.”

The lawmaker, a three-time Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate became the nation’s virtual punching bag instantly and was found guilty based on the sketchy details of their alleged transgressions in Europe. Nigerians’ urge to placate their politicians who run out of luck abroad is maddening, and understandably so. He’s become the lion that strayed unto unfamiliar territory and outnumbered by preys of the hunt. The reactions to his predicament so far have been polarizing, with sympathy largely hesitant.

But the nation’s psychological wiring against their politicians is a systemic response to years of their infraction of local laws and long-practised rush to seek life-changing services, especially medical and academic, in functioning Western countries while similar institutions under their jurisdiction are neglected or the resources intended for revamping the institutions looted to afford the luxury of elite lifestyle abroad.

Luckily for the Ekweremadus, a patronizing hearing in the court of public opinion has been kickstarted by their patriarch’s letter to the visa-issuing unit of the British High Commission, which has been making the rounds on social media. In the support letter, he identifies as the sponsor of the boy he’s being accused of trafficking to the U. K., and that the young man was visiting to donate a kidney to a certain Sonia Ekweremadu who fits the profile of his ailing daughter. Ms. Ekweremadu is said to have been in need of a kidney. 

As a powerful politician in a functional country, the lawmaker is capable of sponsoring this turbulent journey to prove his innocence in the British court. He would also enjoy first-class services from the Nigerian government through established diplomatic channels in ensuring that he’s not misrepresented or disadvantaged in a foreign country. He holds a Ph.D. in law, and that’s rather ironic. What he can’t do there is yield to the familiar Nigerian big man’s temptation to flaunt social status to escape the wrath of the law. There wouldn’t have been a trial at all if this vague case of organ trafficking had been in Nigeria. 

The narrative of what transpired from Ekweremadu’s defenders was that the supposed donor lied to the British authorities that he’s a minor after realizing that he would have to return to Nigeria when the organ donation business failed based on unstated compatibility issues. The trending story in the media, however, is that the age the donor told the British hospital was the reason the transplant couldn’t hold as arranged, implying that he came to the U. K. under a falsified age. 

No matter what both sides believe, the fact that a British court refused to grant the Ekweremadus bail at the first hearing means the case isn’t as simple as the public understands at this point. While the court of public opinion is fixated on establishing the fact of the donor’s status as a minor and interpreting what qualifies as human trafficking or organ harvesting in the British law, Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, where the Ekweremadus are being tried, is probably in possession of information more nuanced or comprehensive than the focus of the Nigerian public. 

The published data page of the Nigerian passport of the supposed donor, Ukpo Nwamini David, shows he was born on October 12, 2000, and already 21 when Senator Ekweremadu wrote the British High Commission on December 28, 2021. His Bank Verification Number (BVN) and National Identification Number (NIN) profiles trending online also correspond with the information on his passport. These contradict the claim from London and the foreign media that the “child” at the centre of this scandal is a minor; a 15-year-old tricked into visiting London for a vague or unstated purpose. Unless Ekweremadu’s letter, which also clearly stated the boy’s name as it appears on his passport and the purpose of visiting London, is forged, this accusation won’t be difficult to defend when the couple takes the stand to prove their innocence or guilt at the next hearing on July 7. 

If the Ekweremadus escape the child trafficking charge on the basis of the age of the alleged victim as advocated by a side of this story, MSA (2015) may be their nightmare, especially if it’s proven that Ukpo David’s consent was transactional. Under Section 2 of the Act, “(1) A person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (‘V”) with a view to V being exploited,” and the Act further defines such exploitation in S. 3 (4) as when “The person is encouraged, required or expected to do anything (a) which involves the commission, by him or her or another person, of an offence under section 32 or 33 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (prohibition of commercial dealings in organs and restrictions on use of live donors) as it has effect in England and Wales.” 

It’s human to feel sorry for the Ekweremadus, especially with such a risk taken to save the life of their beloved daughter. But the power differential between them and Mr. David is wide enough for the Brits to agree that the donor, who’s from a country they treat as a charity case, is unlikely to offer to donate his kidney to someone he had probably never ever met at no cost before visiting London. The penalty for such exploitation, if established by the court, means the Ekweremadus would be fighting to escape the life imprisonment verdict with their daughter still in a sickbed. (Daily Trust)

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