The UK Metropolitan Police announced Tuesday the arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife for an offence relating to child trafficking and organ harvesting. They have been charged to Court and remanded in prison custody pending the hearing of their case at Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court on July, 07, 2022.
The UK Police confirmed that Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu and Ike Ekweremadu, have been charged with conspiracy to bring David Ukpo Nwamini, a ‘child’ from Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK) to harvest his organs. The Metropolitan Police claims that they launched investigations into the matter after they had been alerted of the potential breach of the Modern Slavery Legislation in May 2022.
The Modern Slavery Act, 2015 spells out the conditions under which human trafficking offence could be committed.
Against the former speculation that the boy was a 15-year-old child who has not reached the age of consent, new evidence from his International Passport revealed to the contrary that David Nwamini is over 20 years old. Sen. Ekweremadu had officially written to the British government informing them of his intentions to bring the boy to the UK for the purposes of organ transplant for the daughter who had been diagnosed of kidney failure and urgently needed a transplant to remain alive.
Organ transplant is an age-long global practice that has benefited many, including Nigerians. On television and social media, patients are often seen soliciting support for organ transplant. Usually, a person out of love or compassion willingly donates one of his organs to save the life of another. A precondition for such action is that the donor will be made aware of the implications of his/her actions; will not accept any kind of financial reward for such action and must not be seen to have been cajoled or coerced into such.
It’s, indeed, in these matters that either Sen. Ekweremadu, his wife or even the alleged donor may be complicit. To be safe, the Ekweremadus need concrete proof that the information supplied to the British High Commission was made available to David and an agreement sealed, that is, in the event that it has been established that David is 21 years old. As a lawyer and seasoned lawmaker, Sen. Ekweremadu cannot be ignorant of such a legal procedure.
In spite of the said letter to the British High Commission which we have not been able to verify, it is also not yet clear the conditions under which David was granted Visa to the UK. Was it on the strength of the said letter or did they present him for Visa interview at the British High Commission? If indeed he went for interview, we believe that his mission in the UK would have been discussed and that includes an acknowledgement of the risks involved in such exercise.
Section 14 of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, 2015 under which Ekweremadu and wife stands trial provides that: (i) a person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to being exploited; (ii) it is irrelevant whether the victim consents to the travel (whether victim is an adult or child); (iii) a person may in particular arrange or facilitate victim’s travel by recruiting victim, transporting or transferring victim, harboring or receiving victim, or transferring or exchanging control over victim. (iv) a person arranges or facilitates victim’s travel with a view to victim being exploited only if: the person intends to exploit victim in any part of the world during or after travel; or the person knows or ought to know that another person is likely to exploit victim in any part of the world during or after travel; (v) a person who is not a UK national commits an offence if any part of the arranging or facilitating takes place in the UK, or the travel consists of arrival or entry into, departure from, or travel within the UK.
Also the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, provides that trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
The UN explains exploitation to include, forms of sexual exploitation including the prostitution of persons, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or removal of organs.
The above are the legal provisions the Ekweremadus are confronted with. We are perturbed that a poor little boy would allegedly be lured with the promises of a greener pasture outside the country by a national leader part of whose responsibility is to make Nigeria work. More disturbing is the explanation that such victim accepted such offer in exchange for one of his organs.
Prime Business Africa trusts that this matter will be dispassionately prosecuted by the British Government and justice served to all parties involved in the case. However, the current travails of the duo of Sen. Ekweremadu and wife is evidence of a weak legal and healthcare delivery system in Nigeria. As a serving Senator and a two-term Senate President in addition to serving as the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Ekweremadu would have used his influence to wriggle out of the case if it happened in Nigeria.
On the other hand, travelling from Nigeria to the UK to conduct a medical examination as minor as a kidney compatibility test reveals the extent of the rot in Nigeria’s health system and the level of confidence in the system by the leaders most of whom do not patronize Nigerian hospitals. From Nigeria’s independence in 1960 till date, Nigeria has not been able to ensure quality healthcare delivery service for citizens. Many Nigerians die daily from preventable diseases because they either do not have access to proper healthcare or they cannot afford it. Meanwhile, billions of Naira is budgeted for health every year, the extent these monies are utilized for their purpose is a matter of conjecture.
Let this national embarrassment usher in the needed revolution in Nigeria’s health sector. The government can declare a national health emergency which can lead to overhauling the health system. In this case, all the primary healthcare delivery centres in local communities and villages should be equipped and well-funded for effective healthcare delivery service in addition to employing quality personnel to work in them. It is needless to say that this would also curtail the number of medical doctors and health professionals seeking escape from Nigeria.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the poor attitude of hospitals to the health needs of patients. It’s ironical that while government shut down public places because of a pandemic, some health facilities also shut down, with the implication that patients who had urgent need for medical attention were rejected at the hospitals. The idea was to prevent the spread of COVID 19 by curtailing the number of persons that visited the health facilities. We believe that such unprofessional conduct may have led to more deaths than those killed by the COVID 19. Where else does a sick person go to in time of emergency if not the hospital?
We believe that if Nigerian hospitals are well equipped and functional, such matters of kidney viability, compatibility test, dialysis or transplant and many others can be handled domestically and at reduced costs.