Nigeria’s former Deputy President Senate Ike Ekweremadu is on trial in the UK for alleged organ harvesting. Prosecutors accuse Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice and their 25-year-old daughter Sonia, as well as medical ‘middle-man’ Dr Obinna Obeta, of luring the unidentified victim to the UK with the promise of up to £7,000 and a better life.
Ekweremadu was formerly Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate for three consecutive terms.
At the opening of the defendants’ trial at the Old Bailey on Monday, the court heard that Ike and Beatrice’s daughter Sonia was to have received the man’s kidney in an operation at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.
Sonia suffers from a ‘significant and deteriorating’ kidney condition, statements read out had said.
It is treatable with dialysis, but curable with a transplant.
The victim apparently did not understand he had been transported for the purposes of donating his kidney until his first appointment at the hospital, and was relieved when he learned that the procedure would not go ahead.
The conspiracy allegedly involved ‘elaborate’ steps to create the impression that Sonia and the man were cousins, which they are not.
Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu, a district senator and lawyer respectively, are charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation (Picture: Central News/web collect)
Obinna Obeta, a doctor, is also on trial, alongside the Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia, who would have been the recipient of the victim’s kidney (Picture: Central News)
Other potential donors are understood to have been reviewed before the victim was eventually selected.
At the time, he was scraping a living selling phone parts at public markets in the Nigerian capital of Lagos.
Under the ‘direction and financial control’ of the conspirators, the street trader was allegedly transported to London in February 2022.
In exchange for giving up his kidney, he is understood to have been promised a cash sum of up to £7,000, as well as the opportunity to remain and work in the United Kingdom.
When the transplant procedure was not undertaken as planned, further options were explored for potentially moving forward with another donor in Turkey.
Hugh Davies KC, for the prosecution, described Ike and Beatrice as ‘significant figures’ in Nigerian society.
He said: ‘[Ike’s] status and influence had produced a significant degree of wealth. They had international connections.
On a case-by-case basis, the global black market for human organs is one of the most lucrative, and most poorly understood, forms of human trafficking (Picture: Getty Images)
‘There are, however, certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family and they include good health.
‘Most parents, whether powerful or not in society, will do whatever is necessary to alleviate the suffering of their child.
‘The Ekweremadus were no different: the evidence – from downloads from their mobile phones, and wider actions – demonstrates a close, open and loving family each with an understandable and direct interest in Sonia’s medical treatment.’
But, Davies went on, proceedings were not concerned with the couple’s motivation, rather the lengths they were willing to go to to improve their daughter’s health.
Under UK law, it is legal to donate a kidney, but a criminal offense to provide someone with compensation for doing so.
Davies said: ‘Relative to the wider costs of the process – measured in tens of thousands of pounds – which would have been done privately, [the victim’s] reward was to be a small fraction of the whole.’
He added: ‘To him – a street trader from Lagos – these sums and rewards were significant.’ All three members of the Ekweremadu family on trial deny the charges against them.
(Source: London MET)