A jury in London on Thursday found Nigeria’s former deputy Senate president guilty of plotting to harvest a street trader’s kidney for his sick daughter, in the first UK case of its kind.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and a doctor, Obinna Obeta, 50, were found guilty at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, of conspiring to exploit the young man from Lagos for his body part.
Ekweremadu and his family had been accused of plotting to bring a street trader from Nigeria to Britain and pay him a few thousand pounds to donate his kidney for a transplant for his ill daughter (Sonia, 25) between August 2021 and May 2022, a British prosecutor told a London court in February this year.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies previously told the court that Ekweremadu, an opposition senator in the southern Nigerian state of Enugu, and his wife were significant figures in Nigerian society with power, influence, a “significant degree of wealth” and international connections.
Donating a kidney is not unlawful in Britain but it is a criminal offence to offer a reward, regardless of whether the donor is complicit.
Davies told the court that the family, who he described as close and loving, came up with the plan to arrange a transplant for Sonia, who has a serious and deteriorating kidney condition and requires dialysis.
Davies said the proposed donor, who was about 21 and could not be named for legal reasons, was recruited in Lagos where he worked in markets selling telephone parts from a cart.
The man appeared to have been offered a reward of up to 3.5 million naira (7,000 pounds or $8,439) along with a promise of work and the chance to be in Britain, the court heard.
“To him, a street trader for Lagos, these sums and rewards were significant,” Davies said.
Elaborate steps were taken to create the impression he was Sonia’s cousin, the jury were told. Other potential donors were reviewed before he was chosen, and others recruited after his planned donation fell through.
“None of this would have been necessary if this was a straightforward, genuine, lawful, altruistic kidney donation,” Davies said. “It was not. The alleged conspirators knew it was not, what they agreed to was not. It was criminal.”
Davies said that according to the would-be donor’s account, he did not grasp that he had been taken to London a year ago for a kidney transplant until his first screening appointment at the Royal Free Hospital.
The consultant who carried out the tests said the man had a limited understanding of why he was there and was visibly relieved when told the transplant would not proceed, according to Davies.