Nigerian senators earlier this month tried to save the neck of one of theirs, former deputy president of the senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who was about to be sent to jail in the U.K. on a proven charge of “organ harvesting”. The senator, his wife Beatrice and a Dr. Obinna Obeta were found guilty and convicted by a UK court of “exploiting a vulnerable victim for illegal organ harvesting”.
It was at that point of conviction that the leadership of the senate chose to come into the case on behalf of Ekweremadu, a long term senator. They thought they could prevail on the “British judicial authorities” to grant the convict “clemency”. This was how senate president Ahmad Lawan explained the senators’ self seeking action: “He (Ekweremadu) has brought in so much efforts to the development of parliaments in Africa and across the world and he has never been found wanting and therefore what has happened is very unfortunate and very sad.
“I have written a letter to the British Judicial Authorities … seeking Clemency on behalf of the Senate. I signed the letter and had it delivered to the authorities in the United Kingdom. We are now using this particular intervention to seek for clemency in the sentencing.The conviction has already been done but we are seeking Clemency because this is the first time our Colleague is getting involved in this kind of thing. … and let me conclude by seeking tempering justice with mercy by the British Judicial Authorities that when it comes to sentencing, they should consider that this is the first time ever that Distinguished Senator Ekweremadu will be facing this kind of situation.”
Well, it finally came to sentencing on May 3. Judge Johnson of London’s Criminal Court, said he was showing leniency, not clemency, towards the convict because “a 51-page document” pleading for leniency for Mr. Ekweremadu and highlighting how he is a person of upstanding character” was before him. Ekweremadu would go to prison for nine years and eight months, his wife 4 years and six months and the doctor who “colluded with them” for 10 years. The judge described their crime as “horrific”.
Did the senator mean to commit the crime? I suspect not. But here are some under currents to note in the Ekweremadu saga. First, two forces were at play – filial love and common sense. Ekweremadu’s loving daughter is a kidney failure patient (probably dying). Common sense demands that anything (just anything) be done to save her. Where is the place of reason? Nil. Ekweremadu, a brilliant lawyer we are told, and seasoned lawmaker, pushed by desperation, fell into a trench he should have easily avoided. And there he was – right in the heart of a country where he knew the law wasn’t “an ass” ( not as stupid as a donkey).
Crown prosecutors said Sonia, 25, had suffered from “deteriorating kidneys” and required “regular dialysis.” They presented “evidence” that her parents conspired with Dr. Obeta to identify individuals in Nigeria whose kidneys might be harvested for Sonia’s benefit. In February 2022, the victim, a 21-year street trader, was trafficked to London and “was kept under the direction and financial control of the defendants… The conspirators’ plan was for the victim to provide a kidney to Sonia in exchange for the suggested amount of either £2,400 or £7,000 and the promise of work in the U.K.,” the prosecutors said in a statement. The court heard the defendants had attempted to convince doctors at London’s Royal Free Hospital that the victim and Sonia were cousins in a bid to justify the victim’s temporary travel visa to the U.K.
This is why our dear and “distinguished senator” finds himself in jail today in foreign land. Love for my daughter and frustration crowded out. Emotion forced the intellect to take flight. A case of walking into danger with your eyes open. Or as the Hausa say, “keteran rijiya a baya (trying to step over a well with the back turned towards it) Now that he and his wife are shut away, who will save darling Sonia?
Now to the Nigerian senators’ clemency call for Ekweremadu. Why in particular? Because he is a “big man” and he was let go even when he committed “a horrific” crime! The UK is not Nigeria where impunity is picked on the street. I had expected the senators, if they truly wanted to help their peers, to try to exploit an extant treaty between the UK and Nigeria that allows prisoner exchange. Britain initiated it in 2014 because she wanted to decongest her prisons that were brimming with inmates. The treaty didn’t take effect at the time reportedly because Nigerian prisoners didn’t want to come back to their “native land” where they believed prison conditions were inhumane.
Our senators are in a good position to initiate a revival of the prisoner swap agreement and get their man to be a beneficiary. Many other Nigerians languishing in UK jails can benefit too. That will be the more honourable and nationalistic thing to do.