*Lawyer says allegation serious, preposterous
Goddy Egene in Lagos and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The lawmaker and his wife were arraigned for conspiracy to arrange the travel of a child, child trafficking, potential modern slavery, and organ harvesting. The case was adjourned till July 7, as their bail application was turned down.
They were in court for less than one hour and the reason for the adjournment was that the Attorney General had to rule on the jurisdiction of the case because two countries – Nigeria and England – are involved.
But in a letter dated December 28, 2021, addressed to the British High Commission in Abuja, in support of the organ donor, Mr. Ukpo Nwamini David’s visa application, which he personally signed, the senator representing Enugu West Senatorial District had stated clearly the reason why he applied for the travel document.
The letter stated that David was to travel to the Royal Free Hospital, London, to undergo investigations as a possible kidney donor, an arrangement to which he had given his consent.
The letter read, “I am writing in support of the visa application made by Mr. Ukpo Nwamini David, who is currently having medical investigations for a kidney donation to Ms. Sonia Ekweremadu.
“David and Sonia will be at the Royal Free Hospital London and I will be providing necessary funding. I have enclosed a statement of my bank account.
“Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require additional information.
“Please accept the assurances of my highest regards.”
THISDAY’s sister broadcasting news channel, ARISE News Channel, which covered the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court proceeding, reported that the Nigerian High Commission sent representatives to the court in London, but they got there late.
During yesterday’s court hearing, Ekweremadu denied allegations of human trafficking.
In a statement, he said at no stage did he arrange transport for anyone with intention to exploit him or her. His wife similarly denied the allegations in her prepared statement, the court heard.
Gavin Irwin, representing Ekweremadu, said, “There is no question this is a serious allegation. Mr. Ekweremadu is a member of the senate in Nigeria.
“He has previously held an even more senior role as Deputy President of the Senate. He is a member of the bar in Nigeria. He is a principal in a law firm that bears his name.
“Those issues taken together go way beyond him being a person of good character…rather that he has led a blameless life as a public servant.’
Irwin added that the allegations were “nothing short of preposterous”.
On her part, Antonia Gray, who stood for Mrs. Ekweremadu, said, “She has never been complicit or involved in any alleged illegal trafficking of any young person. She is a financial accountant with an unblemished record.”
Arise News Channel reported the prosecutors to have said the Ekweremadus were being charged with bringing a 15-year-old boy from Nigeria to the UK with the claim that he was to be given a better life in the UK, but the intention was allegedly to harvest his organ.
The prosecutors told the court that the former senate president procured a passport for the boy and claimed he was 21 years old, but discovered that he was 15 years old.
The prosecutors also told the court that the Ekweremadus had a daughter with a kidney-related disease, who had been on dialysis for quite some time. They told the court that they believed the plan was to use an organ from the boy on their daughter, who appeared to need a kidney transplant.
Ekweremadu and his wife had separate legal representations and prayed the court to release them on bail. But the magistrate dismissed their prayer. The couple has surrendered their passports to the UK government.
The name of the boy wasn’t disclosed in court for legal reasons. He was now in care and was being offered support, Arise News disclosed.
Although the accused live in Nigeria, they do have family connection to London.
Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, a source familiar with the matter, who pleaded to remain anonymous, faulted the position of the prosecutors, insisting that David, who claimed to be underage, was actually an adult.
The source said, “The guy told the UK police that he is underage, probably, because he didn’t want to come back to Nigeria. He may have claimed underage to win sympathy of the police.”
The source, apparently, peeved by the denial of bail to the couple queried, “Who is now taking care of their sick daughter? The daughter had being on dialysis for a while and was wasting away. They were advised she had little time left if she didn’t get a transplant as soon as possible. They said Ekweremadu promised the boy heaven and earth for agreeing to give his daughter a lease of life. Now look at what the boy has done to them. The poor girl’s life is fading, with no one to care for her, her parents locked up for attempting to save her precious life.”
Ekweremadu attended plenary on the floor of the red chamber in Abuja yesterday before travelling to the UK, where he was arrested alongside his wife and are currently being detained.
The UK metropolitan police had said the duo were charged following an investigation by the police’ specialist crime team. The police added that the investigation was launched last month after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
“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,” a statement by the police said.
“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 police also stated in a statement.
Ekweremadu, who was recently made a visiting professor at the University of Lincoln, served three terms as Nigeria’s Deputy President of the Senate, from 2007 to 2019.
The lawyer, politician, and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has been a senator since 2003.
An investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Team took place after detectives were alerted.
Family sources informed THISDAY late yesterday night that Ekweremadu’s twin brother (an identical twin) was rushing to London this morning to be with his brother at this difficult time.