It was a breaking news that came like a thunder bolt. Many Nigerians least expected it at the time it happened in March. Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife have been arrested in the United Kingdom by the metropolitan police for allegedly trafficking a minor for organ harvest in the UK was the headline of the news story that Tuesday afternoon from different news outlets.
It was a huge surprise, if not shock, to many Nigerians who wondered how someone of Ekweremadu’s caliber, pedigree and stature could be linked to such a heinous ‘crime’ of attempted organ harvesting. How could a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a three tenure Deputy Senate President, a Professor of law, among other reputable positions and accomplishments, be linked to such a crime was the question on many lips.
At that material time, details of the alleged offense were still sketchy but that didn’t deter many commentators from making all kinds of comments and analyses based on the limited information available. But many Nigerians who were shocked also preferred to wait for the full disclosure of what actually happened.
Many Nigerians from comments that followed later, said that perhaps because of his daughter’s illness that required organ transplant, a caring father or rather parents would go to any length legitimate to save their child.
In spite of that, those with discerning mind reasoned that Senator Ekweremadu with his background in law and knowledge, wouldn’t take any steps that could pitch him against the law either in Nigeria or elsewhere no matter how desperate the issue was.
It was later learnt he was taken to the UK court alongside his wife and charged with trafficking a 15-year old minor into the UK with the purpose of harvesting his organ for the sake of his daughter, amongst other charges, contrary to the laws of the UK.
Senator Ekweremadu, through his lawyers, denied the charges. Surprisingly the case has not left that level about five months now. The Senator is still in detention even though his wife was later granted bail. The matter which originated from the Magistrate’s Court has been transferred to a higher court. The next hearing is October 30, 2022 while the trial may start sometime in May 2023 according to reports.
Now, many Nigerians have wondered why the Federal Government of Nigeria has not done anything about the matter to the public knowledge. This informed the direct question posed to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Abubakar Malami by the press at the Presidential Villa recently. His reply was that as a matter of policy, FG does not interfere in a criminal case in court. But I don’t know if he meant locally, outside the country or generally.
It is quite unfortunate that Senator Ekweremadu found himself in this kind of quagmire. However, it is highly embarrassing that the UK court has been treating the case the way it has so far without anyone raising a hand in protest from Nigeria.
The issue of whether the person said to have been trafficked is a minor or not has been put to rest. It is now clear that he is an adult. The full trial should have commenced as soon as he was charged. How long will it take them to conduct and conclude investigations?
Many Nigerians are at a loss on what informed his long incarceration with neither bail nor trial. Would the Nigerian government asking that he be granted bail and then for a quick and diligent prosecution amount to interference? If they don’t have any case against him, he should be released.
Another question to ask the government of Nigeria is if a British national or any other foreigner is arrested in Nigeria and treated this way by our court, will their home government keep quiet?
We have witnessed such matters in Nigeria when some foreign nationals were arrested for maritime and other criminal offences and how their home governments through the Embassy in Nigeria and other back channel diplomatic maneuvers were employed for them to be speedily tried or released midway without going the whole hog.
It is also on record some instances when the federal government intervened in alleged criminal matters that Nigerians abroad got into like drug trafficking that carried death sentence. Government pressed for quick and fair trial or got some of them out without trial.
Many Nigerians who know Ekweremadu very well would readily testify that he is not the kind of person who will jump bail if granted. He will prefer to clear his name and reputation through a court process than getting clemency. Keeping him in detention without diligent and speedy trial by a court in the UK for a bailable alleged offence is unacceptable, wicked and indeed insensitive to the good relationship between Nigeria and the Uk, our former colonial masters.
The Hon. Minister of Justice, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) of which he is a member, the media and Human Rights Organizations should demand for Ekweremadu to be granted bail and full trial without further delay.
–Nwanze, Journalist and Public Affairs Commentator wrote from Abuja.