Organ Harvesting: UK Court Convicts Ekweremadu, Wife, Doctor
Former Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, wife and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking, in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.
The 60-year-old politician, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation, after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, according to the UK Guardian.
They criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found.
The UK Guardian said he could not reveal the name of the donor for legal reasons, adding that he had been offered an illegal reward to offer his kidney to the senator’s daughter.
It also said Sonia’s kidney disease forced her to drop out of a master’s degree in film at Newcastle University, the court heard as it said Sonia was found not guilty.
In February 2022 the man was falsely presented to a private renal unit at Royal Free hospital in London as Sonia’s cousin in a failed attempt to persuade medics to carry out an £80,000 transplant.
For a fee, a medical secretary at the hospital acted as an Igbo translator between the man and the doctors to help try to convince them he was an altruistic donor, the court heard.
The prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the court that Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
Ekweremadu’s attitude as a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking portrayed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Davies told the jury.
Davies said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.
He added, “What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal.
“It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty.”
Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he was the victim of a scam. Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically. Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy. Sonia did not give evidence.
WhatsApp messages showed to the court revealed Obeta charged Ekweremadu N4.5 million (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted falsely claiming the man was Sonia’s cousin in his visa application and in documents presented to the hospital.
Davies said Ekweremadu ignored medical advice to find a donor for his daughter among genuine family members.
He said: “At no point in time was there ever any intention for a family member close, medium or distant to do what could be paid for from a pool of donors.”
The judge, Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass a sentence on 5 May.
Fuel Subsidy Removal: FG, Labour Meeting Ends in Deadlock
Talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump prices to over N700 from N195 per litre by oil marketers.
The hours-long meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to, among other things, prevent a labour crisis following the recent increase in the petrol pump price occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it had adjusted the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to reflect the market realities. The agency, however, failed to state the new prices of petrol.
However, several retails outlets sold the product between 600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja , Ogun and some other states.
The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, pointed out that the hike in the cost of PMS would trigger galloping inflation in the country, stressing that some outlets in the South-East were currently dispensing the product at N1,200/l.
Ukadike stated, “Once NNPCL retail stations have adjusted their pumps to reflect the new price, there is nothing you can do about it; that is the new price. As I speak with you, all of them are now selling at the new prices. The situation is so bad, that somewhere in Ebonyi State our members informed us that it is now N1,200/litre.
“We thought the President would remove the subsidy through a seamless means because the source of this petrol is the NNPCL. They are the ones subsidising petroleum products, they are the people who use their revenue to subsidise this product.’’
The IPMAN spokesperson expressed worry over the rate of increase in inflation and hardship that would come as a result of the latest hike in petrol price.
“This hike in petrol price will definitely lead to galloping inflation and will worsen the hardship already being faced by the Nigerian masses. It is not something to cheer about. It came as a surprise and in the coming days, we will see the very harsh ripple effects,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Ukadike has called on the Federal Government and the NNPCL to give other marketers the opportunity to start importing petrol in order to create competition in the sector.
“The NNPCL is importing and has not given people the opportunity to join them in importing so as to see whether private sector operators can import the product cheaper or not. So there is no competition. In a deregulated regime, there must be competition, everyone with capacity should be allowed to import,” the IPMAN official stated.
When asked whether other marketers could resume imports since the government had finally deregulated petrol prices, Ukadike replied, “Marketers can import, but let me tell you some of the factors militating against this. The first is that there won’t be availability of dollars.
“You will source your dollar from the parallel market and if you are not careful in doing this, and you go into the importation of petroleum products, you might not ‘come out of it alive’ at the end of the day.
“So what we are saying is that those advantages that NNPCL has, should be shared with other major importers of petroleum products. If it is through crude buy-back, they should let us know so that independent players such as IPMAN members can come together and be able to use it in the buy-back model.’’
He added, “For independent marketers, the most important thing is that there should be availability of petroleum products, and the government should open up the space for importers and investors to come in.”
NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running, confirmed the hike in petrol price in a statement and a new pricing template released to marketers nationwide.
But the move has sparked a groundswell of anger across the nation with the Nigeria Labour Congress demanding an immediate reversal of the decision.
The union also said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday on the fuel price increase which had triggered hoarding and scarcity across the country with attendant rise in transport fares, goods and services.
The fuel price hike by the oil firm is coming 72 hours after President Bola Tinubu declared in his inaugural address on Monday that the subsidy regime had ended.
To pacify the growing anger over the situation, the FG hastily summoned some labour leaders to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday evening.
The meeting had in attendance the NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, former NLC President and immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, and others, however, ended in a deadlock as the labour and government teams failed to reach a consensus.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Joe Ajaero, said “As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”
He faulted the NNPCL over an official release published hours earlier reviewing the petrol pump price in its filling stations nationwide.
He said the move puts the labour unions in a difficult position on the negational table.
“That’s the principle of negotiation. You don’t put the partner, ask them to negotiate under gunpoint. The prayer of the NLC is that we go back to the status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people. If it is an action that must take off.
“The subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June. And before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government should be able to think of what will happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before the time,” Ajaero said.
Nigeria End Argentina’s U20 World Cup Dream, Reach Quarter-Finals
The Flying Eagles advance to the quarter-final of the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time in 12 years after defeating host Argentina 2-0 at the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario in the early hours of Thursday, The PUNCH reports.
Second-half goals from Ibrahim Muhammad and Rilwanu Sarki secured a shock win for Ladan Bosso’s team.
They will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the quarter-final of the competition in Santiago del Estero on Sunday.
The Flying Eagles started brightly but as the first half wore on, La Albiceleste dominated play.
Striker Alejo Veliz had two scoring chances to break the deadlock as the break approached but missed those sitters.
First, his glancing header went narrowly wide in the 14th minute while his second attempt before the break was saved by Kingsley Aniagboso who was in goal for Nigeria.
In the 61st minute, The Flying Eagles broke the deadlock through Emmanuel Umeh when he flicked the ball over the top for Muhammad, who slotted home a low shot past goalkeeper Federico Gerth.
The goal saw Argentina pile the pressure in search of an equaliser and in the process they had 20 shots at goal as against Nigeria’s nine.
Javier Mascherano’s boys came agonisingly close when Luka Romero’s low drive from a distance hit the upright of the post for Daniel Bameyi to put the ball to safety.
In additional time, substitute Victor Eletu came off the bench for Ibrahim Muhammad to make an assist for Haliru Sarki to score Nigeria’s second on the night and secure a famous triumph for Nigeria for the first time in the competition since 2005.
Nigeria’s win on Thursday ended a run of 10 straight U-20 World Cup victories for Argentina. The young La Abliceleste had won all seven games when they hosted the tournament in 2001, and their first three at this edition.
PDP Can Suspend, Expel Wike According to Law, Court Rules
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, told the former governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done under the law.
Justice James Omotosho stated this in a judgment on a suit filed by Mr Wike before the 2023 general elections to seek a court order to stop PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
Mr Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and arguments of counsel.
He held that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the right to defend himself would breach his fundamental rights as enshrined in the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions.
He said though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, it must comply with its law.
The judge said that though section 46(1) of the law vested jurisdiction on the court if one’s rights had been breached, he said the court would not dabble into the internal affairs of any political party, except where the party had violated the right of a member without recourse to its laws.
“Where this right ought to be enforced, the court will do everything within its reach to ensure this.
“However, as fundamental and sacrosanct these rights are, they are not absolute,” he said.
The judge, therefore, agreed that any member of a political party who appeared before a disciplinary committee should be allowed to defend himself.
“And if not, any decision taken shall be null and void,” he said.
He said, “This court is convinced that the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing and that the respondent also has the right to discipline its members in accordance with the law.”
The judge further said Mr Wike had the right to associate and that the threat to dismiss him without inviting him to defend himself contravened Article 57 (1)(2) of the party.
He said the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, and his agents were bound to promote constitutional democracy.
The ex-governor had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) as first to third respondents.
Mr Wike, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023, dated and filed February 2 by his lawyer, Joshua Musa, SAN, also joined Mr Ayu; national secretary of PDP, Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission as fourth to sixth respondents respectively.
He had prayed for an order directing all parties to maintain the status quo and stay all actions relating to the threat to suspend or expel him by the first to fifth respondents, pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.
He asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association which was allegedly about to be breached by the respondents.
But the PDP, through its lawyer, Johnson Usman, SAN, disagreed with Mr Wike’s submission.
He argued that the case was only based on speculation as Mr Wike had failed to provide evidence to substantiate that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party.
He said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities.
He said Mr Wike and four other governors engaged in anti-party activities by forming the Integrity Group and campaigning for another presidential candidate in the February 25 election.