...By Malcolm Hemsworth for TDPel Media.
After almost 11 months of facing organ trafficking charges, former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; his wife, Beatrice; and a medical doctor, Obinna Obeta, have received their sentences at the Central Criminal Court.
The three were convicted of organ trafficking after having a young Nigerian man flown into the United Kingdom in a bid to obtain a kidney on behalf of the Ekwemeradus’ sick daughter, Sonia.
READ ALSO: Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu, Wife, Doctor Face Sentencing Today
The jury said Ekweremadu, his wife and their doctor criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney.
The verdict is considered the first of its kind under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Here is a timeline of key moments in the trial:
June 23, 2022: The London Metropolitan Police announced that it has arrested Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, for conspiring to bring an alleged 15-year-old boy to the UK for organ harvesting. The kidney donor David Nwamini’s travel is said to have been arranged or facilitated between August 1, 2021, and May 5, 2022, with a view to exploitation punishable under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.
June 23, 2022: At the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, the couple plead not guilty. They are remanded in custody and the trial is adjourned till July 7.
June 23, 2022: The former Senator representing Kogi Central, Dino Melaye, shows support for Ekweremadu in a tweet, saying, “I stand with Ike.”
June 24, 2022: Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi says he and his family are praying for Ekweremadu and his family over their travails.
June 24, 2022: Senator Smart Adeyemi promises senators will not abandon Ekweremadu, saying some of them are making efforts to reach out to him.
June 25, 2022: The University of Lincoln bars Ekweremadu from undertaking any further duties as visiting professor of corporate and international linkages.
June 26, 2022: The Ebonyi State Government says it stands with the Ekweremadu family and urges the UK Government to act progressively and meticulously, and critically look at the intention and the minds of the detained family.
June 26, 2022: The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) confirms the age of the victim. In a statement, the Comptroller General of NIS, Mr Isah Idris, discloses that the said kidney donor was 21, and not 15 as claimed.
June 28, 2022: Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, sue the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), and two commercial banks at a Federal High Court in Abuja. They prayed the court for an order directing the NIMC to bring out the Certified True Copy of the biodata of David Ukpo Nwamini.
June 28, 2022: Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila says he is shocked and concerned about the situation with Ekweremadu and his wife. He asks the Nigerian High Commission in the UK to avail the former deputy senate president all the support he requires.
June 29, 2022: The Nigerian High Commission engages the services of lawyers in the UK to defend Ekweremadu, according to Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
June 30, 2022: Ekweremadu appears before Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court in London on charges under Britain’s Modern Slavery Act. Ekweremadu’s case was fast-tracked. His wife Beatrice’s request to appear by his side is refused.
July 1, 2022: The Federal High Court Abuja directs NIS, NIMC, and two commercial banks to release the official details of the organ trafficking victim to Ekweremadu and his wife.
July 6, 2022: The Federal High Court Abuja orders NIMC to transmit the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the biodata information of the victim to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for onward transmission to the UK.
July 7, 2022: Ekweremadu and his wife return to the Westminster Magistrates Court for the continuation of his trial, where the Nigerian High Commission in the UK shows support. They plead not guilty to the charges of human trafficking and organ harvesting.
July 7, 2022: At the Westminster Magistrates Court, the prosecution accepts that the kidney donor is 21 years old, contrary to earlier claims that he is 15 years old.
July 13, 2022: A 50-year-old doctor, Obinna Obeta, is arraigned before the Bexley Magistrates’ Court for allegedly working with the Ekweremadus plotting to harvest a kidney for the couple’s daughter.
July 22, 2022: Dr Obeta is charged with plotting with Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, to traffic a man into the UK to harvest a kidney for their 25-year-old daughter, Sonia.
July 26, 2022: The Old Bailey grants bail to Beatrice Ekweremadu. The court, however, refuses to grant bail to her husband.
August 4, 2022: Senator Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice, and Obeta appear before the Central Criminal Court in continuation of his organ harvesting trial. The trial is adjourned and pre-trial is scheduled for October 31.
August 16, 2022: The British High Commission in Nigeria says it will not comment on the alleged organ harvesting case involving Ekweremadu and his wife when Channels Television reached out to it to make enquiries about the case.
September 13, 2022: Ekweremadu asks the Federal High Court Abuja to dismiss the suit by the kidney donor seeking to stop the release of his biodata to the Old Bailey.
November 7, 2022: The Central Criminal Court moves the trial from May 2023 to January 31, 2023, agreeing that arguments will be heard on December 16 or 19, 2022 before the commencement of the trial in January.
December 15, 2022: Ekweremadu accuses the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of being responsible for his travails in the UK, telling the Federal High Court Abuja that the anti-graft agency wrote a letter to the London court on which the UK court refused to admit him to bail.
December 21, 2022: Again, the Central Criminal Court denies Ekweremadu bail on grounds that the senator would flee the country.
January 20, 2023: The Federal High Court Abuja vacates an interim forfeiture of 40 landed properties granted against Ekweremadu, noting that the Forfeiture Order was fraudulently obtained by the EFCC on behalf of the Federal Government.
January 31, 2023: Ekweremadu and his wife appear in court, but their accused daughter, Sonia, is unable to attend as she is in hospital. Her defence team submit a psychological report, claiming she is not fit to stand trial. The court adjourns soon after convening in order for prosecutors to read the report.
February 6, 2023: Ekweremadu, his wife, and daughter return to court where prosecutor Hugh Davies says the victim was coached to give false answers to doctors at the hospital and Sonia was “singing from the same hymn sheet” to create a fake family history linking the pair as cousins.
February 8, 2023: Former Minister of Aviation Osita Chidoka takes to Facebook to accuse the UK of denying Sonia a kidney transplant despite having many donors who are willing to assist.
February 20, 2023: Speaking through an interpreter, the kidney donor says he arrived in the UK on February 20, 2022, to provide his kidney to Sonia.
March 7, 2023: Ekweremadu tells the court he feared “everybody was obviously taking advantage of my daughter’s ill health.”
March 9, 2023: During cross-examination, Ekweremadu tells the court he sought to buy a kidney for his sick daughter and failed to request it from family members based on advice from a medical practitioner.
March 14, 2023: Mrs Beatrice Ekweremadu testifies in court, describing her husband as a good man whom she had come to trust.
March 23, 2023: After a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, Ekweremadu; his wife, Beatrice; and their doctor, Obinna Obeta, are convicted of organ trafficking, leaving only Sonia in the clear. Their sentencing is slated for Friday, May 5.
April 3, 2023: Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter addressed to the Chief Clerk of the Central Criminal Court of England, asks the court to temper justice with mercy in the sentencing of Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice.
May 2, 2023: The House of Representatives appeals to the UK government to temper justice with mercy. A member of the House, Toby Okechukwu, who moves the motion, bases his position on the longstanding history and cordial ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
May 3, 2023: The Senate appeals to the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London, for leniency in the sentencing of Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice. The Senate’s decision to appeal for clemency follows a motion raised by Senator Chukwuka Utazi during the day’s plenary session.
May 3, 2023: The Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, pleads with the UK government to show leniency with Ekweremadu.
May 3, 2023: The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) through its Ambassador at Large and Head of Diplomatic Mission to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Duru Hezekiah, appeals to the UK Government for leniency.
May 5, 2023: Ekweremadu is jailed for nine years and eight months, his wife Beatrice was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment while Obeta received a 10-year prison term.