A wealthy Nigerian politician and his family plotted to bring a street trader from Nigeria to Britain and pay him a few thousand pounds to donate his kidney for a transplant for his ill daughter, a British prosecutor told a London court on Monday.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 55, daughter Sonia, 25, and Nigerian doctor Obinna Obeta, 50, who is accused of acting as a middle man, all deny a charge of conspiracy to arrange travel of another person with a view to exploitation between August 2021 and May 2022.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies said Ekweremadu, an opposition senator in the southern Nigerian state of Enugu and also a former deputy senate president, and his wife were significant figures in Nigerian society with power, influence, a “significant degree of wealth” and international connections.
“There are however certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family, and they include good health,” said Davies said of the couple and their daughter, all on trial along with Obeta at the Old Bailey central criminal court.
Donating a kidney is not unlawful in Britain but it is a criminal offence to offer a reward, regardless of whether the donor is complicit.
Davies told the court that the family, who he described as close and loving, came up with the plan to arrange a transplant for Sonia, who has a serious and deteriorating kidney condition and requires dialysis.
Davies said the proposed donor, who was about 21 and cannot be named for legal reasons, was recruited in Lagos where he worked in markets selling telephone parts from a cart.
The man appeared to have been offered a reward of up to 3.5 million naira (7,000 pounds or $8,439) along with a promise of work and the chance to be in Britain, the court heard.
“To him, a street trader for Lagos, these sums and rewards were significant,” Davies said.
Elaborate steps were taken to create the impression he was Sonia’s cousin, the jury were told. Other potential donors were reviewed before he was chosen, and others recruited after his planned donation fell through.
“None of this would have been necessary if this was a straightforward, genuine, lawful, altruistic kidney donation,” Davies said. “It was not. The alleged conspirators knew it was not, what they agreed to was not. It was criminal.”
Davies said that according to the would-be donor’s account which the defence would “doubtless dispute”, he did not grasp that he had been taken to London a year ago for a kidney transplant until his first screening appointment at the Royal Free Hospital.
The consultant who carried out the tests said the man had a limited understanding of why he was there and was visibly relieved when told the transplant would not proceed, according to Davies.