The Ekweremadu Affair: matters arising


Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, were arrested in the UK on June 24 on charges of alleged organ harvest of one David Nwamini Ukpo. Senator Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, needs a kidney transplant.

They claim to have had an agreement with Ukpo to donate one of his kidneys to her. On arrival in the UK, Ukpo claimed he had no idea he was brought to the UK for organ transplant and further claimed that he was fifteen years old, though his documents showed he was twenty-one.

The Ekweremadus have been denied bail by the MET police and if found guilty could face up to fifteen years in prison. It is yet another knock on the image of Nigeria already battered by widespread reports of criminal behaviour in some foreign countries.

The Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Nigeria Immigration Service, and some banks to release the biodata of Mr. Ukpo to the Ekweremadus to aid their defence in the trial in the UK. The court in the UK has established that Ukpo is indeed 21 years of age.

The trial is set to go on! Organ harvest is a criminal offence worldwide, no matter the age of the donor and Western nations have taken a serious view of it to stop the sale of human organs across the world.

Although we sympathise with every parent’s need to do the needful to save their ailing child, several things stick out like a sore thumb in this case.

Ekweremadu has no respect for the medical system here in Nigeria. After all, successful kidney transplants have been carried out in some of our hospitals.

However, the twist is that it was discovered that Ukpo was not a match for Sonia and so could not be her donor. This means that the Ekweremadus had so little regard for our doctors that they could not trust them to carry out even the basic testing to ascertain a match between the donor and the patient.

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But why would Ekweremadu put his faith in a system that he did nothing to improve? In the twenty years he served in the Senate he could have proposed policy changes that would have impacted positively on our health sector.

Sadly, he chose not to. In those twenty years, surely Ekweremadu had amassed enough wealth to equip at least one Nigerian public hospital with the equipment to do a successful kidney transplant. If he had, he probably would not have found himself in hot soup.

The irony is that Sonia might very well end up being treated by Nigerian born doctors who have fled to the UK in search of better working conditions. Secondly, the documentation systems that we have in Nigeria are a national embarrassment. In Nigeria, some citizens could have a “VISA age”, a “football age”, “a civil service age”, etc. All of these are different from his actual birth age.

Through some “miracle”, people even graduate from primary school just one year after they were born! Now, whether Ukpo’s documents were forged or not, it seems the whole medical trip was built on a foundation of lies and deceit. Either the Ekweremadus lied to Ukpo with promises of a better life in the UK and did not tell him that they wanted his kidney, or Ukpo deceived them into thinking he will donate his kidney while all along planning to double cross them.

Whatever the case, this whole saga should serve as a lesson to Nigeria’s elite and people in positions of privilege that money and power cannot buy everything.

The power elite should de-ply the nation’s resources to developing A-Class hospitals in Nigeria that can meet the health needs of the citizenry.

The Ekweremadu experience should teach Nigerian leaders a lesson. It is not enough to loot the treasury and feel secure. Nemesis has a way of catching up with officials who deny the people their due. Build our national institutions.

Let the teaching hospitals function properly because we have capable doctors and health personnel. We call for legislation that will prohibit all public officials from looking overseas for health whether for themselves or for their children.

If this were to happen, our leaders will have no option but to work to improve our own facilities and systems if only for their own selfish benefit. No doubt, the poor man will benefit as well. Let us stand or fall together, all of us, no exceptions.

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