Ekweremadus: Government of Nigeria still has time to take action

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The trial of former Nigerian Senate Deputy President Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, on charges of organ trafficking has caused stress in relations between Nigeria and the UK over the past year.

The couple was found guilty of arranging the travel of a Nigerian youth to the UK for the purpose of a kidney transplant for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who had been diagnosed with kidney failure. They were found guilty alongside a doctor with Nigerian ancestry named Obinna Obeta.

An Old Baily jury found the three guilty after finding that they had engaged in a “conspiracy to facilitate and arrange travel with the aim of exploitation” in violation of UK law. However, the UK Court did not take into account how the Ekweremadus became responsible despite having previously informed the British High Commision in Nigeria of their intentions.

It is noteworthy, however, that the Nigerian government kept a distance from the case and, in part, compounded the Ekweremadus case during the trial through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC).

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Wife of Ekweremadu
The way the parents treated their sick child undoubtedly contributed to the Ekweremadus circumstances. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, has stepped in after learning of the conviction and has written a letter of appeal to the trial judge through the Chief Clerk asking him to balance justice with mercy.

In his appeal, Obasanjo urged the court to “balance justice with mercy and let punishment that may have to come take into consideration their good character and parental instinct and care.” The current administration should have taken the action that the former president took, but instead chose to hold off.

When it was the other way around in 1985 and two British engineers were detained in Nigeria for their involvement in the removal of a UK-registered aircraft from that nation, the late Sir Geoffrey Howe, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, travelled to Nigeria to argue their case. The two Britons were ultimately freed. To even regular citizens, the state owes them that.

The Ekweremadus were not so fortunate, and the case only serves as a reminder of how frequently Nigeria has abandoned its citizens who are in danger abroad.

While we do not urge the government to get involved in every criminal case involving Nigerians abroad, we do believe that, given all the circumstances, the Ekweremadu case does merit sympathy.

Therefore, we implore the Nigerian Government at the HIGHEST level to support President Obasanjo’s plea as a humanitarian act before the sentencing on May 5. Here in Lagos, the UK did it 38 years ago for its airspace engineers. Of course, Ekweremadu, a former Senate vice president, could receive the same honour.

We also urge the UK authorities to consider Nigeria’s thoughtful acts and long-standing relationships when sentencing the Ekweremadus, knowing full well that reciprocity is a recognised diplomatic principle.

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