Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, currently standing trial in the UK over alleged organ-harvesting plot, paid a doctor to find a kidney donor for his sick daughter, a court has been told.
The 60-year-old politician, his wife Beatrice, 56, daughter Sonia, 25, and medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, are accused of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of a young man to Britain to exploit him for his body part.
The 21-year-old street trader from Lagos was allegedly offered up to £7,000 and the promise of a better life in the UK in exchange for giving a kidney to Sonia Ekweremadu.
It is alleged he was falsely presented as Sonia’s cousin in a failed bid to persuade medics at the Royal Free Hospital in London to carry out the £80,000 private procedure.
At the Old Bailey on Monday, the court was told Ekweremadu transferred one million naira to Obeta on September 24 2021 in a bid to find an organ donor.
Giving evidence, Ekweremadu told the court Sonia was doing a master’s degree at Newcastle University when she started experiencing “swollen limbs” in December 2019.
She was later diagnosed with a “kidney issue”, which caused her “distress”, and withdrew from her studies after she “collapsed” in class, the court heard.
Ekweremadu further said his daughter’s deteriorating condition was “scary”, adding: “Medicines she was getting (were) not essentially working, so her situation was getting worse.”
On September 23, 2021, Ekweremadu texted his medically trained brother Diwe and said: “I think we should also start the process of looking for a donor etc in the event it comes to that.”
Diwe agreed, adding: “Obinna said they will need initial one million naira to start their search and candidate testing.”
The next day, Diwe texted: “Obinna said he has received the 1m, so he will transfer to them this morning and they can start the ‘search and screen’ immediately.”
Ekweremadu’s lawyer Martin Hicks said a further text message exchange on October 7 2021 came “a couple of weeks on from when you paid one million naira, which came from your account straight to Dr Obeta’s.”
Diwe forwarded Ike Ekweremadu a message, adding: “My friend, Obinna sent me those messages. They’ve found some donors who are O+ (Sonia’s blood type).
“They will come to a lab in Abuja individually for further screening.
“He will tell us the lab, so Chino (Sonia) can go independently and do a test too. Then they can do the cross-matching with each person’s sample.
“I think she can register as Sonia Chinonso.”
On why Diwe suggested Sonia should register under a different last name, Ekweremadu told the court: “They were just trying to protect her identity at that point.”
Ekweremadu told his brother to stress to Obinna that they must “abide by the law”, the court was told.
A further text message from Diwe to Ekweremadu on November 1 2021 added: “The guy matched very well for the transplant. He is free of viral infections. My opinion is that we will proceed with this guy and since this guy is around, let us start processing his passport.”
Quizzed on the term “stranger altruism”, Ike Ekweremadu told the court: “It was lawful for people to donate kidneys but it must be out of their own compassion – must be altruistic.
“And because of the nature of our society and the compassion level, we knew it was possible.
“Nigeria is a very compassionate society.”
Lawyers for the defendants previously told the Old Bailey the alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was acting “altruistically”.
However, the young man, who was allegedly trafficked into the UK for organ harvesting, previously told jurors: “Nobody told me about kidney transplant”.
He claimed he was told he had to go ahead with the operation in exchange for 1.2 million naira.
The Ekweremadus, who have an address in Willesden Green, north-west London, and Obeta, from Southwark, south London, deny the charge against them and the Old Bailey trial continues.