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Nigerian Senator Tells Jury at UK Organ Harvesting Trial He Never Agreed to Pay His Daughter’s Kidney Donor

LONDON—A wealthy Nigerian senator on trial for organ harvesting has denied he ever promised money or “material advantage” to a young Lagos street trader who was allegedly brought to London to donate a kidney for his seriously ill daughter.

Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and daughter Sonia, 25, are on trial along with Obinna Obeta, 50, accused of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of a young man to Britain to exploit him for a body part, namely his kidney. All four deny the charge.

Ekweremadu began giving evidence on Monday afternoon and insisted he had told Obeta—a doctor he paid to find a kidney donor for his sick daughter—to “abide by the law.”

On Tuesday he was asked by his barrister, Martin Hicks, KC, “At any time did you agree to pay [the donor] a financial reward or offer some material advantage?”

“I never agreed, discussed, or made an understanding to pay him. I made it clear there should be no coercion,” replied Ekweremadu, a former deputy president of Nigeria’s Senate.

The court has been told Sonia has been diagnosed with a serious kidney condition, called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis with nephrotic syndrome, which could only be cured in the long-term by a kidney transplant.

Ike Ekweremadu
Nigerian Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu (L) and senate president Bukola Saraki (R) are pictured in Abuja, Nigeria, on June 27, 2016. (Philip Ojisua AFP via Getty Images)

The prosecution claims a 21-year-old street trader from Lagos—who cannot be named for legal reasons— was brought to London with the promise of a better life in the UK and was later offered up to £7,000 for one of his kidneys.

The defendants allegedly falsely claimed he was a cousin of Sonia’s cousin but nephrologists at the Royal Free Hospital in London turned him down as a donor after becoming suspicious.

In the witness box on Tuesday, Ekweremadu said he had no idea any documents had been falsified to state that Sonia and the street trader were cousins until after his arrest in June 2022.

Hicks asked him about a legal affidavit which had been drawn up, and contained Sonia’s signature, in which she stated the prospective donor was her cousin.

He said he knew nothing about it.

“It’s a forgery?” asked Hicks.

“Of course it’s a forgery,” he replied.

Ekweremadu told the jury that in January 2022 he felt people were exploiting him and his daughter, who originally came to Britain to study at Newcastle University.

Hicks asked him, “Why did you not, at this point, say stop?”

‘My Daughter’s Life Was on the Line’

Ekweremadu replied: “My daughter’s life was on the line. If we stopped I would be putting her life in danger so we must keep going. But everybody was taking advantage of my daughter’s illness.”

He said eventually the street trader was brought to London by Ekweremadu’s brother Diwe, who was a former classmate of Obeta at medical school.

The young man was due to undergo more tests to find out if he was compatible as a kidney donor.

When the street trader gave evidence to the court last month he said nobody told him about a kidney transplant before he arrived at the hospital in London.

Hicks asked the senator if he was present at a lunch in February 2022 when the street trader met Sonia and Beatrice Ekweremadu for the first time.

“I was not. I was in Nigeria,” Ekweremadu replied, before adding: “But I advised my wife to go to the lunch and at least see him and thank him for doing the tests and agreeing to possibly donate a kidney to my daughter, and my wife did.”

Epoch Times Photo
Beatrice Ekweremadu, wife of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, leaves the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, in London on Jan. 31, 2023. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Hicks asked him about an appointment his daughter had with Royal Free Hospital nephrologist Dr. Peter Dupont.

Ekweremadu said: “She called me afterwards and said Dr. Dupont had asked her about her relationship with [the street trader] and she said that they were cousins. I said ‘what did you do that for?’”

He said Sonia told him she had been advised to say they were cousins by Dr. Chris Agbo—a British consultant who was being paid to advise the family on the transplant procedure—who told him the compatibility for the transplant was more likely to be approved if the authorities believed they were related.

Ekweremadu recalled his daughter saying, “They are all trying to save my life.”

Hicks then asked him about an NHS interpreter in the Ibo language who was involved in the street trader’s London hospital visits.

Denies Offering £1,500 to NHS Interpreter to ‘Coach’ Donor

Ekweremadu said his brother told him the woman had offered to help in “coaching the boy” in what to say at the second appointment and had asked for £1,500 for her assistance.

The senator said, “I never paid her or gave anyone else permission to pay her.”

After the street trader was rejected as a donor he left Obeta’s home, where he had been staying.

Last week, when he gave evidence, Obeta said he was told by the young man’s brother he had decided to stay in Britain because he had time left on his visa.

Ekweremadu said he was angry when he heard about this because he thought it would cause him problems.

He said it might “dent” his reputation in Nigeria and, if the street trader overstayed his medical visa, it would make it almost impossible for them to gain another visa for a second donor.

Ekweremadu said the family then began pursuing the possibility of a transplant in Turkey after learning that it was cheaper and the authorities did not ask about family relationships between donor and recipient.

Hicks asked him about the second donor they had lined up for the transplant in Turkey.

“Was [he] a willing donor?” asked the barrister.

“He was a willing donor … and he met me at the hospital [in Abuja] and when I spoke to him he willingly agreed to donate a kidney to my daughter,” Ekweremadu replied.

The trial has heard that Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu were arrested after they flew into London from Turkey on June 20, 2022.

Ekweremadu told the jury on Tuesday he had just dropped out of the race to be governor of Enugu state in Nigeria and had decided to visit his daughter.

On Monday, Hicks asked Ike Ekweremadu why the young man from Lagos would want to donate his kidney without payment and asked if he was aware of the term “stranger altruism.”

Ekweremadu replied, “It was lawful for people to donate kidneys but it must be out of their own compassion—it must be altruistic.”

“Because of the nature of our society and the compassion level, we knew it was possible. Nigeria is a very compassionate society,” he added.

The trial adjourned until Wednesday, when Ekweremadu will be cross examined.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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