The United Kingdom Court had acknowledged receipt of 51 statements from different Nigerian leaders pleading for leniency for former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, his Wife Beatrice, in their sentencing for organ trafficking charge, saying it amounted to substantial mitigation.
During a televised sentence hearing, the Judge, Justice Johnson, said he received statements from Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Attorney General and Chief law officer of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami among others.
Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife Beatrice, 56, wanted the organ for their 25-year-old daughter Sonia, the couple’s trial at the Old Bailey heard.
The pair and and Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, were convicted previously of conspiring to exploit the man for his kidney.
It is said to be the first such case under modern slavery laws.
Ekweremadu, who was described by the judge as the “driving force throughout”, was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison.
Dr Obeta was sentenced to 10 years after the judge found he had targeted the potential donor who was young, poor and vulnerable.
Beatrice Ekweremadu was jailed for four years and six months due to her more limited involvement.
In his judgement, Johnson said he recieved “51 pages of character statements for the purposes of sentencing and I read all of them.”
This, he said including “a moving statement” from Sonia and those who have benefitted from his generosity and good character.
“They include a statement from former President of Nigeria, the current of President of the Senate, the Bishop of Enugu, the Attorney General and chief law officer of Nigeria and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The evidence speaks to your role in helping to establish and maintain democracy in Nigeria and also as an international peacemaker.
“I take all of that into account. It amounts to substantial mitigation,” the judge said.
Obasanjo had asked the UK court to “temper justice with mercy” on Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice.
In a letter dated April 3, 2023, and addressed to the chief clerk of central criminal court, Old Bailey, Obasanjo said though Ekweremadu’s action is “unpleasant and condemnable and can’t be tolerated in any sane or civilised society”, the court should temper justice with mercy for the sake of their sick daughter.
“Through the Ikeoha Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded by him and his wife, in 1997, he and his wife have rendered a lot of charitable activities, enhancing poor people’s access to quality education and healthcare and building their capacity to participate in mainstream social, political and economic activities of their communities,” the letter reads.
“Ike Ekweremadu’s conferment with the coveted national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, is further testimony to his selfless service to our country, Nigeria.
“Mr Chief Clerk, I am very much aware of the current travails and conviction of Ike Ekweremadu and his wife in the United Kingdom resulting from their being charged with conspiring to arrange the travel of a 21-year-old from Nigeria to the UK in order to harvest organs for their daughter.
“I do realise the implications of their action and I dare say, it is unpleasant and condemnable and can’t be tolerated in any sane or civilized society.
“However, it is my fervent desire for the very warm relations between the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Nigeria; for his position as one of the distinguished Senators in the Nigerian Parliament, and also for the sake of their daughter in question whose current health condition is in danger and requires an urgent medical attention, you will use your good offices to intervene and appeal to the court and the government of the United Kingdom to be magnanimous enough to temper justice with mercy and let punishment that may have to come to take their good character and parental instinct and care into consideration.”
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