Many are keenly awaiting the outcome of the investigation of the alleged involvement of Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy Senate president, and his wife in a plot to harvest the kidney of a 15-year-old David Ukpo.
The news of the allegation has sparked debate on whether Ukpo is truly a minor, if he is a willing organ donor or was lured to the United Kingdom under the guise of help to greener pastures.
There are speculations that the young man who the Ekweremadus said is 21 might have agreed to give up his kidney at an agreed term of payment but is now trying to alter the plans having achieved his dream of relocation.
According to the United Kingdom’s Human Organ Transplants Act 1989, a commercial transaction in human organs for transplant is a criminal offence.
Also, the Act makes it illegal to transplant an organ removed from a living person unless the donor and recipient are genetically related.
The exemptions for donation between donors and recipients who are not genetically related include partners, husbands, and wives.
The Unrelated Live Transplant Regulatory Authority (ULTRA) established by the 1989 Act ensures that one of the conditions that must be met before transplants between persons who are not genetically related will be allowed is that no payment or inducement has been made or offered, and that no pressure has been put on the donor.
ULTRA will ascertain that an independent doctor that is not involved in the transplant is satisfied that no payment is involved and that the case is being referred by the doctor with clinical responsibility for the donor.
It must also be clear to the independent doctor that the donor is aware of the nature of the operation and the risks involved; that the donor’s consent was not obtained by coercion or the offer of an inducement and that the donor understands that he or she can withdraw at any time before the operation.
Jiti Ogunye, principal counsel at Jiti Ogunye Chambers, said the UK regulation was formed against the background of the organ harvesting epidemic that rocked the country at some point.
He said commercial donation was then prohibited to prevent indigent citizens from being prone to exploitation either by offering their organs to make money or having their organs under-priced at their own vulnerability. It is to ensure that anyone donating is doing it as a humanitarian service that is not to attract other considerations apart from the expression of gratitude, he added.
Ogunye said the Ekweremadu’s and Ukpo could be held accountable within the UK criminal jurisdiction, saying offenders within a country are made to face the law regardless of whether they are nationals or foreigners.
He said: “Your motif or your intention may not matter as much as your conduct in this instance. So Ekweremadu could say he believes that the boy is 21 and that he was not trafficked. It is going to be a matter of investigation, evidence, trial and prosecution and it is going to be a matter of adjudication.
“At any of those levels, credible testimonies and credible evidence will be important. It is not just what the Ekweremadus are saying now that will be taken hook, line, and sinker. And it is not just what the boy, who appears to have become hostile to them, says alone that will be believable.”
According to Ogunye, if there is a confirmation that Ukpo was offered financial inducement, given a promise or a part payment, it will appear under the law there that the Ekweremadus may have a very tough case to handle.
“One thing that has been established is that the Ekweremadus and their daughter are not genetically related to that boy. He is not part of their family. They are no relatives,” he said.
He said the other issue of whether a permit has been given under the ULTRA law in the UK to attempt to fly a Nigerian there for the purpose of that transplant is going to be a hard nut for the Ekweremadus to crack.
Last week, the UK denied the Ekweremadus bail after an arrest at Heathrow Airport on the grounds that they moved a minor from Nigeria to the country for an organ transplant. Ukpo claims to be 15 and has been under the government’s shelter since the case began.
An analysis by Christina Bain, director of the initiative on human trafficking and modern slavery, Babson College, Wellesley, United States, shows that Global Financial Integrity estimates that 10 percent of all organ transplants, including lungs, heart and liver, are done via trafficked organs.
The most common organs traded illegally are kidneys, with the World Health Organization estimating that 10,000 kidneys are traded on the black market worldwide annually, or more than one every hour.
Meanwhile, the average wait times for organs in developed countries could be very late for anyone who is in a hurry and or has limited time to survive.
Read also: Ex-senator, Ike Ekweremadu, wife arrainged for organ trafficking
In the UK, the average waiting period can span up to two to three years or more. In Canada, it is estimated that the average wait time for a kidney is four years, with some waiting as long as seven years. In the US, the average wait time for a kidney is 3.6 years, according to the National Kidney Foundation.