• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ekweremadu, a chief lawmaker, on the wrong side of the law?

For Ekweremadu, Emefiele, Wike & Co: The tomorrow is now!

 

 

When on Thursday Ike Ekweremadu was found guilty in far away London, United Kingdom, many Nigerians were surprised that a man that rose to the pinnacle of lawmaking in Nigeria could cheaply walk himself into such trouble.

Some however, said that he may have been so desperate to save his ailing daughter that he forgot he was stepping on live wire.

One thousand years after the abolition of slave trading by the Colonial Masters, Ekweremadu, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has fallen victim of the British new laws on trafficking.

Observers say that the conviction of the former deputy Senate President, and his wife, Beatrice, over organ harvesting by a court in the United Kingdom shows that the general interest of the public should alway override those of privileged individuals.

Despite holding a diplomatic passport, Ekweremadu, alongside his wife and a medical doctor, Obinna Obeta, were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to exploiting him, after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.

They were alleged to have conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos Street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found on Thursday.

They became the first set of individuals to be convicted in the UK’s Slavery Abolition Act which was passed by Parliament in 1833.

Some Nigerians who reacted to the judgment in separate interviews with BusinessDay on Thursday, said although the Ekweremadus may have acted out of desperation to save their child, the action was illegal and could not go unpunished, especially in a country where anyone was not above the law.

They noted that as a lawmaker, Ekweremadu should have known how to respect the jurisdiction of other countries, stressing that
not all societies can be lawless like Nigeria.

Yomi Farounbi, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch, said their conviction was a message that no one was above the law and that public interest overrides individual’s interest, no matter how highly placed.

He said Nigerians should learn lesson from Ekweremadus’ conviction and respect the law no matter their position in the society or wealth status.

“I sympathise with him deeply, but he is a lawmaker, he should have respect for jurisdiction of other countries; there’s nothing wrong with looking for organ donor, but with his status in the society he should have known how to go about it.

“The lesson is that nobody is above the law. If it was in Nigeria he would not sleep in prison for one night or even taken to court,” Farounbi said.

Ladipo Jhonson, spokesman for the Rabiu Kwankwaso presidential campaign team, expressed sadness in the manner the organ transplant was handled by the Ekweremadus, noting that he hoped that they get a fair conviction terms.

“They were looking at saving the health of their child, but it was not done in the right way, it serves as lesson to all Nigerians, especially highly placed individuals that you can’t always break the law and go free,”Johnson said.

Similarly, Tope Musowo, public policy analyst said it was unfortunate that the case ended that way for the Ekweremadu family, stressing that those in privileged position should know that their life do not worth more than that of the ordinary.

According to him, “I really feel for them because they did what they did out of genuine love for their daughter.

“However, the lesson to be learnt from this especially for all Nigerian politicians is that, because you are in a privileged position does not mean your life and that of your family members worth more than that of the ordinary man on the street. The other person’s life is as important as that of your child.

“Secondly, not all societies can be lawless like Nigeria. The law in advanced country does not respect any person. The law abroad does not respect ‘bigmanism’, unlike here where some people are above the law.”

Musowo noted that it was obvious that if such incidence had happened in Nigeria it would not be an issue because of Ekweremadu’s status.

“You and I know that if the incident had happened here in Nigeria, that innocent boy whose organ was to be harvested would have been the one to go to jail.

“This is the very reason why an average Nigerian politician cannot live abroad even though they have all their investments there, because nobody will worship them there and when they run foul of the law, they would pay darely for it,” Musowo added.

Read also: Pricey kidney care leaves prevention as way out for Nigeria’s poor

Other Nigerians who spoke on condition of anonymity were in agreement that had the health sector in the country been given the desired attention, many cases would have been handled in-country.

“We have a situation where politicians pocket the contract monies to build specialist hospitals; or equip the ones already built. They took the monies abroad to buy mansions for themselves and their families. It is said that when you throw a stone inside a market that is in session, it may even hit your relation.

“Ekweremadu has been one of the few privileged Nigerians. He has been in government for the better part of his life. It is not on record how well he impacted the lives of his constituents, or Nigerians in general. From the lofty positions he has held, he could have easily built a modest specialist hospital in the country with the money they pack in government. It is unfortunate that it is the innocent daughter that is suffering the pain now,” a concerned citizen said.

The UK modern slavery law is an Act to make provision about slavery, servitude and forced compulsory labour and about human trafficking, including provision for the protection of victims; to make provision for an Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, and for connected purposes.

The Modern Alavery Act is a globally leading piece of legislation. It sets out a range of measures on how modern slavery and human trafficking should be dealt with in the UK.