Reactions have continued to trail Friday’s sentencing to jail in the United Kingdom of the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife and a medical doctor.
The court sentenced Ekweremadu to nine years and eight months, while his wife Beatrice and Obinna Obeta got four years and 10 years, respectively.
The sentence became the first of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act, following their conviction for organ trafficking in March, which lasted for six weeks.
Prior to the sentence, Ekweremadu, Beatrice, and Obeta were convicted of conspiracy to arrange the travel of a young Nigerian man identified as David Nwamini to Britain in order to exploit him for his kidney.
The kidney organ was intended for Ekweremadu’s sick daughter, Sonia.
Justice Jeremiah Johnson slammed the sentences just before 2:00pm in Courtroom One after a tense and long sentencing hearing. Their kidney donor broker, Obinna Obeta, got 10 years. All three had already been found guilty at the same court on March 23, after a seven-week jury trial.
However, both the Senator and his wife got some discounts and will not serve the entire duration of their terms due to mitigating circumstances that Johnson factored into his judgment.
While the senator will serve two thirds of his term, his wife’s term was reduced to four years and six months after factoring in the discounts.
“It’s going to be two thirds” Gary Owen, one of the Senator’s barristers told The Guardian outside the Court after the judgment when asked to clarify the implication of the discount.
On her part, the wife would serve half of her term. So, while the Senator will do about six years, he won’t stay locked up for that much as he’s already been in custody since June 21, 2023, when he was arrested with the wife at Heathrow Airport. She too will spend less than three years, as the time already spent in custody will be deducted.
After the sentencing, the senator’s daughter, Sonia, and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe were in tears. But the Ekweremadu’s sons, Prince and Lylod, kept their emotions intact.
Friends and other family members who had stayed outside the court for over three hours looked saddened and many shook their heads at the sentences. While Crown Prosecutor, Hugh Davies, KC, looked happy as he made his way out of the Old Bailey.
Meanwhile, back home many Nigerians have continued to express their feelings on mainstream and social media platforms following the sentencing of the Ekweremadus.
While some commended the criminal justice system in the UK for quick and fast dispensation of the case, others said the ruling was unfair to the couple.
Similarly, some Nigerians said, if it was in Nigeria the boy would be the one going to jail, because law are made to be enforced on the less-privileged in society, rather than for everyone.
Reno Omokri, a former media aide to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, reacting to the jail sentence through his Twitter handle on Friday, said though he was not in support of what the Ekweremadus did, he prayed that God should be with them.
According to him, “I do not support what Ike Ekweremadu and his wife did. But I empathise with them. May God never permit me to be in the same position. I do not know what I would do in such circumstances. May the Almighty provide relief to the Ekweremadus. In Yeshua’s name.”
In another tweet, Omokri appealed to the incoming administration not to abandon the Ekweremadus.
“They are not bad people. They were just fated with an unfortunate situation, to which nobody can really say how they would have responded.”
Kaduna State senator and activist, Shehu Sani, on his Twitter page on Friday, prayed for God to protect the Ekweremadus throughout this difficult period.
“Senator Ekweremadu, Beatrice and Obinna; the UK Court is done and The Lord shall see you through,” he said.
Another Nigerian Ribetshak Peter, who wrote on Twitter, said the sentencing should be a lesson to big men in Nigeria, stressing that money and wealth are not everything in life.
“So sad, we should all seek the face of the Lord and do the right thing-both the leaders and the led. The Lord is our strength,” he said.
Also, Choice Moses said, “If it were to be in Nigeria, the boy who they want to exploit would have been the one in jail. That’s how wicked and perverse our justice system is in Nigeria.”
Abdul Muktar wrote: “In Nigeria, the boy would be the one going to jail. Sad ending, but justice prevailed. Hope their daughter does get a kidney donor and she gets well.”
Emma Okoye, noted that the sentencing was an indication that the evil doers would alway be caught at some point, stressing that Nigerian politicians should learn from his travils.
According to him, “Finally, Ekweremadu was convicted. His fellow politicians, who hold the country down, can never go free. One thing will give them out. They should learn from Ekweremadu ordeal, one day you would pay for all you are doing”,
Chinwe Edozie stated that the UK used the Ekweremadus to test the law that first the first time, even when no one has been convicted from it.
“Uk used them to test the law for the first time. No one has been convicted for such crimes before in the UK, it shows no [matter] highly placed a black man is, the white man’s law must be obeyed. End of the Ekweremadu’s,” he said.
Meanwhile, a constitutional Lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, has written king Charles III, pleading for a Prerogative of Mercy for the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and wife, Beatrice over their conviction.
Ajulo made the plea in a letter to King Charles III and made available to newsmen in Abuja on Saturday.
“Your Majesty, though invigorated by your coronation I witnessed the same with mixed emotions.
“Ekweremadu and his wife have been convicted and sentenced accordingly and I plead that you graciously and mercifully invoke the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in favour of the couple,” he said.
He described the chronicle of Ekweremadu and his wife was a sad one that left a bitter taste in the mouth.
He said their action was a desperate move by parents in their quest to save the life of their daughter, Sonia.”
Ajulo said the lady in question was in dire need of a kidney transplant but unfortunately, her parents, their doctor went about the mission in the most unsavoury of ways.
He explained that Ekweremadu may have chosen to not publicly advertise for a kidney donor to avoid swindlers who could take undue advantage of his daughter’s ailment.
Furthermore, Sonia Ekweremadu, daughter of Ike Ekweremadu has said her parent sought a kidney donor outside for her because of the family health history.
Sonia spoke in a interview with BBC following the sentencing of her parent.
Asked if she was aware that the donor at the centre of the case was portrayed as her cousin, she replied: “Yea, I mean, I can’t answer that.”
She added that she did not feel anything toward him and that she wish him all the best.
Sonia said that she felt guilty for the plight that has befallen her family, adding that her lesson from the whole incident is that life is dynamic.
According to her, “To us, that kind of excluded the family, especially on my dad’s side because they have quite a history of kidney conditions.
“Life is just so dynamic. One day you are in your house chilling, the next day, your whole life is turned upside down,” she said.
“I don’t think it would ever be the same. I feel guilty because I feel that all this has happened because of me.”
She added that though some persons came forward as donors after the case went public, she is still on dialysis, but was hopefully, that the transplant would be done soon.