Former Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, might never have envisaged their making global headlines for an alleged crime in the United Kingdom. Like all such news in an internet age, it had all the qualities of sensationalism; rumours, half-truths, permutations, facts and fallacies. The news had come through the London Metropolitan Police that the couple had been arrested at London Heathrow for alleged illegal facilitation of travel of a minor, with an intention of organ harvesting.
The moment it was confirmed that the couple in question was a Nigerian politician, it seemed all hell was let loose. Analyses and counter-analyses by Nigerians both home and abroad went viral. The couple was accused of various crimes in the social media, including allegation of ritual killing and wanting to kill another child to save theirs. Matters got worse when the London court denied the couple bail and adjourned the case to July 7 for further hearing.
Steadily but surely, more information have surfaced since the arrest. It has been established that their daughter had been battling a kidney ailment and, like most parents, they were trying options to get a donor for a transplant. The allegation that the supposed organ donor that the couple took to London for tests to confirm his suitability as a donor was a homeless 15-year-old orphan has been countered by the published documents of his visa and passport applications.
We sympathise with the couple, the alleged expected donor and the daughter of the Ekweremadus who, in addition to her health ordeal, has had to deal with the sad news of her parents’ arrest. However, while we expect the law to take its course in determining areas of guilt and innocence of all parties, we expect that justice must be done and be seen to be done to everyone involved in this case, including the ailing daughter who has the right to live. We beg that her health must not be lost on the altar of judicial processes in Nigeria or the United Kingdom.
We must however state that incidents happening to a man of the political visibility of an Ekweremadu send mixed signals to the world. How is it that such a man that has been at the apex of the legislative body, and who started off from his state as a political office holder down to the Senate trusts the health facilities of a foreign country for the health of his daughter? Granted he has the right to seek such, but how has he helped to improve the health sector in Nigeria? How is it that he trusts the UK health sector better, even when we know there are hospitals in Nigeria that could easily have conducted the tests for the expected donor?
What has the Senate done to address the health sector disaster in Nigeria where tertiary health institutions that were earlier reputed for excellence have become mere consulting clinics? What is the status of teaching hospitals like University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, in the senator’s home state? What of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, and many other teaching hospitals? As a lawyer and an academic, what voice has he raised for these institutions?
However, while we await the justice system of both countries, we don’t want the legalese of the situation to blind our humanity. The couple was desperate to save their child and might have erred. The supposed donor might still have to be interrogated, given revelations about his declared and actual ages, and contradictions of his status as a homeless orphan, given allegations and documents being presented by the Nigerian Immigration Services that issued him a passport.
We wish to plead for caution with the society’s lynch mob in dabbling into such matters and drawing conclusions based on rumours and other human variables. But the National Assembly should not in an attempt to protect a member present the country as a lawless institution. If truly a delegation of senators was sent to London for this case, we consider that as trivialising the case in an internet and communication age. Communication with embassies and governments is very easy if the intention is to plead that justice be done. We expect that they understand that justice neither sees faces nor statuses.
What we all plead for is a fair trial but a compassionate reminder that a life is at stake and everything legally possible must be done to save and protect the innocent child.