The House of Representatives has appealed and urged the Central Criminal Court and the government of the United Kingdom to temper justice with mercy in sentencing the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, Mrs Beatrice Ekweremadu, and Dr Obinna Obeta who have been found guilty of organ harvesting.
The appeal came on the heels of a motion titled “Motion on the Need for Clemency for Senator Ike Ekweremadu” moved at Tuesday’s plenary by the deputy minority leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu under a matter of urgent public importance.
His sentencing will be announced on May 5.
Presenting the motion, Okechukwu said that Ekweremadu acted based on his limited knowledge of the UK laws, stressing that he must have learnt their bitter lessons.
He said: “Senator Ike Ekweremadu, a Nigerian Citizen, serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, and former Deputy Speaker and Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and his wife, Mrs. Beatrice Ekweremadu, were tried and convicted by the Central Criminal Court, London, the United Kingdom (UK) for offences relating to the breach of the novel Modern Slavery Act 2015.
“The sentencing of the couple is scheduled for May 5, 2023.
“Senator Ike Ekweremadu acted within his limited knowledge of the UK laws and did write to the UK High Commission to support the medical visa application for the potential donor and did declare the purpose of the trip.
“Senator Ekweremadu and Mrs. Beatrice acted under the instincts of parents to save an ailing daughter, and not for commercial purposes.
“It is a common practice in international relations for nations, including the UK, to seek relief for their citizens involved in situations such as that of the Ekweremadus.
“The House is also aware of the longstanding history and cordial ties between Nigeria and the UK.
“Elder statesmen such as former Military Head of State and President, Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, have made a passionate plea for clemency, testifying also to Senator Ekweremadu’s character as a patriot, god-fearing, philanthropic and progressive citizen, who has served Nigeria and West Africa as former three-term Deputy President of the Senate as well as Deputy Speaker and Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
“Several Nigerian national dailies have also joined the call for clemency for the Ekweremadus through their editorials.
“The predicament of Ekweremadu’s ailing daughter, who needs financial support and parental love of her parents to scale through her dire health challenge.
“The Ekweremadu and wife must have learnt great lessons of their life”.
Adopting the motion, the House urged the federal government of Nigeria to take all diplomatic steps and other necessary interventions regarding the travails of the Ekwermadu family.
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo writes UK Court, seeks clemency for Ekweremadu, wife
Obasanjo in the letter dated April 3, and addressed to The Chief Clerk, the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London, titled “Re: Ike Ekweremadu,” said though Ekweremadu’s action was condemnable and unacceptable, he had contributed his quota to the socio-political development of Nigeria, adding that his punishment should consider his past records of good deeds and the plight of his ailing daughter.
The letter read: “It is with great pleasure that I write in respect of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who I have known for over two decades.
“Within this period, I have followed and watched, with keen interest, Ike Ekweremadu’s inspiring career which traversed private legal practice and public administration. I recall, with fond memories, the beginnings of our political and social relationship at the outset of our collective quest for democratic rebirth for our fatherland.
“During my administration as a democratically-elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, Ike Ekweremadu and I had close relationship and interactions as staunch members of our political party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and more so as he got elected into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2003, of which he has since remained a member till date.
“Within this period of his service in the Nigerian Parliament, he has served as Deputy Senate President of the Senate and has headed so many committees in various capacities and brought to bear his broad-based experience in legal practice and public administration.
“Sometime in 2009, he was appointed as the First Deputy of the Economic Community of West African States, and led ad hoc Committee to work for the return of ECOWAS B constitutional order in the Niger Republic.
“I clearly remember that in the heady days of the keen contest for the presidential ticket of our Party in early 1999, he joined other well-meaning Nigerians from the South-Eastern part of Nigeria to set aside extraneous considerations and ensured that South East unanimously adopted me for the Presidency. ”This was without regard to the fact that my closest competitor hailed from their part of the country. I truly cherish his God-fearing, dispassionate, moderate and pan-Nigerian approach to national issues and developments, in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious geo-polity.
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“He dedicates himself to the service of God and humanity and he continues to play visible roles in national development. 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.
“lke 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 realize 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 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.
“I do hope Mr. and Mrs Ekweremadu have learnt from this distressing experience of theirs to guide their future actions or inactions so they will continue to be outstanding members of their community and will continue to contribute fully to the good of society”.
ECOWAS parliament seeks pardon for Ekweremadu
Also yesterday, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, parliament pleaded with a UK court to show mercy to Ike Ekweremadu and his wife.
In a letter addressed to the chief clerk of the central criminal court, Old Bailey, London, the speaker of the parliament, Sidie Tunis, said Ekweremadu made immeasurable contributions to the ECOWAS parliament while he was the speaker of the third legislature.
Describing Ekweremadu as “a major asset to the ECOWAS region”, the speaker said: “His long absence owing to his circumstance since June 2022 has denied us his invaluable service.
“It remains dreadful if he faces a long prison sentence in the present circumstance,” he said.
Tunis added that Sonia, the ailing daughter of the senator, cannot survive the absence of her parents in her present health condition.
“I wish to state that it is a common feeling among parents, especially in Africa, not to bury or survive his or her child.
“As a father, therefore, I can easily relate to the pains, dilemma, and crossroads of the senator and his wife over the health condition of their ailing daughter, who must still undergo a kidney transplant to stand a chance of surviving to fulfil her destiny.
“Who else could foot the bills better and also provide that morale support for the daughter? It still remains Senator and Mrs Ekweremadu. It is certain that Sonia cannot survive the absence of her parents in her present health condition.
“At this juncture, I wish to add that I totally stand against the crime for which the senator and his spouse have been convicted. The community parliament also stands against it.
“We do not support organ harvesting in any way and by any method. Nevertheless, we believe that lessons have been learnt, not only by Ekweremadu but by everybody.
“In view of all these, therefore, I wish to fervently appeal to the honourable court, on behalf of the ECOWAS parliament, for leniency in meting out justice to the couple.
“We understand the position of the law, but only appeal that the honourable court puts on a human face in this circumstance and temper justice with mercy, especially considering his good behaviour and contributions to the good of the society, the less privileged, and democracy.
“Importantly, the typical Ekweremadu, being one, who is given to charity work and experienced in lawmaking in Nigeria and internationally, could also be very useful to the Nigerian and international community in public enlightenment and legal reforms campaigns on organ trafficking to curtail such incidents drawing from his personal experience.”