Ekweremadu acknowledges cheers as trial officially begins in United Kingdom
Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, acknowledged cheers from supporters moments before the judge rose for lunch at Court 5 at Old Bailey in his ongoing trial for alleged organ harvesting in the United Kingdom.
Sporting a wine jumper on a blue shirt and what seemed to be a black jean, he sat in the dock with his wife and co-defendant, Beatrice. But a security official sat between the couple, as they listened to the Crown prosecutor conclude the opening remarks, which he started on Monday when the trial officially kicked off.
Both appeared to follow keenly and were flipping through the pages of the bundle of evidence the prosecution was referencing to the jurors. Sonia, their daughter and co-defendant, was absent. The fourth defendant, Dr Obinna Obeta, was also not in court.
“Dr. Obinna is not in court, as he’s undergoing medical treatment. Sonia Ekweremadu is undergoing treatment too and will be observing by video link, Mr. Justice Johnson informed the court soon after the prosecution opened its case.
Citing various backward and forward WhatsApp messages between the Ekweremadus, Obeta and David Nwamini and including a family member Sonia repeatedly referred to as ‘uncle,’ Hugh Davies, King’s Counsel (KC), the equivalent of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court that all four defendants are on trial on the basis of “conspiracy to arrange and facilitate travel with the aim of exploitation “of Nwamini.”
He told the jury: “People can join and exit conspiracy at any time and that between August 1, 2021 and May 5, 2022, the senator, his wife, their daughter and Obeta arranged and facilitated the travel of David Nwamini to the United Kingdom and also within the UK.”
Davies continued: “Members of the jury, do not be distracted by attempts to portray Dr. Obeta as if he’s the only guilty party.”
He argued that though the “the link to slavery is powerful but it includes travel,” which he severally referenced.
Davies noted also that Modern Slavery Act involves “trafficking of people even with their agreement.” He mentioned: “The risk of exploitation as the underpinning determinant of modern slavery.”
Concluding, the senior lawyer said: “The prosecution contend that Obinna Obeta and the Ekweremadus agreed to facilitate the travel of David Nwamini to London and within London with a view of reward.”
He stated that it is a known fact that “there is a shortage of altruistic donors. It is a reality and it means those in need of kidney donation will wait for a long time.”
He fingered Obeta as wanting to use the model used in his own successful kidney transplant to arrange that of Sonia. This included asking Miss Ekweremadu to obtain a sworn affidavit to claim she’s a blood related cousin of Nwamini.
Among the evidence the prosecution is relying on is the affidavit Nwamini was said to have sworn to at an Enugu court to claim he’s a cousin of one Friday, who was his own donor. That, according to the prosecution, was the model used in facilitating his travel. But things fell apart when the tests conducted at the Royal Free Hospital showed he wasn’t a match for Sonia.
He was told to return to Nigeria, but subsequently went to the police to report that he was trafficked to the UK. This then led to the arrests of the Ekweremadus and Obeta on June 21 last year.
When the judge said he’ll give each of the “defence barristers a minute” or two to respond with their own opening statements today, the senator’s counsel addressed the court, saying: May I disappoint you a little “in that “l will need about five minutes.” He told Johnson, “you know barristers don’t mind the sound of their voice.”