Grappling with emerging cases of organs trafficking in Africa
Organ trafficking across Africa is a crime against humanity and violation of fundamental human rights of many Africans. The western perpetrators of organ trafficking have trapped un-informed leaders of African countries, including Nigeria, into signing certain treaties and protocols that would expose their citizens to the heinous activities of these cartels, while ignorantly protecting the traffickers. Among such legislations and treaties that are purportedly meant to protect women are the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Maputo Protocol and alleged foreign-sponsored VAPP Law. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA writes to alert African leaders to this ‘Greek gift’.
Recently, there has been a rise in the cases of organ trafficking across Africa and the world. Organ trafficking refers to a range of criminal activities, including illegal organ harvesting from a living or dead individual and unlawful sale and transplantation of human organs.
The National Organ and Transplant Act of 1984 defines human organ as the human kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, bone marrow, cornea, eye, bone and skin or any subpart thereof and any other human organ or any subpart thereof, including that derived from a fetus.
Organ harvesting or procurement refers to the surgical procedure that removes an organ from an individual, typically for transplantation, which may be consensual or coerced.
According to Prolifers, Nigerian constitutional domestication of the Maputo Protocol on gender equality was drawn from the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right of Women in Africa. It is popularly known as Maputo Protocol.
Though the protocol is about helping to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa, in the 23 pages, it mentions FGM in only one sentence, but large section of the protocol was devoted to the central desires of its drafters.
Trafficking in Persons for the Removal of Organs (TPRO) occurs across the globe and may be stepped up with the increase in transplant practices and poor regulations. Following this, agitated medical experts and other stakeholders in Nigeria are seeking ways to address this issue which many of them described as a serious threat to the lives of Nigerians, especially the women who sell their ovarian eggs ignorantly due to hunger and ambiguity of certain legislations.
Agitation in Nigeria became permeating and noticeable following the latest alarm raised on the increasing cases of organ trafficking in Dubai where majority of Nigerians visit for businesses and medical tourism, among others. It is becoming scary that someone’s organ could be harvested without his or her consent, as a consequence of certain international protocols and treaties that Nigeria entered into without investigation.
The alert allegedly given by the United Nations (UN) but has been disowned, seemed to have sent cold quivers into the anal spines of many Nigerians who now seek reversal of the treaties, especially Maputo Protocol and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, in certain states.
The mind-burgling alert reads: “The black market for parts of the human body is booming in the Middle East. A kidney now costs $262, 000; the heart costs $119, 000 and liver costs $157, 000.
“Beware of fake foreign agencies promising to make you work abroad; they process your papers, pay your plane ticket and just take you abroad, pretending they want to find you a job, but instead, they kill their victims, recover all the precious parts of their bodies.
“Many people have been offered jobs in the Middle East and so far their families have been unable to locate them. Share to save lives.”
Though Fact Check claims that the alert didn’t originate from UN as people were made to believe, the content of the caveat and its reality remained incontrovertible as other global bodies have further warned against falling prey to organ traffickers.
According to the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, TPRO include the removal of organs as an end purpose of trafficking.
The body said forced removal of organs in the context of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling in North-Eastern Africa gained renewed international attention in July 2016.
“The investigation revealed that Eritrean migrants, who had been kidnapped along the route to North Africa and who were unable to pay ransoms, were killed to remove their organs. The organs were then sold for around US$15, 000,” UN said.
The Guardian learnt that, as with many clandestine activities, estimating the financial scale of international organ trafficking is complicated due to paucity of information on the subject. But a global nongovernmental organisation, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), estimated the annual value of organ trafficking globally to range from $840 million to $1.7 billion. It stated that transplants might cost a purchaser tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the organ involved and the associated medical care and travel.
GFI further estimated that approximately 12,000 illegal transplants occur each year, around 8,000 of which are for kidneys, followed by liver, heart, lung, and pancreas.
It further stated that prices paid to individuals for their organs vary significantly. For kidneys, payments reportedly range from hundreds of dollars for individuals from less developed countries while it is between $20, 000 to $30, 000 for those from developed countries. Some individuals may not receive any payment for an organ or may receive less than originally agreed.
According to INTERPOL, the clandestine nature of the crime, lack of awareness of Trafficking in Human Beings for the purpose of Organ Removal (THBOR) by law enforcement agencies and the deficiency of information sharing channels between the medical sector and police authorities made THBOR to be among the least reported forms of trafficking worldwide.
While some experts include forms of enslavement or coercion to obtain an organ donation in the definition, the United States government sources typically describe such crimes as trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal.
Through proposed legislation, funding decisions, and oversight hearings, the US Congress has identified potential policy tools to address organ trafficking and has endeavoured to identify and change the behaviour of actors that may play a role in facilitating the illegal trade.
The Chairman, Global Prolife Alliance (GPA) and BOT Member, Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (ACMPN), Prof. Philip Njemanze said organ trafficking could be considered part of a broader market that includes tissues, cells, or other human body parts or
According to him, the neo-colonialists have long sort to use international protocols and treaties as legal instruments to override the constitutional protection of the human rights in African countries in the new brand of ‘Biological Colonisation.’
The goal, according to him, is to use deception under the banner of protection of women and child rights to subvert the basic constitutional rights of the African people. He listed one of such instruments as CEDAW.
According to Njemanze, the provisions of the treaty are so bad that the United States Congress rejected it and declared it inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States. To him, the CEDAW provisions were augmented with instruments for ‘biological slavery.’
“The developed countries brandishing ‘debt forgiveness’ and bribes coerced African leaders to sign the Maputo Protocol in most cases without parliamentary debate in their various countries. Like CEDAW, Maputo Protocol renders national parliaments subject to regulation, reprimand by citizens of foreign powers even when they are members of the AU enforcement committee,” he said.
The Guardian learnt that the Maputo Protocol was adopted in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique and it entered into force in 2005 after securing 15 ratifications. To enlist African countries to sign and ratify the protocol, the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at the time mounted a public relations campaign aimed at winning support for debt relief for these African countries.
Njemanze said: “At the January 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Blair called for a ‘quantum leap’ in aid and trade to spur African development. Former US President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Bono added their voices at Davos in support of the so-called new efforts to end poverty in Africa.
“The Bush’s administration was skeptical and did not support the initiative. Ms. Condoleezza Rice, the then US Secretary of State, in a private email to Gordon Brown of UK, stated that the secret objectives might not be beneficial to Africans.
“As of July 2020, out of the 55 member countries in the African Union, 49 have signed the protocol and 42 have ratified and deposited the protocol. The AU states that have neither signed nor ratified the Maputo Protocol yet are Botswana, Egypt and Morocco.”
He listed the states that have signed but have not ratified the protocol as Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Madagascar, Niger, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
Njemanze said the G7 ratified an agreement on debt forgiveness for 18 of the world’s poorest countries. “The donors are to compensate the World Bank and the African Development Bank for the lost repayments.”
Most African countries that have not signed or ratified did not receive the so-called debit relief from the Paris Club for the $5.5 billion that was rescheduled. But those that signed and ratified (Benin, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Congo, D.R.C, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone and Nigeria) were the first to receive the aid.
Maputo Protocol Legalises Poaching On Ovarian Eggs
“The Maputo Protocol, in other words, is the African Debt–Relief Treaty that ushered in the beginning of ‘Biological and Cultural Colonialism.”He alleged that Maputo Protocol legalises poaching of ovarian eggs from poor Nigerian women for the Western tissue and organ cloning industry worth $30 trillion, leading to the death of 10 million Nigerian women.
According to reports, instead of protecting the Nigerian and African women, the Maputo Protocol would protect the international traffickers from Europe and America who come for ovarian egg-poaching and aborted tissues.
A lawyer and human rights activist, Nzewi Borniface, said: “The Protocol permits African women to control their fertility…and chose any method of contraception, which includes donating their ovarian eggs at proxy to Western fertility clinics.
“Western tissue cloning industry uses the African ovarian eggs for experiments (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer) in tissue cloning and organ transplantation.
“The tissue cloning industry based on African ovarian eggs has been estimated to be worth $30 trillion yearly for Western biotechnology firms owned by the so-called billionaire philanthropists.”
The Guardian learnt that over 10 million African women died from complications of Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), infections, kidney failure, liver failure, infertility, cancers and other illnesses caused by the organ harvests. The consequences will lead to a drastic fall in fertility rate of Africans and depopulation of the continent.
According to Borniface, the signing and ratification of the Maputo Protocol was an oversight due to undue pressure on African leaders after the devastating era of military regimens, as the incoming civilian administrations sought international recognition.
“The pro-abortion international organisations took advantage of African leaders. After 20 years of democratic administrations across Africa, there is a growing sense of confidence, and our ability to run our own affairs.
“We are increasingly aware that all that glitters is not gold in the international community. In the past, the slave masters sold to us mirrors, and took our gold away. Now we must say to our detractors, the game is up! We must allow the present Maputo Protocol to expire with no action on renewal.
“We must now install safety mechanisms to prevent such blunders in international affairs. We must discuss these treaties openly and broadly, to allow broad-based inputs in the formulation of these laws. The AU secretariat must be reconfigured to respond to threats from foreign interests.
“There should be a rapid move to create the AU Parliament as a forum for the best of minds in Africa to help fashion Africa’s future. The future of Africa cannot be designed and packaged in Europe, US, or the UN.
“Africa must determine her own future and destiny. We believe that when the people of Western Europe and the Americas know the facts of this great conspiracy against Africa, these atrocities would be condemned unanimously, and the principal actors put on trial.
“The ordinary people of Western European countries and the USA are good people, and would like to see Africa prosper. Unfortunately, the same Western press, owned by just a couple of billionaires, manipulates the people. We are all victims of capitalistic greed by special interest groups. We will continue to seek solidarity with the good people of the West and together we shall overcome the evil neoliberal ideology,” he said.
Given the role of medical professionals in the international organ trafficking, some observers said that professional organisations could play certain roles in countering the illegal trade. To them, rejecting clinicians that are involved in organ transplant or in research in countries known to facilitate organ trafficking could send a powerful signal that such activity is unacceptable.
A human rights lawyer, during a hearing organised by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016, testified that the Transplantation Society, a Canada-based NGO focused on transplant-related research and education, rejected 35 papers from China for its 2014 international conference. The NGO also declined an invitation to attend a conference in China, in protest of organ harvesting practices there.
A consultant surgeon at Epe General Hospital, Dr. Cynthia Obiora, contended that participation in research and international conferences facilitates collaboration and may provide opportunities to educate medical practitioners about organ trafficking risks. For example, in 2017, Vatican officials reportedly defended inviting the head of China’s National Organ Transplant Committee to participate in a conference on organ trafficking, saying they hoped that the event would encourage change if organ trafficking were still occurring.
In, at least one case, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned an individual for organ trafficking activities. According to a December 2017 press release, OFAC sanctioned Mukhtar Hamid Shah, “a Pakistani surgeon specialising in kidney transplant whom Pakistani police believe to be involved in kidnapping, wrongful confinement, and removal of and trafficking in human organs.”
It was learnt that OFAC punished Shah through the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme, which targets human rights abusers and corrupt actors.
Law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may in some cases pursue charges against individuals for crimes relating to international organ trafficking. On July 11, 2012, Isaac Rosenbaum, an Israeli citizen, was convicted on three counts of acquiring, receiving, and otherwise transferring human organs for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation, and on one count of conspiracy.
According to DOJ press releases, Rosenbaum typically facilitated sales of organs from Israeli nationals who would travel to the United States for transplantation of their organs to American recipients.
Rosenbaum reportedly admitted to fabricating cover stories to mislead U.S medical practitioners about the agreements, making them believe the organs had been genuinely donated. The Rosenbaum case was the first federal conviction for illegal kidney transplants under the National Organ Transplant Act.
If Nigeria is serious about ending this trafficking within the country, the law enforcement agencies should start with a medical facility in Lagos, owned by an Indian, where abortions are allegedly carried out on regular basis.
However, in April 16, 2021, at Rumukparali, Ozuoba, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the alleged leader of a syndicate selling and buying human organs for trafficking to foreigners.
The Commission said the suspect, John Emeka, also known as ‘Dr. Phil Mark, ‘Dr. Donald Phillip, and ‘Dr. Wesley David, was arrested based on established intelligence on his suspicious fraudulent Internet dealings.
According to the statement signed by the agency, preliminary investigations showed that he was leading a syndicate of fraudsters falsely presenting themselves as medical doctors, with a human organ bank, particularly kidneys for sale and purchase.
“Victims of the syndicate include people with renal disease and even healthy people desirous of selling their organs in Nigeria; India; Pakistan; Indonesia and United Arab Emirate,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Human rights and National Security and Intelligence to investigate reports of organ trafficking in Nigeria.
The committee was mandated to investigate the entire value chain of the trade in a bid to end it. This decision was sequel to a motion moved by Rimamnde Shawulu and Olajide Olatubosun during plenary.
Moving the motion on behalf of the duo, Shawulu made reference to the report of seized cargo from Nigeria with 7, 200 male sex organs by the Chinese authorities.
Although the report was debunked to be fake news by different sources, Shawulu claimed that armed groups were involved in organ trade to finance their activities.
Shawulu also linked the spate of missing persons to the organ trade. He added that medical surgeons with the aid of rogue public officials could only do harvest of organs.
“Perpetrators of the illicit trade generate between 600 million to 1.2 billion dollars profit annually and have been encouraged by poor security situations to use the third world as the major suppliers,” he said.
The Guardian gathered that while some students of certain institutions in Akoka, Lagos undergo abortion there, others clandestinely traffic in their ovarian eggs for financial consideration.