A street trader from Nigeria told a trial of his shock when a doctor at a London hospital informed him he was there to donate one of his kidneys to someone, who turned out to be the daughter of a wealthy politician. Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a senator in Nigeria and a former deputy president of the country’s senate, and his wife Beatrice, 56, are accused of bringing the mobile phone accessories hawker to the UK with a medical visa to save the life of their daughter Sonia. Obinna Obeta, a doctor, and the Ekweremadus are on trial at the Old Bailey in London and deny conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to their exploitation.
The 21-year-old donor, whose name cannot be revealed, arrived in the UK in February 2022 and underwent tests at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London, but the operation did not go ahead. He was asked in court about his first visit to the hospital and said he was told it was for a kidney transplant, which he had never heard of before. He said the doctor told him not to worry, as the operation would not be going ahead.
The witness said he grew up in a village in eastern Nigeria without electricity or running water, and left school at 15 to work in his uncle’s mobile phone accessories shop. He was contacted in late 2021 by Obeta, who offered to bring him to London and find him work. The witness said he thought Obeta was sent from God, and he was taken to Abuja to undergo medical tests and granted a passport and visa.
The witness said he was not allowed to hold the passport, which remained in the possession of the man he flew to London with. He stayed at Obeta’s house and was introduced to two women, one of whom was Sonia Ekweremadu. He was instructed to lie to a doctor and say Sonia was his cousin.
When asked why he told the police initially he was 15, the witness said it was an act of frustration. The jury has been told the transplant did not go ahead due to two nephrologists deciding the donor was not suitable, and Sonia’s parents began searching for another donor and exploring the possibility of doing the transplant in Turkey. The witness said he left Obeta’s home and walked for three days, sleeping outside, before he walked into a police station in Staines, west of London, on May 5, 2022. The trial continues.