Following up on Part 1 of Justice with a Pinch of Salt, a medical expert interrogates the logic of a London court judgement

“Any man’s [injustice] diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne.

Currently, outside of Iran, while several acts constitute Human, Organ Trafficking, and Transplant Tourism, the most common denominators and drivers in the arrest, persecution, and conviction of perpetrators here are both the exploitation and the profit factor. This is a crucial point, especially in the context of the Ekweremadu case, for with those cases of transplant tourism where the donor and recipient travel together for the procedure to a country with higher quality medical services, significantly degrading the exploitation factor, as clearly occurred in the index case, they are considered, in the ongoing debates, as having occurred within acceptable norms – with the presence or absence of the profit motive, for either party, being the residual puritan principle that may otherwise jeopardize this.

The Ekweremadu case is remarked in truth by a high fidelity to the ultra vires proprieties of the Red Market, ennobled by redeeming points that were deftly subdued by the prosecution in favor of the submissions of the would-be victim, whose blatant starting line lie about his age, ultimately debunked, nevertheless was of no consequence in the prosecutors’ wholesale acceptance of the veracity of his non-forensically weighted, subjective declarations.

The facts of the case, as borne out by both logic and evidence, are these. The Ekweremadus contracted a 21-year-old Nigerian citizen, Mr. David Ukpor, with the clear mandate of obtaining a donor kidney from him for their daughter Sonia and discussed this in toto with both Mr. Ukpor and his family. Senator Ekweremadu duly communicated this mission intention very openly to the British High Commission Abuja in a letter dated 28 December 2021, in applying for a medical visa for Mr. Ukpor. The Ekweremadus provided adequate and standard arrangements for the surgical procedure to take place ‘within the confines of the British medical system, at the prestigious, private, professional premises of the Royal Free Hospital, where nothing was ‘free’ about the whooping 80,000 British Pounds bill invoiced to the Ekweremadus for the procedure. Once again, a very open-handed arrangement.

The Ekweremadus appropriately anchored prospective ongoing post-transplant care for the donor on their projected arrangements for Mr. Ukpor’s residency in the UK after his surgery, a country where the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is famous for the quality and equality of the medical care delivery that it renders to all its residents. The sly implication that ‘proper’ kidney-donor situations provide for any more than this quality of post-op care was one of the many malevolent misdirections embedded in Justice Johnson’s sentencing speech. As a further quality assuring mechanism, the Ekweremadus had secured the assistance of a middle-man for these transactions, one who was not only a medical doctor but also had himself undergone kidney transplantation: a living medical and moral proof of the validity and viability of the mission to save Sonia’s life. But the law here is an ass and globally ‘standard’, black-market roundabout tactics were employed: i.e. saying that the donor and recipients are cousins, and ‘thanking’ their donor with the offer of assistance to remain in the UK, the destiny dream of every socio-developmentally beleaguered youth in Nigeria today. It must be bewildering to be depicted as monsters on the basis of these by a system befouled by far worse forms of the same sin.

In spite of the above board ‘routineness’ of the Ekweremadus in this business, they were slammed under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, a law enacted in 2015 in response to the country’s unenviable crimson tide of criminal cases of domestic and international organ trafficking. Majority of those cases involved such infernal crudities as the brutish drugging of victims in hotel rooms and harvesting of their organs in bathtubs (see Chiwetel Ejiofor’s fiction-reflecting-life 2003 movie: Dirty Pretty Things). This law, hand in hand with such statutory regulatory entities like the Human Tissue Act (HPA) and the Unrelated Living Transplant Regulatory Authority (ULTRA) strove to limit living organ donors to relatives, or where unrelated, to altruistic donors who do so, not for profit, but simply for gratitude: sans inducement, coercion or material reward. These mechanisms delimited the legality of organ donor cases to, inter alia, meeting strict requirements of informed consent i.e. the giving of full disclosure regarding the nature and scope of the proposed surgery and of the intra- and post-operative risks. They also required adherence to established guidelines for the official approval of the donor-recipient transaction, such as the need for green light from an Independent Assessor, (IA), under the HTA. Given this plethora of legal controls, it is therefore amazing that despite the fact the UK leads the pack of countries in which rich patrons illegally source for organs, and often ones brutally obtained from faceless international sources at that, the Ekweremadus were the first persons persecuted under a law that was enacted – all of 7 years ago!

In delivering his judgment, which was widely shared on social media, Justice Johnson liberally used terms like “slavery”, “preying on poverty”, “manipulate”, “lying” and “conspiring”. He went on to rattle out the ‘evil list’ of the defendants, including but not limited to effecting a loss of autonomy on their would-be donor, 21-year-old David Ukpor; that the donor ‘confessed’ to the police that he did not agree to donate his kidney, and that he was afraid that he, a nondescript member of a swarming army of millions of Nigerian mammy market peddlers, would be forced, if he returns to life in Nigeria, to surrender his kidney willy-nilly. Accepting this cockamamie story by the prosecution is either a display of incredible gullibility (highly unlikely for authorities with the wisdom of the African reality honed over centuries of colonial domination) or the deliberate peddling of bald-faced baloney from The Bench of the King’s Court. Furthermore, the Judge’s strongest junctures of accusation were rendered as personal opinions (”I believe”) so smoothly delivered they could all too easily be missed for what they really are: subjective hinge points in his analysis of the defendants’ faults, where he ducked the absence of forensic proof of his claims while throwing away mitigating evidence from the defendants, in order to conveniently dove-tail his persecutory bias into his “you-are-all-guilty” narrative. This is a soberingly common, ‘standard’ practice, in our capitalism-ruled world, where deep-seated interests, desirous of vengeance, barter high-stake valuables in seeking to control the sword edge with which justice is delivered; where the designs of high-placed interests are more likely to determine the leaning of Justice than the true merits of a case, where judges mount huge obfuscations on the sleekly served hinges of “personal opinions”.

Magicians on stage do the same thing: the sleight of hand.

… to be concluded

The Ekweremadus’ trial

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