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Ike Ekweremadu: The Long Road to Prison



By Eric Elezuo

On face value, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who once served as the Deputy Senate President of the Nigerian eight senate, and one time Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, would be 70 years in the next nine years when he would be expected to be released from prison.

This is because the former lawmaker bagged a nine years, six months jail term after he was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, United Kingdom (UK) for organ trafficking. His wife, Beatrice, did not escape the long arm of the law, as she got six years imprisonment.

It would be recalled that the long walk of the senator to London prison began on June 23, 2022, when the London Metropolitan Police announced that it has arrested Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, for conspiring to bring an alleged 15-year-old boy to the UK for organ harvesting. The kidney donor, one David Nwamini’s travel was said to have been arranged between August 1, 2021, and May 5, 2022, with a view to exploitation, punishable under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The couple were charged the same day at the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court where they pleaded not guilty and was remanded in custody and the trial adjourned till July 7. What they did not, nor any of their well wishers understood was that a long walk with the legal system, culminating in inglorious incarceration, has just begun.

After a lot of back and forth, and several adjournments, the trial resumed proper on February 3 2023 as the senator and his legal team could not stop influence his daughter’s application to not stand trial with him and her mother for the said “conspiracy to harvest organ”. The charges was thrown out by Justice Jeremiah Johnson.

With the senator sitting hapless in detention, and following proceedings via video link, his daughter, Sonia, 25, was in the dock with her mother, listening to the judge ruled declare that she was not unfit to stand a “criminal trial lasting seven weeks” against the argument of her defence barrister, Femi Oni.

After tabling the application for “stay of proceedings” on the basis that “she’s unfit” medically and psychologically due to her ongoing thrice a week dialysis, both sides of the bench led their expert witnesses in testimonies via video link, beginning with the Manchester-based professor that Oni had lined up.

After being sworn in, the defence asked him: “Did you have an opportunity to get consultation with her before writing his report”, he replied with a “yes.” Asked if he has a report on “what she’s suffering from?” the professor told the court that “she’s developed from a young age, a kidney condition “that led to a gradual dysfunction and consequently, “her life is dependent on dialysis treatment until she has a kidney transplant.”

Led in further testimony, he told the court the treatment has placed a psychological, mental and medical burden on her as it does on other dialysis patients. The professor also relied on the report of a consultant psychiatrist.

Davies, on his part, had Dr Andrews as his expert witness. Though he admitted having not had any direct consultation with Sonia, but did say if the court’s schedule of sitting times was moved to afternoons to accommodate her treatment days, that she’s capable of standing trial. Andrew told the court in his testimony that, ‘the residual symptoms of dialysis does not make it impossible to attend trial.”

After listening to the barristers and their expert witnesses, including their reports, and acknowledging that the treatment takes its toll on her and that she has even had to withdraw from her Masters degree programme after her diagnosis, the judge said it is not confirmed that her recovery or clinical care could suffer if she were to stand trial. He then ruled that accordingly, “the application is dismissed.”

A week later, a Royal Free Hospital dialysis expert who carried out a routine pre-surgical assessment for the kidney donor told the court that he had concerns about his suitability and that he didn’t seem to know the implications of what he had signed up for.

Prosecution witness, Dr David DuPont, said as part of normal clinical practice of interviewing potential donors, so as to be certain they were not being “forced or under duress or coerced nor induced to donate their organ”, he asked Nwamini these and other questions during a face-to-face meeting at the clinic last year February.

Despite the defence put up by Ekweremadu, 60; his wife, Beatrice, 56; and Obeta, 51, the court convicted them for organ trafficking on Thursday, March 23, in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.

However, the court cleared the lawmaker’s daughter, Sonia.  The jury ruled that Ekweremadu, his wife and their doctor criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney and reserved their sentencing till yesterday when the trio received sentences with Dr. Obeta getting the highest of 10 years.

However, both the Senator and his wife got some discounts and will not serve the entire duration of their terms due to mitigating circumstances that Johnson factored into his judgment. While the senator will serve two thirds of his term, his wife’s term was reduced to four years and six months after factoring in the discounts.

“It’s going to be two thirds” Gary Owen, one of the Senator’s barristers told The Guardian outside the Court after the judgment when asked to clarify the implication of the discount.

On her part, the wife would serve half of her term. So, while the Senator will do about six years, he won’t stay locked up for that much as he’s already been in custody since June 21, 2023, when he was arrested with the wife at Heathrow Airport. She too will spend less than three years, as the time already spent in custody will be deducted.

Additional information from The Guardian.

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Tinubu Presents N27.5tr 2024 budget to NASS, Seeks Speedy Passage




President Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, presented the Appropriation Bill of the Federal government for the year 2024 tagged ‘Budget of Renewed Hope’ to a joint session of the National Assembly.

This is the president’s first budget presentation to the National Assembly since assuming office on May 29.

The President arrived at the National Assembly for the presentation of the 2024 budget at about 11:09 am accompanied some ministers and aides. and senior officials.

He was led into the chamber of the House of Representatives for the presentation of the N27.5trillion Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly which began after the rendition of the National Anthem and opening prayers.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC)on Monday approved N27.5 trillion as the 2024 budget estimate.

It will be recalled that Tinubu had about three weeks ago forwarded the 2024-2026 Medium Term Expenditure Framework ( MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper ( FSP), proposing an expenditure of N26.1 for the 2024 fiscal year.

After two weeks of deliberations and interface with heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies on the revenue and expenditure projections, the Senate through its Committee on Finance approved the MTEF.

It specifically approved the N26.1 trillion proposed as 2024 budget and other parameters proposed by Tinubu.

It also approved new borrowings of N7.8 trillion, while pegging the oil price benchmark for 2024 at $73.96 and oil production at 1.78 million barrels per day.

Other parameters approved are GDP growth rate of 3.76 per cent, the inflation rate of 21.40 per cent, a suggested benchmark exchange rate of N700 to $1 and a projected budget deficit of N9.04 trillion.

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Emefiele Yet to Meet Bail Conditions, May Stay in Prison Till 2024




A Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, has adjourned an alleged procurement fraud case involving a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

The court adjourned the trial of the former apex bank chief to January 18 and 19, 2024 for continuation of trial.

Emefiele is standing trial on a six count amended charge on alleged procurement of vehicles to the tune of N1.6billion.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He was granted bail on November 17, 2023 to the tune of N300million and two sureties, but remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre, pending when he meets his bail conditions.

At the resumed hearing, the prosecution witness, who is a top official of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) told the court that the Emefiele is not the owner or a shareholder of the April1616 Investment Limited awarded N1.2 billion vehicle supply contract by CBN under his watch.

He was led in evidence by counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo , while tendering several documents on how the company was incorporated on August 1, 2016.

He further read out the names of the shareholders of the company as Aminu Yaro, Maryam Abdullahi and Saadatu Yaro as joint owners of the entity.

Emefiele’s lawyer, Mathew Burkaa, who declined to speak on camera, said Emefiele is yet to meet his bail conditions.

Counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Federal government declined to speak on the day’s proceedings.

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One Year in Office: Adeleke Gives Scorecard, Pledges Continuous Democracy Dividends




By Eric Elezuo

The Governor of Osun State, Ademola Adeleke, has felicitated with the people of Osun State as his administration marks one in office.

In the statement he personally signed, the governor informed that the last one year has been characterized by reconstruction and reconfiguration of various of the state’s economy, adding that the administration has been able to navigate through “numerous land mines deliberately set by the past administration to frustrate our administration” to provide appropriate leadership and benefits for the people of Osun state.

Adeleke further intimated that he is on a working visit to Europe and Asia, where he hope to attract investment opportunities foe the state.

The governor highlighted stability of the civil service, improved intercity road networks, surgical and medical outreaches as well as the #Imole100BInfrastructure as some of the laudable achievements of his administration in the last one year.

Below is the detailed statement:

It is one year ago today since our administration came into office. It has been a year of reconstruction and reconfiguration across the various sectors of the osun economy.

Due to the current economic situation in the state and our country in general, I have directed that this anniversary be conducted in a low key atmosphere. I remain committed to prudent use of our scarce resources on more pressing issues.

I am currently on a working vacation to Europe and Asia where I am advancing partnership discussion with potential investors needed to improve our state economy.

It is important to recognize the enormous challenges and obstacles we have overcome and the progress we have made thus far. Despite the numerous land mines deliberately set by the past administration to frustrate our administration, we have developed a robust mechanism to successfully navigate and overcome these challenges.

We have stabilized the state civil service with continuous commitment to the welfare of the state civil servants and pensioners, this we will continue to focus on in fulfillment of a critical part of our 5 point agenda.

We have massively improved intracity road network across the state by constructing over 90KM of roads, completion of the Phase II of Òṣogbo-Ikirun road and ongoing construction of Osun ring road (Ona Baba Ona) both abandoned by the past administration.

We have embarked on surgical and medical outreach that benefited over 50,000 vulnerable citizens. Also, we have completely rehabilitated over 31 schools across the state.

Recently, I launched the #Imole100BInfrastructure that focuses on education, health, road construction and water. These are critical sectors that we have identified to urgently revamp for the sustainability and development of the state economy.

I am happy to share that as we move forward, the positive results of our collaborative efforts for the past one year are expected to bear fruit. With projected increase in our internally generated revenue and prudent application of public funds, our infrastructure plan will be fully funded without seeking external loan.

Today, I re-affirm my commitment to serving with the fear of God and focused on delivering on my 5 point agenda as promised during the campaign season.

I thank you for your continuous support and prayer as you continue to support our efforts to develop our dear state.

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