The desperation to save the life of their daughter yesterday landed former Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka, in London detention.
They now face charges bordering on organ harvesting, which attracts a 10-year jail term.
The alleged offence involves removing parts of the body against the will of the victim.
Their daughter, Sonia, requires a kidney transplant but an attempt to get a donor went awry.
The couple was arrested at the Heathrow Airport in London on Tuesday in the presence of protocol officials from the Nigerian High Commission in the United Kingdom (UK).
From the airport, the detectives of the Specialist Crime Team of the Metropolitan Police took them away for interrogation.
They were taken to the Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court near the airport yesterday.
The judge denied them bail and fixed July 7 for a ruling on jurisdiction.
A diplomatic source said the offences against the couple attract a 10-year jail term if found guilty.
“The maximum penalty in the UK for these proven offences is imprisonment for 10 years.
“Their assets in the UK can also be confiscated.”
A delegation from the High Commission led by its Head of Consular and Welfare Section was at the court yesterday to watch the brief.
The former Deputy Senate President and his wife have been availed of consular services.
A top source, who confided in The Nation, said: “The couple wanted the best for their daughter. They were not out to harvest organs. They have gone through much trouble over the trauma of their daughter who needed a matching donor for a kidney transplant.
“They got one and flew him to London only to discover that the kidney did not match her own. I think they decided to send him home and security issues arose.
“In the course of an investigation, the Met Police spotted some procedural errors, which violated slavery legislation and child law in the UK.
“The transplant processes were suspected to be untidy too. A 15-year-old boy was rated as underage in the UK.
“For a while, the Met Police had watch-listed the couple until Ekweremadu was arrested on Tuesday.
“Although Ekweremadu was received by Nigeria High Commission protocol officers, he was whisked away by the detectives from Met Police in their presence.”
The source clarified that Ekweremadu officially supported the visa application for the supposed kidney donor.
The source added: “The affected kidney donor was not smuggled to London and there was nothing discreet about his trip.
“But at a point, he did not want to return to Nigeria and it became a security concern.”
Ekweremadu on December 28, 2021, approached the Visa Section, British High Commission, Abuja to seek support for a UK visa for Ukpo Mwamini David.
The letter reads in part: “I am writing in support of the visa application made by Mr. Ukpo Nwamini David, who is currently having medical investigations for a kidney donation to Ms Sonia Ekweremadu.
“David and Sonia will be at the Royal Free Hospital London, and I will be providing the necessary funding.
“I have enclosed a statement of my bank account. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require additional information.”
A diplomatic source in Nigeria said: “From our records, Ekweremadu was arrested on Tuesday, but the news became public knowledge yesterday.
“Our High Commission in London accorded him the usual protocol courtesies when he arrived in London and he was arrested in the presence of our officers.
“Our interest is to ensure that the couple gets a fair hearing in line with the enabling UK laws.”
Another source, who gave a different insight into why the couple was arrested said: “Met Police suspected that the child donor was picked up somewhere in Lagos for alleged rehabilitation in London by the Ekweremadus. But it turned out that they wanted him to donate his kidney without his consent.
“In the hospital records, the boy’s age was allegedly put at 21 but during the pre-transplant examination, he claimed that he was 15 years.
“The hospital immediately halted the procedure and sent out intelligence for security agencies to monitor the Ekweremadus.
“The supposed donor also raised the alarm to the police when the Ekweremadus sought to return him to Nigeria contrary to what they promised him.”
He added: “The age factor was a major challenge for the Ekweremadus for allegedly bringing a teenager and tagging him a 21-year-old. There was no evidence of parental consent.
“The other dimension to the case was about the alleged £20,000 found in possession of the Ekweremadus who were not aware that the investigation was at an advanced stage as of May. They may face different charges for the cash on them.”