Ekweremadu, his wife, and a medical doctor in the UK are the first human trafficking offenders to be jailed under the Modern Slavery Act.
The former deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, have made history as the first defendants to be convicted under the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act.
On Friday, May 5, 2023, the Nigerian legislator was jailed at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, for a total of 10 years and 8 months, while his wife was sentenced to four years and six months of imprisonment.
The couple were found guilty of conspiring to arrange the travel of a 21-year-old young man with a view to exploiting him for his body part.
The Ekweremadus were said to have trafficked the victim to the UK in February 2022, to harvest his kidney for their ailing 25-year-old daughter, Sonia.
In the UK, kidney donation is lawful, but it’s a crime to reward someone with money or other material advantage for doing so.
The conviction of the couple with a 51-year-old medical doctor, Obinna Obeta, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, made them the first offenders in the UK to be convicted under the country’s Modern Slavery Act.
What’s UK’s Modern Slavery Act all about?
The Modern Slavery Act is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom designed to combat slavery, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.
The act was enacted in 2015 to consolidate previous offences relating to human trafficking and slavery.
The law came into force on July 31, 2015 and does not apply to offences committed before then.
But in the case of the Ekweremadus, their offense was committed in 2022; hence, the law was applied in determining their penalties.
Ekweremadu’s offence under the Modern Slavery Act
The act spells out slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking as the offences for which it was designed to address.
According to the law, human trafficking offence is committed when a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (victim) with a view to exploiting the victim.
It is irrelevant whether the victim consents to the travel or not. It also does not matter whether the victim is an adult or a child.
The act also states that a person may, in particular, arrange or facilitate another person’s (victim's) travel by recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, receiving, transferring, or exchanging control over him or her.
According to Section 4 of the Act, a person arranges or facilitates another person’s travel with a view to exploiting it only if:
(a) The person intends to exploit the victim (in any part of the world) during or after the travel, or
(b) The person knows or ought to know that another person is likely to exploit the victim (in any part of the world) during or after the travel.
In Section 7 of the Act, it states that a person who is not a UK national commits an offense under this section if:
(a) Any part of the arranging or facilitating takes place in the United Kingdom, or
(b) The travel consists of arrival in or entry into, departure from, or travel within the United Kingdom.
Penalties and sentencing
As established in the act, a convicted person is liable to life imprisonment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, a fine, or both when he or she arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (the victim) with a view to exploiting the victim.
The law further states that where the offense under Section 4 is committed by kidnapping or false imprisonment, a person guilty of that offense is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.