Former Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, has stated that a former President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice should have obtained a clearance certificate from the agency before travelling to the United Kingdom with a kidney donor.
Okah-Donli, who is also the Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons (UNVTF), also revealed that most cases of organ harvesting in the country “are often treated as ritual murder by law enforcement agencies that lack the institutional capacity to handle such cases.”
She clarified on Saturday during an interview on ARISE NEWS, while also lamenting the rate at which body organs of Nigerians “are stolen in India and most countries in the Middle East when they go for procedures.”
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The London Metropolitan Police had arrested Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice at Heathrow Airport, over an allegation of bringing a minor to the UK for organ harvesting.
The police had claimed that the investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under the Modern Slavery Act, 2015 aimed at preventing hidden labour exploitation, payment for work-finding services and harvest of human organs, among others.
Consequent to this, Ekweremadu and his wife were arraigned before the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court which denied them bail, ordered their detention and deferred the case till July 7 for a hearing.
Faulting Ekweremadu for not observing the laws regulating all forms of organ donation, Okah-Donli explained the basic requirements all citizens should fulfil under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 before travelling out of the country with kidney donors.
She said: “In a case like this, there is a regulation in place. NAPTIP ought to have issued them a clearance certificate to travel out of the country. However, it looks like NAPTIP was not even aware of it.
“Under the legislation, NAPTIP has the right to issue a clearance certificate to any person who is going for anything relating to organ donation. Ekweremadu ought to have gone to NAPTIP to get a clearance certificate.”
During the process of issuing a clearance certificate, Okah-Donli explained that NAPTIP would have exhaustively interacted with the would-be donor before a clearance certificate would be issued to that effect.
She added that if the case had been reported, NAPTIP would have been able to investigate the case further with “a view to finding out whether the donor is an adult or a minor, whether the donor understands the consequence of what he is going for or not.
“Unfortunately, all these things did not happen. The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) will only issue passports based on the information they are given. They are not going to look for information that they are not given.
“If they say the boy in question is 50, the NIS will write 50 on the passport. But NAPTIP will have investigated in-depth, spoken to the donor and issued a clearance certificate before travelling out of the country. Unfortunately, the case was not brought to the attention of NAPTIP.”
The former NAPTIP boss, therefore, lamented that the case of organ harvesting “is really bad in Nigeria. It is huge across the federation but we have not paid attention to it. We have such cases in which people were found with their organs ripped out all over the federation.”
She added that the authorities were quick to tag it ritual murder, noting that organ harvesting “has been going on for so many years undetected.
“NAPTIP has the mandate to curb organ harvesting. Unfortunately, we have other law enforcement agencies that want to deal with it. But those agencies do not have the capacity to deal with it. They do not have the training.
“These issues are not even referred to NAPTIP for proper investigation. We have that bottleneck in this area not allowing the appropriate agency to deal with the issue of organ harvesting. This is a very specialised area. Rushing to the conclusion that it is ritual murder will not help.
“Even in countries like India, they actually steal your organs. You go there for a procedure. By the time you go back, they have removed another organ. Stealing organs is something that has been going on in the Middle East,” she explained.