The Senate yesterday joined prominent Nigerians and parliamentary institutions in the plea for clemency to former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice.
It urged the United Kingdom (UK) Government to grant clemency to the couple as they return tomorrow to an Old Bailey Court for sentencing.
They were convicted in March for organ trafficking in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act, Ekweremadu, his wife and their doctor, Obinna Obeta.
Sixty-year-old Ekweremadu; his wife, 56; and Dr. Obeta, 51, were found guilty by Justice Jeremy Johnson of facilitating the travel of a young Nigerian man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial.
Yesterday’s resolution of the Senate followed a motion on the matter moved by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP – Enugu North) during plenary.
Erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, House of Representatives and the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, among others, have been calling on the UK Government to temper justice with mercy.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan noted that Ekweremadu served for 12 years as Deputy Senate President where he put in so much effort to the development of the Parliament across Africa and in the world.
He said in performing his duties, Ekweremadu was not found wanting even as he described what happened as very unfortunate.
Lawan said: “Let me reiterate what our colleague has presented to us. Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu served as Deputy Senate President for 12 years.
“He has brought in so much efforts to the development of Parliaments in Africa and across the world and he has never been found wanting and therefore what has happened is very unfortunate and very sad.
“I have written a letter to the British Judicial Authorities about two to three weeks ago seeking for clemency on behalf of the Senate.
“I signed the letter and have it delivered to the authorities in the United Kingdom. We are now using this particular intervention to seek for clemency in the sentencing.
“The conviction has already been done but we are seeking clemency because this is the first time our colleague is getting involved in this kind of thing.
“I want to commend Distinguished Senator Chukwuka Utazi for bringing up this issue and let me conclude by seeking tempering justice with mercy by the British judicial authorities that when it comes to sentencing, they should consider that this is the first time ever that Distinguished Senator Ekweremadu will be facing this kind of situation.”
In his lead debate, Utazi noted that the plea for clemency became imperative in view of the fact that Ekweremadu was deputy senate president for 12 years as well as the former Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.
He said by virtue of the positions, Ekweremadu has made enormous contributions towards the development of democracy in Nigeria, West Africa and beyond.
The senator added: “Whereas they are seen as a first offenders and they do not have any previous criminal records and considering that Ekweremadu was ignorant of seeking out kidney donor to come to the United Kingdom and even applying to the British Government in Abuja for a Visa for the donor.
“Whereas the Senate is not happy on the conviction of the Ekweremadus and ignorance of the law is not an excuse, but they were forced into this circumstance in a bid to save their dying daughter, Sonia.
“This Senate is not any way appealing the conviction of the Ekweremadus, nevertheless, it is joining them in their plea by asking for clemency in the coming sentencing two days away (tomorrow).
· That clemency may be extended to the Ekweremadus considering that all of the convicts are first offenders.
· That since the matter was in the UK, that a novel approach in sentencing of the convicts be adopted by tempering justice with mercy, as the publicity already given to the trial was enough warning to would be offenders in the future.
· That considering the long history of good relationship existing between Nigeria and the British Government and considering that this is the first time that the Senate is making this kind of plea on the British Government to yield to our request for clemency for the Ekweremadus in their sentencing.”