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News: Concerns mount over unregulated ‘black market’ organ trade in Nigeria


Many Nigerians have expressed concern over what seems to be a thriving black market and illegal dealings in organ donation, harvesting and transplantation in the country.

The development follows reports of an increasing rate of illegal removal of organs from people without their consent, usually for transplantation or commercial sale.

Of late, Nigeria has witnessed a rise in the number of reported cases of organ harvesting in the country, with the removal of organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart, among others.

Among all the organs, kidneys have been noted as the most commonly illegally harvested organs due to their high demand and survival rate.

DAILY POST reported how a former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, made news in March this year when he was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison in the UK for being the “driving force” in a plot to harvest a kidney for his sick daughter from a young man he had trafficked to London.

Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr. Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty by an Old Bailey Court in the United Kingdom in March in the first organ trafficking conviction under the Modern Slavery Act.

The court found they conspired to bring a 21-year-old Lagos street trader to a private renal unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital as a potential kidney donor for Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia.

Most reported organ harvesting cases in the country were noted to be a result of compulsion, fraud, or abduction and exploitation of vulnerable Nigerians, especially those living in poverty or marginalized groups.

For instance, one Chimaobi Eric Nwoko, a 42-year-old mechanic, recently alleged he was deceived into donating his kidney to another person identified as Osinachi.

The suspect, Mr Steve Akazue, owner of De-Akasten Global Limited, Ikeja, now arrested by the operatives of Zone 2 Police command in Lagos, was alleged to have promised to compensate Chimaobi with $20 million, a house in the United States, and a job for him to donate his kidney to Osinachi, Steve’s younger brother.

Recounting how he lost his left kidney, Chimaobi, a native of Umuahia in Abia State, said he was convinced that $20 million and a house were waiting for him after the operation.

“I was a mechanic before I was recruited by Mr. Steve’s company in Ikeja as a driver in November 2018. I was assigned to drive his brother Osinachi. He was sick, and it was my responsibility to take him to hospitals for dialysis.

“Two weeks later, he came back and asked to see me in his office. He thanked me for taking care of his brother and that Osinachi had a few days to die. He asked me to donate, and I expressed my fears. He asked me to kneel, saying that he would pray for me. He took an oil and rubbed it on my head while he prayed in his local dialect.

“He said he would give me $20 million and a house in the US. He also assured me that when I got to the US, there would be a standby job for me as a heavy truck driver.

“I was so excited that my life would change for the better. They took me and Osinachi to the hospital, and they did a series of tests. The doctor said that my kidney was a perfect match.

“On the agreed date, I was admitted for three days in preparation for the surgery. After the surgery, I was given drugs, which I took for about a week while Mr Steve rented a room for me at Mowe in Ogun State. Since then, till date, no drugs or any kind of treatment have been given to me.”

Chimaobi was now fighting for his life while asking that Steve pay him the compensation he promised so that he could survive with the only kidney left, as according to him, “the suspect’s brother is very healthy now while I am dying.”

In a similar incident, Plateau State Police Command in September arrested a medical doctor, Noah Kekere, for alleged organ harvesting carried out in his hospital in Jos.

The doctor was apprehended by the police for allegedly removing the kidney of one Mrs Khende Kamal without her knowledge.

DAILY POST also reported that a businessman, Alhaji Kamal, had accused Kekere of harvesting one of his wife’s kidneys and subjecting the woman to chronic pain in the last five years.

Narrating how the kidney was removed, the husband said, “Sometimes in January 2018, my wife, Kehinde Kamal, complained of pains around her abdomen, and a so-called Dr. Noah Kekere of Murma Hospital in Jos North LGA diagnosed her and said she was suffering from appendicitis and needed to be operated on.

“We paid for the full cost of the drugs and hospital bills as directed by the doctor. My wife was sound before the operation, and shortly after the operation, she started complaining of severe pains. We managed the pain for years while visiting the same doctor.

“Around August ending, the pains got extreme, and we had to go to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where it was confirmed that one of her kidneys had been removed.”

However, many believe that organ harvesting thrives in the country because there is no regulation of the process and no government regulatory body oversees organ transplantation.

Some health practitioners identified the lack of regulation and enforcement of medical ethics, poverty, inequality, and unconscionable medical practitioners as facilitators.

Expressing worries over the development recently, the chairman of the Medical Consultants Association of Nigeria, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Amisu Mumuni, lamented that there is no agency or body that regulates the harvesting or transplanting of human organs in Nigeria.

NAN reported that Mumuni spoke during a one-day public hearing on a bill to establish an organ harvest transplantation department in the Lagos State Ministry of Health organized by the Lagos State House of Assembly.

According to him, they had been working with the Ministry of Justice on the issue for a long time, noting that the law would regulate organ harvesting and transplanting in the state.

“It is a step in the right direction. A regulatory body is being set up for the first time to regulate organ harvesting and transplantation in the country,” he said.

“None had existed in Nigeria in the past, and it has provided a gap to many things. It is a good starting point for regulating transplantation.

“But I want to advise that the department should be independent. The membership of the committee should be increased,” he said.

Speaking to DAILY POST about the matter, a medical expert, Dr Usha Anenga, the Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Benue State, noted that illegal organ harvesting was being fueled by the poverty level in the country.

Anenga also lamented the absence of guidelines specifically addressing organ donation in Nigeria.

He advised the government to consult widely and come up with a unified document that will regulate organ donation in Nigeria.

He said, “What makes organ harvesting illegal, let me put it this way: there’s poverty in the country. You see people coming out to donate their organs just to get paid for it. Whereas, it’s illegal to pay someone for them to donate.

“Largely, one of the issues in Nigeria is that there are no guidelines specifically addressing organ donation; everybody is just a king unto himself, regulating themselves the way they want. But there is supposed to be a unified guideline that regulates the practice in Nigeria.

“Also, you see young people; ideally, one has to be up to 21 years old before even contemplating donating their organ after being counseled about the implications, so that you know what you’re going into, and then proper documentation. But you see people younger than 21, thinking it’s an easy way out, walking into a hospital and requesting their organs be donated. That’s not proper.

“The solution is for all the stakeholders to come together and get a proper guideline for organ donation so that we don’t have all these illegal organ harvesting and donations going on, and the public should be aware of it.

“If there’s a guideline, it’s important that it should be enforced. And monitoring is also important. So many times in Nigeria, there are guidelines, beautiful documented policies, but they are not implemented.

“We need to have a proper guideline regulating organ donation and ensure that it’s implemented so that the populace can be protected from illegal organ harvesting.

“My advice for the individual is to be aware of it and not allow poverty to drive them to donating their organs. It’s illegal to be paid for organ donation. It’s supposed to be free and donated on free will.

“We expect the Ministry of Health to put heads together, invite experts, and domesticate worldwide guidelines on organ donation. There is a worldwide guideline called the “Istanbul Declaration.” We need to domesticate that and, in addition to our local peculiarities and challenges, create a unified document, policy guide for organ donation in the country.”

Concerns mount over unregulated ‘black market’ organ trade in Nigeria

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