By Adedotun Ajayi
In what appears to explain why the organ harvesting menace flourishes, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) shocked Nigerians when it estimated that 10 percent of all organ transplants, including lungs, heart and liver, are done through trafficked organs. With the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that 10,000 kidneys are traded on the black market worldwide annually, or more than one every hour,the kidney is said to be the most traded organ.
Organ harvesting is a gruesome and illegal activity that involves the removal of organs from living or deceased individuals for the purpose of selling them for transplantation or other medical procedures. While there have been reports of organ harvesting in Nigeria, it is important to note that these activities are illegal and are not condoned by the Nigerian government or its citizens.
There have been several reports of organ harvesting in Nigeria, particularly in the context of human trafficking and forced labor. According to the United Nations, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking, with victims often subjected to forced labor or sexual exploitation.
In some cases, victims of trafficking have reportedly being forced to donate organs or have their organs harvested without their consent. These victims are often lured into false job offers or promised a better life, only to be trapped and exploited by traffickers.
There have also been reports of individuals being killed for their organs, with some criminal networks targeting vulnerable populations such as children and the homeless.
While the Nigerian government has taken steps to combat human trafficking and illegal organ harvesting, these activities continue to occur, highlighting the need for continued efforts to address these issues and protect vulnerable populations. It is important to note, however, that these activities are not representative of Nigeria or its people, and that the vast majority of Nigerians condemn such practices.
Despite concerns triggered by reported case of ritual killings across Nigeria, the argument in some quarters is that cases of organ harvesting are only mistaken for ritual killings. In a telephone conversation with a security expert who doesn’t want his name on print, said that organ traffickers are having a field day because the crime is often mistaken for ritual killings by the police, making it difficult to carry out a thorough investigation to crack “this criminal network gang”.
Last year, Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy senate president, and his wife, Beatrice, was arrested and charged to court for allegedly bringing a child to the UK for organ harvesting.
Confirming the arrests in a statement, the metropolitan police said the pair will be charged to court following an investigation by the police’ specialist crime team.
The police added that the investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
The Criminal Court in London heard the kidney was intended for the Nigerian couple’s 25-year-old daughter Sonia, who was cleared of the charge of organ trafficking.
Sonia Ekweremadu had suffered from “deteriorating kidneys” and required “regular dialysis,” according to prosecutors. Authorities “found evidence that her parents, Ike and Beatrice Ekeweremadu, conspired with Dr. Obeta to identify individuals in Nigeria whose kidneys might be harvested for Sonia’s benefit.”
Reacting to the rise in organ harvesting in Nigeria, medical doctors have said that it is not a crime for someone to willingly donate kidney, adding that what the law is against is kidney harvesting.
A general health educator in Akure, Dr. Ayodeji Ayanleye, told The Hope that there are procedures to follow before kidney transplant can take place in the hospital.
Ayodeji, said it is always advisable to take kidney of a close relative who must be an adult.
“A minor cannot donate kidney even though he voluntarily wants to donate it. He/she must be mature enough (from 18 years and above) to give consent,” he added.
When asked if one needs to pay money for a donor’s kidney, the health practitioner said the law kicks against it, adding that it’s supposed to be voluntary.
“However, the law is not fully implemented in Nigeria. We have seen cases where people were being paid huge amount of money for donating their kidney,” he said.
He disclosed that kidney transplant can be successfully done in Nigeria, adding that there is no need to travel abroad to do it.
Similarly, a Medical Doctor at the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital, ondo state, who preferred anonymity told The Hope that the treatment of kidney related diseases are very expensive, and urged Nigerians to prevent it rather than treat it.
“On the other hand, kidney transplantation which is the best option, cost between N10 million to N15million,” he said.
He, however, advised that prevention is the way to go, as not all Nigerians can afford the cost of kidney transplant or dialysis.
“Even when you can afford it, it takes forever to see someone who can willingly donate kidney that matches that of a kidney patient,” he added.
He revealed that about six per cent of Nigerians have kidney disease and expressed the fear that in the next 20 years, the prevalence will rise to about 10 to 15 per cent because conditions like diabetes, hypertension among other diseases which are risk factors of kidney disease are increasing in the country.
He buttressed that ,“Change in lifestyle, high prevalence of diabetes, and hypertension are increasing the prevalence of kidney disease. Also, because of the poor living conditions of most Nigerians, they are likely to patronise herbal concoctions for their ailments, which can damage the kidney over time, and therefore, increasing the incidence of kidney disease as well”.
The health practitioner further disclosed that kidney disease can be detected early with urine and blood test.
In the same vein, another security expert, Omooba Olatunji, said according to security tips received, the black market for parts of the human body is booming in the Middle East. A kidney now costs $262, 000; the heart costs $119, 000 and liver costs $157, 000.
According to him; “Beware of fake foreign agencies promising to make you work abroad; they process your papers, pay your plane ticket and just take you abroad, pretending they want to find you a job, but instead, they kill their victims, recover all the precious parts of their bodies.
“Many people have been offered jobs in the Middle East and so far their families have been unable to locate them. Share to save lives.”
He added “once you can’t verify what your travel agent is telling you online or the company he claims would employ you don’t have a website, think twice before making that move, it might not be legit” he reacted
The Nigeria immigration service (NIS) has warned youths about the dangers inherent in illegal migration and human trafficking, stating that many Nigerian youths have had their organs harvested and perished in the process.
Sounding the warning at a sensitization program, the service maintained that illegal migrating had become rampant following the national socio-economic downturn, but maintained that the “japa syndrome” embraced by the youths in recent times was not the solution.
The Deputy Controller General of the Directorate of Migration, Mrs Kemi Nandap made the remarks at the weekend in Gwagwalada, Abuja.
She described the japa syndrome as alarming, especially amongst youths.
Nandap said besides the fact that over 1,200 youths died in the Mediterranean Sea and deserts last year alone, many of those who reached some countries had their organs harvested by people they trusted.
She said: “Don’t be deceived, economic downturn is now a global phenomenon. If you have been watching events across the world, you would have noticed protests in some countries. So, it is not about Nigeria alone. It is a global issue. Stay here with us and let us pull our country out of this challenges together.
“Don’t follow sweet promises that are not real. People who are telling you to follow them, ask them why they couldn’t carry their own children. Why didn’t they japa with their cousins and other close relatives. It is dangerous.
Nandap appealed to the youths and those who desired to travel outside the country to approach the immigration service for collection of passports and other documents, adding that the service would also provide information on how they would obtain Visas to the country of their choice