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Why human trafficking, illegal organs harvesting boom

By Adedotun Ajayi

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In what appears as logic behind why the organ harvesting menace flourishes, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) estimates that 10 percent of all organ transplants, including lungs, heart and liver, are done through trafficked organs.

World Health Organization (WHO) also estimated that 10,000 kidneys are traded at 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 organs 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 labour. According to the United Nations, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking, with victims often subjected to forced labour or sexual exploitation.

In some cases, victims of trafficking are 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.

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Despite concerns triggered by reported cases of ritual killings across Nigeria, the argument in some quarters is that cases of organs harvesting are only mistaken for ritual killings.

In a telephone conversation, a security expert who doesn’t want his name in 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, were arrested and charged to court for allegedly bringing a child to the UK for organ harvesting.

The police added that the investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.

The kidney was intended for the Nigerian couple’s 25-year-old daughter, Sonia.

Sonia Ekweremadu suffered from “deteriorating kidneys” and required “regular dialysis,” according to prosecutors. Authorities “found evidence that her parents 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 advisable to take the kidney of a close relative who must be an adult.

“A minor cannot donate kidney even if he voluntarily wants to donate it. He/she must be mature enough (from 18 years and above) to give consent,” he added.

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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”.

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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, remove all the vital 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.”

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

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