By Tony Adibe
Wearing a forlorn appearance and almost despondent, Mr. Eze Chukwuka Nwamini Ukpo, father of David Nwamini, who was trafficked from Lagos to the United Kingdom by an influential and wealthy Nigerian politician, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, to harvest his kidney for their sick daughter, Sonia, has said that he was not quite convinced that his son, David, is still alive.
Although he has been severally assured by David’s brothers, friends, and associates that he (David) is safe and sound in the foreign land, the old man said, “I am not convinced until I hear his voice or see him, even for a day before he is taken back to the foreign land.”
He repeated: “If only I can hear his voice; if only I can speak with him on phone and hear his voice, then I will be happy and consoled that he is still alive.” Nwamini Ukpo sat down and crossed his legs as if he was in a “siddon look mood or posture”. He chose his words carefully as he spoke in their native dialect, although he seemed like a man, naturally, that takes things easy or not given to too much talking.
“All the news we have been hearing about my son David, none has come through him direct. All the stories concerning him are from other sources. If I can speak directly to him and hear his voice, then I will believe that he is still alive,” Nwamini Ukpo told NewsBits point-blank.
My interpreter, Mr. Aluma, who hails from Ebonyi State, but from a different clan or Senatorial Zone acted like a guide to me. Aluma understands the “native tongue” And that made my job rather easier.
David is said to be an orphan considering the statement he made to the Metropolitan Police but there appears to be sketchy details about him since news of his entanglement with the former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ekweremadu in the organ harvesting saga broke out sometime in 2022.
Initially, his father, Nwamani Ukpo declined to talk with NewsBits officially, although after “some pressure” he disclosed that David is the most senior in a family of nine children, with five boys and four girls. According to him, David is 21 years of age and dropped out of school at the Junior Secondary School (JSS3) before he travelled to Lagos for petty trading.
Newsbits reports that there is the belief that many of youths from Ebonyi State, like other young people from different parts of Nigeria do flood into Lagos to eke out a living by engaging in street trading.
But the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi has acknowledged the fact that high level poverty is driving the young people to look for greener pasture outside Ebonyi State which prides itself as “Salt of The Nation.” At least the state has several mineral resources including lake of salt, from where it derived its nickname “Salt of The Nation!”
“Let me touch briefly on the plight of young Ebonyi men and women who are caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and servitude in big cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Onitsha, etc. It is a disgrace that our youths are now drawers of water, hewers of wood, cleaners of toilets and hawkers of cheap contrabands in the households of the rich and on the streets of mega cities. I will order a thorough examination of this shameful blot on the image of Ebonyi people and act upon the recommendations by declaring a state of emergency on the matter. We shall create the office of a Special Adviser to superintend over this important area and give the matter the push it deserves,” said the governor.
Governor Umahi had promised that in partnership with any willing private sector, the state government shall open a vocational retraining institution where, he insisted, “the use of our brain and hands shall be the only subjects.” He added, “We shall train many of our youths and women in the practical methods and techniques of establishing their own small and medium scale enterprises and other services like welding, electrical services, manufacturing, plumbing, iron works, production of spare parts, etc. All government policies must target an assured future for our children and women.” Talk. Talk Talk. Umahi has few more days in office and it’s not certain that he has redeemed this promise.
But Nwamini Ukpo, said while David was at home, he was not avaricious or greedy for money, thereby debunking the notion that David was lured into the organ harvest saga with monetary inducement.
At this point, David’s father said he was not going to speak further. He recalled that other visitors like this reporter who had gone there in the past for the same issue, went through David’s brothers in Abakaliki. He gave us three phone numbers with which the brothers could be contacted. One of the brothers, Livinus is a trader at Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital. Livinus lives with Cosmas while there is another one who goes by the nickname Omega; he is living at Onitsha, the commercial capital of Anambra State, where he does his business.
Driving to the family house of David Nwamini Ukpo at Izzida, Nduofia village of Ebonyi Local Government Area in SouthEast Zone of Nigeria, to interact with the parents, Nwamini Ukpo and Mary Ukpo was not a tea party. The road leading to the village was incredibly rough. Departing Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital and driving on the long red-earth-covered, pot-holes-filled rural road, stretching to hundreds of kilometers, with lots of hills and valleys, meandering often into tiny village paths-, with tick bushes on both sides, can evoke fear in the mind of the first-time traveler/visitor.
This is particularly when you have been told that at certain point in the road, you might need to park your car at the rural marketplace and continue your trip on a commercial motor-cycle, the one the natives, nicknamed “okada”. The idea is to facilitate your movement. The commercial bikers move faster than cars that would have to meander and negotiate and at times, the occupants of the car would have to alight so that the vehicle could drive through the very bad spots.
“If you are sure of travelling to Nduofia village, you have to “budget” four hours or more. I am from that area. If you insist on driving to the village, you have to think of driving for not less than four to five hours from Abakaliki. The reason is that the distance is long, coupled with very bad roads leading to the place,” said a broadcaster with one of the Nigerian Federal Government-owned radio stations. He serves as the Abakaliki correspondent of the radio station. He is from Nduofia. At the Government House, Abakaliki, we were told that certain person on one occasion went and swindled David’s indigent parents of their hard-earned money.
According to one version, the swindlers had moved in, convinced the parents that they were working for an international human rights organization that is pushing for the freedom of people unjustly detained in Europe but that they would need some money to effect the release of David. “Thereafter, they collected huge sums of money, which was mobilized through fund raising, and later the dupers disappeared. But David is still not set free. Since then, the youths and David’s parents are suspecting any stranger that comes to enquire about David,” said the source.
After driving for several hours, we eventually arrived at Nduofia village and a small market square. The youths began to cluster round us, some smiling, some looking stern-faced with their sharp eyes moving from one person to the other.
Our guide, Aluma, was up to the task, however. He spoke in the native dialect to few of the youths on our mission. They pointed at one small house which we had thought was the family house of the Nwamini Ukpos. But the small house turned out to be a local restaurant. David’s father, we were informed, had just gone there to have his lunch. Later, he took us to a shade where they offered us plastic seats. They wanted us to “relax” a little since we had travelled a long bumpy and dusty road.
Apparently to allow us some sense of “privacy”, Nwamini Ukpo said he would like us to go with him to his own father, Ukpo’s compound, where David used to stay. Ukpo is the grandfather of David, but the old man is now late.
Nwamini Ukpo joined us in our car and we drove to a compound within a shouting distance from the small market square. The serenity of the area was quite pleasant with the peaceful nature of the neighbourhood. The compound was having several bungalows but the main building, we were told, was where David’s grandfather lived.
As we entered, the front seat-out in the bungalow, Nwamini Ukpo sat crossing his legs like someone who takes life easy. After all further attempts to make him chat with us failed woefully, we decided to call it a day. The youths who trailed us to the compound, supported that he would not give interview. They insisted that we should contact Davids brothers who are living in Abakaliki or the one at Onitsha. Unfortunately, their numbers were inaccessible. We didn’t know whether it was the making of the youths or bad network, actually. Before we left, David’s father had gone with our guide Aluma to a corner within the premises. Nwamini Ukpo told our guide that it would be nice to give some tips to the youths, who had helped to fix the car.
The car suddenly developed a fault because one of the two fans refused to work. The radiator was so hot that no drop of water remained in it after we had opened the bonnet. But there was no way I would not have “dashed” the young men some “tips” before leaving, at least, for helping in fixing the fan! “I spent seven years in Onitsha where I worked as an auto-electrician before I returned to the village,” said the youth who repaired the fan.
I went into the car, brought some notes of Naira which I squeezed into the palm of our guide, Aluma. He called the youth leader and handed him the notes. They smiled and told us to feel free to come back anytime we wanted to visit.
“Is there any other road through which we can drive to Abakaliki?” we asked, and they emphasized that the road through which we came is the one and only road leading to the area. The youths bemoaned what they regarded as “total neglect of the area over the years by various governments both military and civilians that had governed Ebonyi State.
The natives said had the area had a quality and effective representation in government, perhaps the indigenes would have had a different story to tell in terms of infrastructural development. Upon being told that there was no other road leading to the place, we consoled ourselves for another long, stressful trip out of Nduofia, the remote village of David Nwamini, the little boy from an unknown village, who has become an instant celebrity either by fair or foul means. We arrived back at Enugu at about 8.23pm.
Curiously, when Omega’s mobile phone number was called, this writer introduced himself, after disclosing his intention to interview him on David’s issue. “How am I not sure that you are an agent of Senator Ike Ekweremadu? Don’t you think this kind of interview is better done in a face-to-face manner, so that I can see the person I am talking with?” He insisted that I could feel free to visit him at Onitsha in Anambra State where he is based.
However, when contacted on his mobile phone, another brother to David, called Livinus Nwamini, who is based in Abakaliki was unhappy about the manner, he said, the Ebonyi State government had handled the issue so far. While sounding rather indifferent on phone, Livinus said: “I am not disposed, I am not in the mood to say anything about that now.
“My reason is that when the thing happened, Ebonyi State Government did not say or do anything. Governor Umahi should have done something as a father, even if David is a bad person. But the only statement we heard from government which I won’t like to comment on now, was not good. It was not in the interest of David.”
Does his family have any communication with David as to know his present condition, Livinus retorted: “I cannot say anything about that, after all, that question should be the concern of the Ebonyi State Government.”
Expressing his anger, he further said, “There was even a time I read in newspapers and also heard on radio, that a meeting was scheduled to hold between the State Government and David’s family. Till today, that meeting is yet to hold, unless David has another family, I wouldn’t know.
“So, my brother, let them leave the matter for us. It is our case, and we will handle it our own way. I know it is almost one year now, and nothing has been done by government.”
A Wild Goose Game:
Before setting out to visit Nduofia in Ebonyi State, we had already embarked upon what one may call a wild goose chase based on the address David Nwamini gave to the court in the UK as his native home address: Number 50, Amachara Road, Mpu, Aninri Local Government Area, Enugu State. He also gave Number 50 Orba Road, Obollo-Afor, Enugu State as the contact address of his friend, Friday Ogbujie, who we learnt, donated his kidney to Dr. Obinna Obeta.
Travelling to Mpu and Obollo-Afor was like a chase after the wind. To locate the address at Mpu was quite an uphill task as such address does not exist. From Mpu in Enugu State we drove towards Afikpo, another clan in a different Senatorial zone of Ebonyi State. At a point, some natives told us to drive back to Enugu and begin our journey again. The experience while attempting to locate number 50 Orba Road, Obollor Afor was similar to when we travelled to Mpu. We drove to Old Orba Road and also through the Obollo Afor-Makurdi Road. There was no trace of the address and Friday Ogbujie.
What Nigerian Law Says On Kidney Donation:
An Enugu-based human rights lawyer and President of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo stated that it is illegal to pay someone for a kidney.
In an interview with NewsBits, Omotayo said since the law has ab initio, specified and stipulated the circumstances under which kidney donation could be made, therefore, anything such as payment of any kind would be viewed or interpreted as a breach of the Act.
“Section 48(2)(b), prohibits trafficking in human organs as it states that a tissue , blood or a blood product shall not be removed from the body of another living person for purpose of merchandise, sale, or commercial purposes. And under Section 48(3) it provides punishment for violation as follows:
“In respect of removal of tissue, – a fine of N1, 000,000 or imprisonment of not less than two years or both,” Omotayo said.
But again, Prof. Abugu, while further commenting on punishment for someone who compensates a donor, added: “The law is stringent that a fine of N1million or imprisonment for not less than two years is prescribed, but it does not mean that it must be two years. The court has the discretion to give you life imprisonment or give you twenty years imprisonment, provided the punishment is not less than two years.”