THE Senate has appealed to the Centre for Criminal Court, United Kingdom for clemency in the sentencing of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice.
The plea is coming barely 48 hours before the sentencing of the former Deputy Senate President and his wife.
Last year, Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, were convicted of conspiring to exploit a street trader of his kidney in the first such case under modern slavery laws.
The couple told the court that the organ was for their daughter, Sonia, aged 25.
They were convicted with a verdict expected on May 5.
Intervening in the sentence, the Senate in a motion by the Minority Whip, Chukwuka Utazi, on Wednesday, pleaded for mercy and leniency.
Senator Utazi cited Orders 10 and 11 to seek the leave of the Senate to request clemency on behalf of Ekweremadu and two others.
Utazi said, “Senator Ike Ekweremadu as a former Deputy Senate President for 12 years and the former Speaker of Economic Community Of West African States Parliament and considering the enormous contributions he did make in the development of democracy in Nigeria and West Africa and beyond.
“They are seen as first offenders and they do not have any previous criminal records, considering that Ekweremadu was ignorant of seeking out a kidney donor to come to the United Kingdom and even applying to British Government in Abuja for a visa for the donor.”
He added, “The Senate is not happy with the conviction of the Ekweremadus’ and ignorance of the law is not an excuse, but they were faced with these circumstances in a bid to save their dying daughter Sonia.
“The Senate is joining in the plea by asking for Clemency in the coming sentencing two days away. That Clemency may be extended to the Ekweremadus’ considering that all of the convicts are first offenders.”
Utazi noted that since the matter was in the United Kingdom, a novel approach to the sentencing of convicts is adopted by “tempering justice with mercy,” as the publicity already given to the trial was enough warning to the would-be offenders in the future.
He noted, “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 to the British government to yield to our request for Clemency for the Ekweremadus’ in their sentencing.”
Similarly, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, buttressed his colleague stating that the Senate had taken a number of steps previously to intervene in the issue.
The Senate then pleaded for clemency.
Lawan said, “Let me reiterate what our colleague here has presented to us. Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu served as Deputy Senate President for 12 years.
“He has brought in so much effort 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-three weeks ago seeking clemency on behalf of the Senate. I signed the letter and have it delivered to the authorities in the United Kingdom.”
Lawan added, “We are now using this particular intervention to seek 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.”
The PUNCH reported that the House of Representatives, ECOWAS Parliament and chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa had also pleaded for leniency in Ekweremadu’s sentencing.
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