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UK COURT DENIES EKWEREMADU, WIFE BAIL OVER CHILD TRAFFICKING, ORGAN HARVESTING

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Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu,

• UK authorities yet to inform us on Ekweremadu’s case, says NAPTIP • MASSOB: We are ashamed of his action

Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, alongside his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, were, yesterday, denied bail and remanded in custody by a United Kingdom court over allegation bordering on organ trafficking and harvesting. Organ harvesting involves removing parts of the body, often, for commercial gain and against the victim’s will.

The UK Metropolitan Police formally charged Ekweremadu and his wife with conspiracy to facilitate the travel of another person for organ harvesting in the UK.

The two were arrested and charged over their plan to bring a child into the UK to allegedly harvest the said child’s organs.

The charges involve arranging or facilitating travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting, according to a Met statement, yesterday.

The victim, whose travel was facilitated to UK by the suspects, was said to be a homeless 15-year-old boy picked from the streets of Lagos under false pretense. The statement added that the investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.

The BBC reported that when the suspects appeared at the Uxbridge magistrates court in West London and were asked by the clerk for their address, they both replied: “Nigeria”.

The case has been adjourned to July 7 while Ekweremadu and his wife will remain in custody after their bail applications were denied.

Police, however, said the child has been safeguarded but did not disclose the gender or the age of the child or the location of the arrests.

Unconfirmed report, however, had it that the duo has a child that needs kidney transplant, but the couple did not follow due process in transporting the victim to the UK to donate his kidney for the sick child.

Another report suggested that the Senator, who represents Enugu West Senatorial zone, having found a willing donor made travel preparations for the unnamed person and wrote to the British High Commission explaining the situation.

“The donor travelled to the UK with the patient (Ekweremadu’s daughter) but the organ did not match. Not wanting to return to Nigeria, the donor went to report that he was trafficked to London for possible organ harvest, believing same would guarantee him asylum,” Ikem Okuhu, a journalist and public relations expert explained.

THE National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has disclosed that UK authorities are yet to inform them about the former Deputy Senate President and his wife’s alleged organ harvest case. A top source in the agency who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that the UK authorities were yet to inform them about it.

However, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has expressed delight over the arrest and detention of the Senator and his wife in London.

Reacting, MASSOB said Ekweremadu is suffering from the sabotage campaign he is leading against national justice and Peter Obi emerging as the next president of Nigeria.

Shock and disbelief trailed the news of the arrests and detention of Ekweremadu and his wife. The latest ordeal of the lawmaker, who recently lost the bid to fly the governorship flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu, took the centre stage for discussions, yesterday, even as efforts to get official reaction on the matter failed.

His aides chose to maintain sealed lips on the development. Uche Anichukwu, his media aide, failed to respond to several calls put to his mobile number yesterday, but one of his supporters, spotted around his residence on Independence layout, Enugu, described the development as ‘tragic’.

He told The Guardian on condition of anonymity: “This world is strange. A lot has happened to our boss in recent times but I know he will be vindicated.”

Also, Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, who described the story as ‘strange’, called for thorough investigation of the matter.

Uwazurike, who further stated that the lawmaker and his wife are presumed innocent until proven guilty, added, “they may be helping the young boy in his bid to escape since they were arrested at the airport. What I cannot fathom is how organ harvest is attached to it. It is not a good story. It is a destructive story that will take time to be forgotten. It is damaging.

“Unfortunately, it is about two years since the first incident happened in Germany. That is why I have called for a thorough investigation, so as to unravel the truth and not to give a dog a bad name to hang it.”

THE GUARDIAN

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GOOD LEADERS AREN’T APPRECIATED UNTIL THEY LEAVE OFFICE, OSHIOMHOLE EULOGISES JONATHAN

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Former President, Goodluck Jonathan and the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole

The former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, has said that Nigerians don’t appreciate good leaders until they leave office, noting that former President Goodluck Jonathan left enviable legacies behind.

The ex-national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) confessed that he fought former President Jonathan out of office due to their differences in political interests.

He stated this at the one-year memorial lecture in honour of late Captain Hosa Okunbo, in Abuja today.

Oshiomhole said: “You (Jonathan) left legacies even though that I had cause to fight because it is politics. The legacy you have left, there is no successor who can afford to do less.

“But the logic of multi-party democracy is that even an angel can be defeated. You have set a standard that none of your successors can afford to go below.

“Part of your (Jonathan) legacies was when you launched the almajiri school and your thought was that no Nigerian child should be left on the street and also appropriated special funds.

“These ideas are not new but what we lack is the will to transform it to practice. We never know who are our friends until when we are no more.

“No one is appreciated until he or she leaves office,” he said.

Other speakers at the event were Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwase III decried the glorification of stomach infrastructure in Nigeria’s political culture, among others.

They described the late Captain Hosa Okunbo as a man with a large heart, the spirit of philanthropy and ardent love for the needy.

According to them, one of his legacies that will continue to endure is that he nurtured and mentored many to become responsible members of the society.

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RISING COST OF LIVING: SOUTHERN, NORTHERN, M-BELT ELDERS RAISE THE ALARM

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Elders and leaders of the various socio-cultural organisations across the country have raised the alarm that Nigeria seems to be on a precipice, warning that unless the challenges are tackled immediately, the country might witness an economic disaster pretty soon.

Leaders of different groups from the North, South and Middle Belt, including Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), have warned President Muhammadu Buhari and other officials of the administration to address the current challenges head-on and save the country from collapse.

In the past few weeks, the nation has been bedevilled by a number of economic adversities beyond the security challenges afflicting virtually all parts of the country. The national currency, the naira, has suffered a hefty fall, while the nation’s foreign reserves have massively depleted. The debt figures have continued to soar. The aviation sector has continued to record assorted challenges, leading to cancellation and rescheduling of flights. A number of domestic airlines have announced the suspension of their operations. The high cost of diesel has led to some companies closing down and throwing workers into the labour market. The soaring prices of foodstuff have led to many families going to bed with empty stomachs.

In exclusive interviews with Saturday Sun, many of the socio-cultural organisations cried out that the country is on the precipice, and travelling on the road to a failed state.

Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Jare Ajayi, said the situations that unfolded in Nigeria in the past few weeks have further confirmed that those piloting the affairs of Nigeria currently are far from the realities that Nigerians are dealing with on an hourly basis. “It is therefore not surprising that steps being taken do not touch the problems confronting us as a nation, and that is why the country is grinding to a halt.”

Acting spokesman for the ACF, Shuaibu Lili, said the situation in Nigeria is really unfortunate. Hear him: “Let me talk on behalf of the Northern Region, which is the food basket of the nation. How do you expect a farmer who bought a bag of fertilizer for N5, 900 last year to buy it for N22, 000 this year? So, what can he produce? And even if he produced, where are the factories? The factories are mainly in the South, in places like Agbara in Ogun State. What will you give them to manufacture. No, no, the problem is too much for Nigerians. To be precise, mayhem may soon take place in this country.”

Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnaya, pointed that what is happening are the consequences of nepotism. His words: “Any place where appointment is made based on ethnicity and religion as against competence, it is always like this. What keeps these advanced countries going is that they look at merit, the accomplishment of an individual before they appoint a person into a position of authority.

“Take the service chiefs as example. It is difficult to contain the level of insecurity in this country because most of them don’t have the pedigree in the area of security; almost all of them come from the same ethnic groups and religion. There is no way under this kind of arrangement that Nigeria will not come to a halt. Activities of government that are supposed to be moving clockwise are now moving anti clockwise.”

Also speaking, Publicity Secretary of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman noted: “We have said it earlier that we are not in a failing state, but in a failed state. A state that has lost control of its economy, lost control of its land borders, highways, seaways and airports; it is certainly a failed state. You can see these since the coming to power of Buhari and these things have escalated to the level where people find it hard to eke out a living.

President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof Benjamin Okada lamented: “If you do a comparison between 2015 on the status of the Nigerian economy and what we have gone through in the last seven years, you know that we are on the fast lane of approaching not just the precipice of a failure, but of disintegration. It is not just the economy, though the economy is the foundation upon which other infrastructure, politics, social issues, religion, etc. rest. The economy is on a decline in a dastardly manner; that is why you see today the naira is climbing to as much as N710 to a dollar, which was about N190 in 2015. The prices of foodstuffs have quadrupled, and life in Nigeria is becoming meaningless. It is not a surprise that the Senate itself is contemplating the process of impeachment of Mr President. The universities teachers are on strike over poor infrastructure in the institutions of learning and the government says it doesn’t have money to do anything, but it is going ahead to take toxic loans; loans that impact only the pockets of the few. “The indices of a failed state are so demonstrated. If radical steps are not taken, in the nearest future, it will very difficult even to predict if there will be election in 2023.” The National President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu said Nigeria was grinding to a halt, even as he expressed fear that things could get worse with Boko Haram and other insurgents getting bolder.

“This government has failed economically and failed in the security sector. Without security, there can never be economic development.

“So far, there is total collapse of governance and we are running as if it is not a country at all; we are running on auto pilot.  Things have to change. Remember, all the short periods when the president left this country because of ill health, anytime the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took over for that short period, there was a marked difference because he did the right thing when needed,” Pogu stated.

PANDEF President, Sen. Emmanuel Ibok Essien, noted that places like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Syria, Afghanistan and many others started with insecurity, inflation and then hyperinflation and at the end of the day, they became failed states.

“I pray that Nigeria will not travel that road. How can the dollar rise to N710 in the parallel market? That is unimaginable. How can petrol go up to N200 per litre when we are producing the oil? As there is no road for anybody to travel, people resorted to air travel and now airlines are closing down. It means that people will not be able to move around in the country.

“The present government is driving this country into a failed stated. Sometimes they think that it is the ordinary people that would be affected by the things going on in the country. But what is going on may wipe out even the elite.”

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AUTHOR SALMAN RUSHDIE ON VENTILATOR AFTER ATTACK IN NEW YORK

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Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, US [Joshua Goodman/AP Photo]

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and abdomen as he was being introduced to the audience at a literary event.

Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, has been stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in southwestern New York state.

Police confirmed Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” on Friday after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer just as he was being introduced to the audience.

After being airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak on Friday evening.

“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to the Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.

Major Eugene Staniszewski of New York state police told reporters on Friday afternoon that officials do not have “any indication of a motive” at this “very early” stage of the investigation. They said they believed that Matar was acting alone.

Portrait of writer Salman Rushdie
Rushdie won the Booker Prize for his 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, but became widely known after the publication of The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous [File: Rogelio V Solis/AP Photo]

Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told The Associated Press news agency that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.

“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.

“A man jumped up on the stage from I don’t know where and started what looked like beating him on the chest, repeated fist strokes into his chest and neck,” said Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience. “People were screaming and crying out and gasping.”

Stunned attendees helped pull the man off Rushdie, who had fallen to the floor. A New York state police trooper providing security at the event arrested the attacker, while a doctor in the audience helped look after Rushdie until emergency services arrived.

Life in hiding

Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in Iran and some other countries, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. In 1989, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran’s government has since distanced itself from the decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered.

“The fatwa belongs to the Ayatollah and cannot be rescinded by the state according to Iranian practice,” Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told Al Jazeera. “They [Iran] took this distance from it as part of a pre-condition for the Iranians and the UK to restore diplomatic relations. Ever since, the threat picture against Salman Rushdie seems to have reduced significantly, but clearly not enough.”

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation had increased the amount on offer for the writer’s killing from $2.8m to $3.3m.

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the money and published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about his ordeal. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.

Rushdie rose to prominence in 1981 when his second novel Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize, but it was with the publication of The Satanic Verses that his name became known around the world.

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed
Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York [Twitter@HoratioGates3 /via Reuters]

The Chautauqua Institution, about 90km (55 miles) southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series.

Rushdie, who started out in advertising, has published more than a dozen books and spoken at Chautauqua before. He had been scheduled to talk about the United States giving asylum to artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression”, according to the institution’s website. His new novel Victory City is due to be published in February.

The author, who currently lives in the US, had lived under police protection because of threats to his life. The United Kingdom awarded him a knighthood in 2007, which sparked protest in several countries in the Muslim world.

Writers, advocacy groups and politicians in the US and Europe condemned Friday’s attack and defended freedom of speech.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Rushdie was stabbed “while exercising a right we should never cease to defend”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal.”

Pen America, a writers’ association that promotes freedom of expression, which Rushdie once led, described the assault as a “premeditated attack”.

“PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York,” the group’s CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.

“We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.”

Law enforcement officers detain Hadi Matar, 24 and take him to a police car outside the Chautauqua Institution
Law enforcement officers take suspect Hadi Matar, 24, to a police car after the attack on Rushdie. Matar was tackled by members of the audience who rushed onto the stage [Charles Fox via AP Photo]

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who represents New York, called the assault on Rushdie an “appalling” attack on “freedom of speech and thought”.

“I hope Mr. Rushdie quickly and fully recovers and the perpetrator experiences full accountability and justice,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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