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How Organ Harvesting Cartel Lures Youths Abroad To Sell Their Kidneys

When the news broke two weeks ago that former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, had been arrested and taken to court over allegations of luring a minor to the UK with the intent to harvest his kidney, not a few were thrown into utter shock. This is because the embattled deputy senate president has never been a man who indulged in activities considered condescending and unbecoming of a man of his standing. The details of the case are still hazy. While the young man is claiming he was not fully briefed of the Ekweremadu’s intention to harvest this kidney in order to save their ailing their daughter who desperately needs one, and also insists he is minor, fresh facts are beginning to emerge showing that his story may not entirely be true. But while many are still struggling to come to terms with the Ekweremadu saga, the case has brought to the fore the big racket called Organ Harvesting in Lagos and indeed other parts of Nigeria such as Abuja, Port-Harcourt, etc. Unknown to many, it is a business that has been going on in the country for several years now and it involves highly influential Nigerians. It is run by a big Cartel with some rich, influential but scrupulous Nigerians behind it.

Just like what happened in the case of the Ekweremadus, the victim (though he’s claiming he was not aware he was taken to the UK for his organ to be harvested) the agents of the client who needs an organ approach the victim and asks him if he would like to make some really big money. Sometimes they are offered as much as two million naira. Once the victim shows sufficient interest, the agent goes on to tell him he has someone who needs a kidney or any particular organ and he is willing to pay handsomely for it. And once the victim gives the nod, the deal begins and plans will get underway to procure his travelling documents. In some cases, the victim could be tricked into believing there is a company waiting to employ Nigerians abroad and that if he is interested he would be one of the lucky few to get employment at the company. It is an offer too good to be true for any Nigerian to dismiss. But unfortunately, for many, despite the fairly hefty sum of money they are paid for letting go of one of their organs, the story often times do not end well for them.

According to City People investigations, one major area in Lagos where the Cartel has been operating discreetly in Lagos for years now is the Katangua market. It is said that in Katangua, a market known primarily for the sale of second-hand clothes popularly called Okrika, many of the traders there have been lured into the business of selling one of their kidneys to a patient that requires a kidney transplant. They are often desperately looking for finance to boost their business and the hefty proceeds that come from selling their organ is simply too much to resist. Ogor, a trader in Katangua, is one of such victims who sold his kidney after he was convinced the removal of one of his kidneys has no health risk involved. But he was to be struck by ill health months after he’d sold off one of his kidneys.

According to Ogo, he got to Lagos in 2005 and was living in Iyana-Ipaja at the time with four other boys who introduced him to street hawking. From 2005 to 2016, he was into street hawking, getting into all manner of troubles and even went to Kirikiri twice after he was apprehended by KAI for street trading, an act considered unlawful in Lagos. Finally, he was able to raise small capital to starthis own second-hand clothing business in Katangua.

Katangua is mostly known for Okrika but Ogor claimed that those who know the inner workings of the market know where the real money is. He was introduced to the deal. He said: “The guy who introduced me narrated to me how he sold his kidney and invested it in his Okrika business. He also narrated how many traders in the market had gone through a similar process to expand their earnings. At first, I was nervous but when I thought about what lay ahead of me and the fact that there was nobody to lean on, I summoned courage. I later got to know the guy as Paul. He was an agent working for an organ vendor whom I later got to know as Obinna (real name). They both had sold their kidneys, too. Paul took me to Obinna’s house where we had a lengthy discussion. He told me I would be paid N850,000 after the whole exercise. He took me to a diagnostic centre in Oshodi (name withheld) where my kidneys were checked and certified healthy. And the travelling process began.

“I also got to know that Obinna had someone he worked for but I never got to meet him throughout the processing. He contacted someone in India and my travel documents and medical reports were ready within a short period. I was prepared to embark on a journey to sell my kidney to an unknown person in order to add value to my life. I never knew I was on the path of destruction. Obinna instructed me that if the doctors in India ask me any questions, I should tell them that I don’t understand the English language. And true to his instructions, doctors at the hospital in New Delhi asked many questions. They asked me if I was forced to donate my kidney. They asked if I would like to change my mind and other questions. After the questioning session, a young black Nigerian woman was brought in. She lives in India. I was told she would act like my wife and she signed some documents on my behalf. We took pictures together and the doctors recorded us with their camera after this, they embarked on the surgery to remove one of my kidneys. After the surgery, I spent about five months in India to recuperate before I returned to Lagos.

“Truly, I was not forced to sell my kidney but I did it out of poverty and hunger. I regret every step I took on that journey because I have been feeling unwell since I came back from India. When I started having health challenges, I went in search of Obinna at his residence but I was told that he had moved out of the place. He is still in Katangua where he sells Okrika to deceive the people. He lured innocent young Nigerians into the organ-selling business. In fact, he has made many young traders in Katangua sell their kidneys, giving them little amount. Just walk around the market and ask to see their stomachs, you will be surprised at the cut marks you will see on them.”

Ogor is ready to squeal on the organ gang despite the risk to his life because he wants residents of the state to beware of the syndicate. He has this to say about the gang: “Apart from Obinna and his agent, Paul who introduced me to him, I have never met with the main boss. They work with doctors in hospitals across Nigeria. They run a dangerous clique and I know I will be killed if they find out that I have divulged their secrets. These doctors inform them about patients that require kidney transplants and the vendor and his agents scout for donors. They are so highly sought after that there is hardly a week that there won’t be a need for kidneys. It was after I sold mine that I was introduced to other people that had also sold one of theirs’, too. I regret selling my kidney because ever since I did, I have not been stable, health-wise. With a little stress, my heart palpitates faster than normal. At other times, it beats slower than normal and I suffer breathlessness. I cannot engage in hard work. I am no longer fit to engage in any rigorous work since I sold my kidney.

The business I invested the money in collapsed within two months. I spent the bulk of the money on frivolities and on domestic and family issues. That was how I lost everything, including my health. I never knew this is what it would turn out to be because doctors in India warned me that after the surgery, I won’t be able to engage in hard work but for the promised N1million, I felt the money was more important to me at that time. I don’t have hypertension or heart-related illness. I pass excess fluid out of my body through urine but I am unwell.”

Although Ogor was paid just about N1 million for his kidney, findings showed that his link men made huge gains getting him to donate the organ in India. A few years ago, according to an investigation into allegations of live organ harvesting in China, Kidney was going for as high as $62,000 (about N23.8 million at an official rate of N385 to a US dollar) while the sum of $130, 000 was reportedly being offered for a healthy heart, $98,000 for liver and $150,000 for lungs.

Unknown to many, the business of organ harvesting has been flourishing in Nigeria for years now, but it’s only just starting to come to the knowledge of the Law enforcement agencies. For instance, NAPTIP has been making concerted efforts to help Law enforcement agencies bring members of these cartels to book. But it must be said that these efforts by the Law enforcement agencies have had very little effect on the illicit activities of the Organ Harvesting cartels. They have continued their illegitimate businesses unabated and are smiling to the banks making cool money at the expense of their victims like Ogor, who, for possibly for the rest of his days, may have to continue to battle with his ill health. Something has to be done to stop this racket and it has to be fast before we have on our hands a situation where a large chunk of young Nigerian men would be walking around weak and unhealthy, with only one kidney left in their body, having sold the other one for survival.  


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