• Trial set for Jan 31
• Prosecutors can’t hold him beyond Dec 22
Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, will remain under lock and key at His Majesty’s Prison, where he’s being kept, till at least over a month more, before any chances of becoming a free man again.
This is because the ‘conspiracy’ case of allegations to procure organ against him was moved to December 16, after Monday’s plea and trial preparation hearing at the Central Criminal Court – Old Bailey.
Ekweremadu, who is being charged alongside his wife, Beatrice, their daughter, Sonia, and Dr. Obinna Obeta, didn’t get to appear via video link before the brief hearing that started at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 6 ended.
Though arrangements were in progress for him to appear virtually and the prison security guards were already setting up, this was subsequently put on hold before the judge adjourned and rose, having heard from both the Crown prosecutor and the defence.
However, Sonia and her mother were in the dock. Ekweremadu’s son (alongside two of his friends) was in the public gallery to watch the case against his parents and sister.
A representative of the Nigerian High Commission also came to court, and so also was the senator’s long-term friend, who identified himself as Obum.
“I flew in from Nigerian for this case and will be going back in a few days,” Obum told The Guardian after the hearing. How soon or how much longer the senator will stay behind bars should become clear by the time of the December 16 hearing, as that is when the legal wrangling will begin.
But before then, the defence would have submitted their ‘skeleton’ arguments to both the court and the prosecution, latest on November 25, as mandated during the hearing.
The prosecution too must respond in like manner by December 12. The case will proceed to trial based on the outcome of the hearing on December 16.
When The Guardian asked a lawyer, Chinedu A. Okoye, about the significance of the next hearing and if it was going to be equally brief. He said: “The outcome will depend on whether the case goes to trial on January 31.
“The defence may have strong arguments to support their case, and if the Judge feels the prosecution can’t get a conviction, the case will be thrown out.”
Shedding more light on the case, he said: “This is a case of conspiracy” to facilitate “organ procurement. Harvesting has not been committed. They have not actually committed the crime.”
When asked if bail application could be on the cards on December 16, Okoye disclosed: “The pre-trial detention will expire on December 22. So, if the prosecution wants to keep him longer, they need to reapply for permission to extend the pre-trial detention to keep him in prison.”
After the hearing, Mrs. Ekweremadu and Sonia hurriedly made their way outside the Old Bailey and stood at the side entrance before well wishers came to greet them.
A source revealed that Mrs. Ekweremadu reports to a “nearby police station where she stays thrice a week as part of her bail condition.”
Sonia, it was gathered, was dragged into the case as co-defendant “the upper Thursday,” October 27. Speaking further, Okoye noted: “If the case proceeds to trial, it’s going to be a jury trial and the court will need to find a judge who will take the case.”