A growing black market for organ donation, harvesting, and transplantation has raised concerns among Nigerians, with reports of unauthorized organ removals from individuals, primarily for commercial purposes. The situation has escalated in recent years, prompting fears over the unregulated state of organ transplantation in Nigeria.
The most frequently harvested organs include kidneys, which are in high demand due to their survival rates. The surge in organ trafficking cases came to the forefront when former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, was sentenced to prison in the UK for his involvement in a kidney trafficking plot. In March this year, Ekweremadu, along with his wife and Dr. Obinna Obeta, were convicted for orchestrating the trafficking of a kidney for Ekweremadu’s ailing daughter.
Illegal organ harvesting in Nigeria often involves compulsion, fraud, or the abduction and exploitation of vulnerable individuals, particularly those in poverty or marginalized groups. For instance, Chimaobi Eric Nwoko, a 42-year-old mechanic, alleged he was deceived into donating his kidney under the promise of a $20 million reward, a house in the United States, and a job.
Chimaobi’s story reflects a broader issue in Nigeria. Lack of regulation, enforcement of medical ethics, poverty, inequality, and unscrupulous medical practitioners are cited as facilitators of organ harvesting.
Dr. Amisu Mumuni, Chairman of the Medical Consultants Association of Nigeria at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), highlighted the absence of regulatory oversight in organ transplantation in Nigeria. He noted that efforts are underway to establish an organ harvest transplantation department in the Lagos State Ministry of Health, a significant step towards regulating organ transplantation.
According to Dr. Usha Anenga, Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association in Benue State, poverty is a driving force behind illegal organ harvesting. He stressed the need for unified guidelines addressing organ donation in Nigeria and urged the government to consult experts to develop a comprehensive policy for organ donation.
The alarming rise of illegal organ trade in Nigeria has spurred calls for stringent regulations and public awareness campaigns to protect individuals from exploitation and ensure ethical and lawful organ transplantation.