Dr Kelechi Okpalake.
By Ejike Ikezuagu.
The former Imo state Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Kelechi Okpalake has said, the request for the biodata of David Ukpo by Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) may not exculpate the Senator recently charged for human trafficking in the UK court. He maintained that even if the biodata proves that David is 21 years, it is not likely to set Senator Ike Ekweremadu free.
Last Friday in Nigeria, the lawyer to the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and wife, Beatrice told the Federal High Court in Abuja that David Ukpo had offered to donate his kidney to Ike Ekweremadu’s daughter, Miss Sonia Ekweremadu. The lawyer told the court that David Ukpo was not 15 years as claimed, but had allegedly told his client that he was 21 years. He added that Ukpo had also allegedly told the United Kingdom authorities that he was 15 years and that he did not want to return to Nigeria after being asked to do so.
Awomolo SAN was seeking from the court, on behalf of his clients, Ike Ekweremadu and wife, Beatrice for the National Identity Management Commission to release the Certify True Copy of Ukpo’s biodata in order to fast-track the investigation that would prove the innocence of his clients, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice.
There are fears that if Senator Ike Ekweremadu and wife, Beatrice are convicted in the United Kingdom over human trafficking, both the husband and wife are likely to be jailed in the UK. And the information gathered has shown, there may be moves to confiscate his assets and return it to Nigeria if convicted.
The former Commissioner, Dr Kelechi Okpalake in his reaction maintained that, even if the biodata proves that David Ukpo is 21 years, it is not likely to exculpate the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife.
He said, “In common law jurisdictions, all legal technicalities are resolved at the pretrial stage. Once a matter goes to trial, legal technicalities don’t suffice anymore in the guilt or innocence of the accused because a trial is said to be the search for the truth. Any exculpatory evidence is decided upon at the pretrial stage of the case. In essence therefore, the request for the biodata of David Ukpo made by the Ekweremadu’s may not exculpate the former deputy Senate president even if the said biodata proves that the young man is 21years of age”.
He said, the British authorities are in possession of David Ukpo’s International Passport which stated that he is 21 years old. The biodata will only be a confirmatory evidence, if it can be shown that the young man is not 15 years, but the search for the truth may go beyond official document evidence to give the jury all the information needed to make an informed decision, he maintained.
He said, “Since it is presumed that a jury will eventually decide the guilt or innocence of the Ekweremadu’s, official documentary evidence can be interrogated to ascertain their veracity and the jury is allowed to use their common sense uninhibited by technical legal jargon”.
According to him, it may eventually result that the circumstances by which David Ukpo came to volunteer his kidney may be what the case at trial turns on and not the age of the young man. Of course, whether the young man is old enough to enter a legal contract is an issue, but it cannot be a dispositive issue in the case.
Dr Okpalake stated that, the issue of whether David Ukpo was deceived will also be investigated in the trial.
In his statement, he said, just hope that Ike Ekweremadu and wife, Beatrice are not relying on the hope grown senior advocates who see lawyering as blowing grammar while replying on tortured and twisted legal technicalities, he concluded.