Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, were on Thursday found guilty of “conspiracy to facilitate and arrange travel with the aim of exploitation,” by an Old Bailey jury.
However, Sonia their daughter was found not guilty. Fourth defendant, Dr Obinna Obeta was also found guilty with the couple.
All three will be “provisionally sentenced on May 5,” the judge disclosed, shortly after the verdicts.
Despite not being convicted, Sonia sobbed uncontrollably in the dock, after hearing her parents’ convictions. Her mother sobbed as well, but she wiped her tears and stopped, as the court was still in session. Sonia continued crying. The Senator sat back in his chair and didn’t immediately show any emotion.
After the judge had discharged the jury and the court had ended, Ekweremadu then went and put his arms around his daughter and wife. All three embraced for about a minute. Sonia continued crying. Her mother removed her cream woolen hat and gave it to her. The Senator had a brief chat with his wife, and when he later looked up to wave at his sons and family and friends, he too had a tear in his eyes. Ekweremadu and his wife were later led out of the dock by security guards.
In the public gallery, tears also flowed freely from two female family members. Though the Senator’s two sons looked dejected and shocked as the guilty verdicts were announced, both kept their emotions tight.
Afterward, family and friends rallied round them outside the court and asked them to “stay strong.” Sonia was still in tears outside court, but was soon escorted away by family and friends. Her barrister, John Femi Ola, KC, had a tear in his eyes outside the court as he hugged one of the Senator’s sons.
Though all friends and family had been eagerly waiting for the trial to come to a conclusive end, none expected it to be very early on Thursday.
The day unfolded less than an hour after the 12 jurors resumed their deliberations in the jury room soon after 10:00am. At about 10:47 (UK time), one of the security guards outside the four courtrooms on the second floor informed that “there’s a verdict in court 5.” Prior to then, there had been an announcement over the public address system that “all the parties in the Ekweremadu’s case should be in court 5, immediately.” Since the jury was sent out on Monday afternoon, that tone had never been used whenever the jury needed to come back to court.
After family and friends were led into the courtroom, things moved speedily from then. At 10.51, the court usher made the familiar announcement:” jury in court.” All the 12 filed out into courtroom, led by the foreman. The graveyard-like silence was tangible from the moment the court clerk faced the dock and said, could “all the defendants please stand?” All four got on their feet in the dock.
The clerk turned to the jury, saying, “Mr. foreman, please stand. The tall gentleman did the needful. She now asked him, members of the jury, “what is your verdict on the first defendant, Obinna Obeta? He said “guilty.” Continuing, she asked, “members of the jury, what is your verdict on the second defendant, Ike Ekweremadu?” He replied with “guilty.”
She repeated the question again, asking: “what is your verdict regarding Sonia Ekweremadu?” The foreman said: “not guilty.” Finally, the clerk asked the foreman: “what is your verdict concerning Beatrice Ekweremadu?” Foreman said: “guilty.”