In a comprehensive three-month investigation, Daily Trust on Sunday conducted an undercover operation to expose the illicit kidney trade flourishing in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. The black-market price for a kidney is set at one million naira. The investigation unveiled a network of kidney agents strategically positioned in satellite communities, targeting economically disadvantaged young men and enticing them to sell their kidneys. Despite multiple media reports linking hospitals to illegal kidney transplant practices, regulatory bodies such as the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council, and the Ministry of Health have not taken action against these facilities.
As dawn illuminates the vibrant Mararaba community, a bustling satellite town along the Keffi-Abuja highway extending into the Federal Capital Territory, the streets teem with the usual chaos, featuring street vendors, vehicles, and motorcycles. Mararaba, situated in the Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, has become a thriving hub where everything, including human kidneys, is traded on its streets.
In the heart of Mararaba, specifically in Tudun Wada, Aminu Yahuza contemplated suicide in June 2023. A 25-year-old unemployed Nigerian facing financial woes, Aminu approached his 23-year-old cousin, Abbas Yusuf, to connect him with a kidney agent. Abbas, having sold his kidney in June 2022, quickly informed his friend Abdulrahman, an agent, about a new potential ‘donor.’ Aminu’s kidney was harvested at a private hospital in Abuja for one million naira. However, he later fell victim to deceit, losing half of the payment to fraudulent friends. Aminu, grappling with the loss of his kidney and financial troubles, considered suicide.
Abbas Yusuf, Aminu’s cousin, had previously sold his kidney for 1.2 million naira, the highest amount among his peers. He, along with his friends Abdulrahman and Habib, who had also sold a kidney each, were part of a group of local kidney agents recruited by a Lagos-based broker. Their mission was to target and entice young individuals from economically challenged backgrounds into selling their kidneys.
Daily Trust on Sunday’s investigation sheds light on a clandestine economy of illegal kidney trade that appears to have thrived for years without public awareness. The report discloses that one million naira is the unofficial cost for a kidney on the black market, and socio-economic challenges in Nigeria are driving many young, able-bodied men to overlook the long-term repercussions and sell their kidneys.
The exposé implicates Alliance Hospital in Garki, Abuja, accusing it of harvesting the kidneys of at least three minors. In August 2023, the story of Oluwatobi Adedoyin, a 16-year-old from Masaka in Karu LGA, surfaced, revealing how he was lured by a friend to sell his kidney for one million naira in three installments. The revelation triggered a series of testimonies from other victims.
Despite the illegality and ethical concerns surrounding organ trafficking, the demand for kidneys is on the rise globally, with less developed countries like Nigeria becoming hotspots for foreigners in need of transplants. The report cites at least 1,353 kidney transplants in Nigeria from 2005 to the present, with over half conducted in a private facility in Abuja.
The absence of a regulatory body overseeing transplant centers in Nigeria creates loopholes for illegal organ trade. Daily Trust on Sunday’s investigation points to a Lagos-based broker, referred to as Mayor, who recruits local agents to scout for vulnerable youths willing to sell their kidneys.
In an undercover operation, posing as a kidney broker, the newspaper exposed the operations of a trusted agent called Chiboy, linked to Mayor. Chiboy negotiated a kidney sale, highlighting the desperation of both donors and agents involved in this illicit trade.
Following the publication of the report, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reportedly arrested Mayor, indicating a potential crackdown on the perpetrators. The investigation also exposes the complicity of the Ministry of Health, which, despite provisions in the National Health Act, lacks a regulatory framework for organ harvesting and transplantation.
With the kidney trade continuing unabated, the report underscores the urgent need for regulatory measures, ethical guidelines, and public awareness to curb this illegal and exploitative practice.