Cannibalism: S-Court frees accused 15 yrs after

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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—Fifteen years after he was sentenced to death by hanging, the Supreme Court, Thursday, discharged Mr. Edet Mbang, accused of eating the flesh of one Baba Okoi who was murdered on October 7, 1989.

Mbang and his three alleged accomplices, Obeten Essien, Mbang Mbang and Fidelis Obeten, were said to belong to the Enyim Society, which the prosecution described as “a group whose purpose is to kill human beings, share and eat their meat as a communion ritual.”

The prosecutor said Okoi was murdered and his “human meat” was “butchered” and “shared” by the accused persons.
The quartet were, on June 19, 1997, found guilty and subsequently sentenced to death by a Cross River State High Court, Ugep Division.

The Cross River State Government, which prosecuted the case, told the trial court that the accused persons and the deceased, attended a burial ceremony on the day of the murder where it said the Enyim war dance also called Kojo dance, was performed.

It alleged that Mbang, who was freed by the apex court, yesterday, witnessed and participated in the killing of the victim.
To prove the allegation against them, the prosecution called six witnesses and tendered 17 exhibits before the trial court.

However, at the close of the prosecution’s case, the accused persons made a ‘no case submission’ on the matter, an action that was overruled by the trial High Court on January 15, 1997, even as it ordered them to enter their defence to their alleged acts of barbarism.

Upon concluding hearing on the case, the accused persons were sentenced to death by hanging.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Mbang pleaded the Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal to reverse his death penalty, a suit that was eventually dismissed for want of merit.

However, when the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, it remitted the case-file back to the appellate court for re-trial.

In a unanimous decision of the appellate court on March 16, 2006, it also dismissed the appeal, just as it affirmed the verdict of the lower court.

Not satisfied with the proceedings of the appellate court, Mbang filed a Notice of Appeal before the Supreme Court on June 12, 2006.

Canvassing reasons why the death penalty should not stand, counsel to the accused person, Mr Adekunle Oyesanya, argued that though his client participated in the ‘flesh eating ritual’, he said the victim had already died before Mbang had contact with his body.

He cited a confessional statement of the appellant where he stated that he was invited by one of the accused persons, Onowa Onen to his house that he had a meat to share only to discover that the meat was the body of a man without the head.

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