By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Whereas an alleged cannibal confessed during the hearing of the case against him at the lower court, the Supreme Court set him free of the charge of murder.
“Yes, I ate the flesh of the deceased though I did not participate in the killing”, the alleged cannibal, Mr. Edet Obeten Mbang, was quoted as telling a Cross River State High Court, Ugep Divison.
That was 15 years ago.
It was on the basis of the confession that the High Court sentenced him and three other persons to death.But Mbang appealed.
The Supreme Court acquitted him on Thursday.
The victim, Baba Okoi, was murdered and the flesh allegedly eaten by the quartet on October 7, 1989.
The three others convicted by the High Court were Obeten Leko Essien, Mbang Efoli Mbang and Fidelis Onen Obeten.
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 by the High Court and okayed for the hang-man.
The prosecution had told the 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 witnessed and participated in the killing of the victim.
To prove the allegation, the prosecution called six witnesses and tendered 17-exhibits at the court.
The accused persons made a ‘no case submission’ on the matter, an action that was overruled by the High Court on January 15, 1997.
Upon concluding hearing on the case, the accused persons were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Mbang pleaded the Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal to reverse his death penalty, a suit that was 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’, the victim had already died before Mbang had contact with his body.
Delivering judgment on the appeal on Thursday, the apex court agreed with the appellant’s counsel that Mbang was not guilty of the offence as charged even though he participated in the eating of the deceased. Consequently, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who read the lead judgment, discharged and acquitted the accused person.