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Court Acquits Principal, Others, Adjudicates On FCFA 60.5million Civil Claim 

By Maxcel Fokwen & Isidore Abah

To the Counsel for the accused, justice was served

To the Counsel for the accused, justice was served

The Buea Magistrate Court on Tuesday, October 4, acquitted the Principal of Baptist High School Buea, Pete rNke and three others accused of unintentionally causing the death of Christantus Onye Okorie on March 9, 2014.

Delivering the judgment after over two years of legal battle, Justice David Dimu Dacko, said the accused were freed on the benefit of doubt.

The Judge said the court adjudicated itself incompetent to pass a ruling on a civil claim of FCFA 60.5millionfrom the civil party. According to the ruling, the other party has 10 days to appeal, if they are not satisfied with the verdict.

Inferring from the submissions of both parties in the case, Justice Dimu upheld that around 4:00am on March 9, 2014, Okorie was found on the campus of Baptist High School Buea.

He further stated that the Principal who was the first accused and others did visit the scene of the event.

The Judge deduced that there was screaming from the students’ hostel where Okorie’s presence raised eye brows and that instead of taking the deceased to the administrative block as the Principal had requested, Okorie was instead taken to the boys dormitory of the school.

Justice Dimu retained the fact that,throughout the trial, no student was arrested in connection with the death of the deceased; “investigating police officers did not go down to the students to find out what happened to Okorie on campus, and the Principal was not given time to do his findings”.

He also said there was no doubt that, all those who appeared at the scene of the event failed to inform the police about the incident, which according to the Judge, is punishable by law.

Justice Dimu also extrapolated that the gendarmerie station is some 200 meters from BHS Buea.

Revisiting the submissions made by both parties, he said there was no doubt that Okorie was a regular visitor to the school; that, he usually visited his girlfriend at the school among others before delivering the verdict.

Speaking to The Post shortly after the ruling, the Counsel for the accused persons and third defendants (Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC),Barrister Elias Dang Aleh, said it was a fair judgement.

On the clause of benefit of doubt on the acquittal, Barrister Aleh said, the rule comes to force when certain things are not clear to the mind of Judge.

Barrister Aleh said the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC, makes provision to the fact that, in case of any benefit of doubt, the benefit goes to the accused.

On the adjudication concerning the FCFA 60.5million civil claim, the Counsel invoked the provisions of the CPC.

“The CPC provides that, when a court finds the accused not guilty, it should automatically declare itself incompetent to continue to hear or say anything on the civil claim,’’ Barrister Aleh stated.

It would be recalled that, on March 9, 2014, news broke of the beating to death of a young Nigerian on the Campus of BHS Buea by the students of the institution.

Investigators later identified the young man as Christantus Onye Okorie, who was caught in the girls’ dormitory of the school.

The enraged students, who had been suffering from repeated attacks, pounced on Okorie and gave him the beating of his life.

He was confirmed death at the Buea Regional Hospital the following day.

Following the incident, the Principal of the School,Peter Nke, and some teachers were arrested and thrown behind bars pending investigations.

The deceased elder brother, Louis Okorie and the girlfriend, Stephanie Bessem, swore to seek justice for the death of Christantus Onye.

The duo engaged a legal action at the Buea Magistrates Court with the Principal of the School, some teachers and the CBC, claiming FCFA 60.5 million as damages.

The legal tug-of-war that has been on-going for more than two years was finally put to rest on October 4, after Justice Dimu’s verdict.

Augments tendered in court indicate that, the CBC supported the family of Okorie with FCFA 500,000 during his burial.

Okorie, it would be recalled, was of Nigerian extraction, but grew up in Cameroon.

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