In the past, children in Igboland were frequently warned to stay wary of head- hunters. Children throughout the pre and post civil war era, even up until the 1990s, were frequently warned that head- hunters lurked around every corner in the forests and farms.
Head- hunters existed and hacked off human heads for ritual purposes, as parents informed their children and even adults.
The reality remained that many people never saw or heard of a child whose head had been severed. To some, the narrative of head- hunters was merely a legend created to keep youngsters at home during the pre and post civil war eras, when it was believed that enemy forces lurked nearby and there was so much hunger that many people would eat other people.
In reality, children frequently vanish and never return. Adults have gone missing and never been found.
In this post, I’ ll walk you through the history of Imo State’ s largest and deadliest ritualist syndicate.
On the 19th of September 1996, an innocent 11- year- old child named Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo was murdered for Ritual, in the city of Owerri, Imo, during the administration of late General Sani Abacha.
THE OTOKOTO MONEY RITUAL KILLING STORY
The innocent child was selling boiling groundnuts, like he did every day.
He walked down the street, selling his groundnuts for peanuts to everyone who was interested.
When he arrived in Owerri’ s Amakohia neighborhood, he was greeted with joy by a client who wanted to patronize little boy.
Innocent Ekeanyanwu, 32, was the name of the ‘ client. ‘
The small groundnut vendor was noticeably excited when he was invited into the famous Otokoto Hotel; because it was a hotel, it meant that the new ‘ customer’ would most likely be buying a lot of groundnuts, which meant more money to carry home to make his parents happy and help his struggling family.
The child was treated like a guest while waiting, and he was handed a bottle of Coca- Cola to help him cool off from the oppressive heat from the heavy sun. He took the Coke innocently and gulped it down.
As he sipped his soft drink and gazed out the window at the hotel’ s gleaming surroundings, he could have envisaged having his own hotel in the future. His vision blurred and the sounds around him got muffled and muted as he dreamed.
He dozed off in a matter of minutes, never to be seen again. His groundnut tray was thrown aside in a corner.
The man who had called him to buy his groundnuts stood at a safe distance, watching the youngster.
He had tainted the boy’ s drink, and when he noticed he was sleeping, he carried the drugged lad’ s limp body into one of the hotel rooms, and what happened next is still one of the most terrible things anyone could ever imagine.
The boy’ s head was chop off from his body by a cutlass that appeared out of nowhere. In a matter of minutes, he was beheaded.
He disemboweled the boy’ s body, withdrew his liver, and other parts he needed after removing his head.
He wrapped his head into a plastic bag and buried his body after slaughtering the youngster and sorting out the organs.
The Butcher, Ekeanyanwu, then took the polythene bag containing the boy’ s head and proceeded to the house of the man who needed the head.
IN WHAT MANNER DID THE INFORMATION GET OUT
After Mr. Innocent Ekeanyanwu (such a name, innocent indeed) murdered the little Okoronkwo, he departed the hotel to deliver the head where it was needed. He then flagged down a biker (Okada rider) to take him to the location.
It was an Okada guy named Opara, whom he stopped to transport to his destination in Eziama, who noticed that his passenger was carrying a fresh human head inside a polythene bag. Blood was still flowing from it.
The Okada man immediately alerted the police when he alighted. The police then intercepted Ekeanyanwu on his way back in a Peugeot 504 car, carrying the head in a polythene bag.
He was headed to the home of a powerful character named Chief Leonard Unaogu in Eziama, Ikeduru Local Council Area, with the head, but when he arrived, he was informed that Mr. Unaogu had left for Lagos.
So Ekeanyanwu had no choice but to bring the boy’ s head back to Owerri.
When it came time to transport Ikechukwu’ s decapitated body to the local mortuary, there was a big procession and protests by Owerri residents. Thousands of people turned out to condemn the youngsters’ ritual slaughter.
They remained on the premises and awaited confirmation from the authorities that it was definitely a ritual murder.
As word of the ritual murder spread, more people matched and flocked to the location.
The local media outlet made its blunder in the midst of this tense situation. They displayed an image of Innocent Ekeanyanwu grasping his victim’ s head.
The media’ s goal was to reassure the public, assuage public fear, ask for public assistance in identifying the boy, and demonstrate official transparency, but what happened next was a disaster.
After the photograph was originally shown on September 24th, all hell broke out as the enraged residents of Owerri went berserk.
Residents of Owerri shut down their businesses and gathered in the town’ s primary marketplace.
They decided on the next course of action and laid out their ideas for dealing with the Otokoto ” headhunters” there.
The news quickly traveled across Owerri, and every family had heard or seen images of Okoronkwo’ s head or shallow grave.
Unemployed and dissatisfied youngsters seized control of the parks and threatened Owerri’ s wealthy.
The riots erupted and expanded from Owerri’ s major market.
The pattern of devastation was well- defined. The enraged throng first went to the mortuary, then hurried to the Otokoto Hotel, where they set fire to it.
They then proceeded to Chief Vincent Duru’ s neighboring magnificent estate, where they trashed his possessions, ruined his expensive automobiles, and nearly evaded Duru himself.
The crowd then separated into attack parties and went off to other privy privileged locations, unleashing maximum havoc.
The well- known Piano Plaza and Stores, as well as another hotel, the Chibet Hotel, and a number of companies associated with the Otokoto and its allies, were completely destroyed.
The property was later taken by the Zubairu- led administration, as recommended by the commission chaired by Justice PC Onumajuru.
They then hurried to the palace of Eze Onu Egwu Nwoke, the traditional ruler and chairman of the state council of traditional rulers (later indicted alongside Aneke and Abure by the panel of inquiry) and set fire to his home and petrol station, as well as the king’ s 15 airconditioners and many of his cars.
They weren’ t finished yet; the crowd’ s ‘ troops’ then proceeded to the homes of former Imo State politicians.
These officials were targeted for ” their alleged unwillingness to appropriately deal with many cases of ritual murder, kidnapping, and robbery while in office, ” according to the report.
The enraged rioters only consented to quiet down after the military administrator (MILAD) informed them that the incident would be investigated thoroughly at the state level.
Ekeanyanwu, the boy’ s killer, was 32 years old and worked as a gardener at the Otokoto Hotel.
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THE HOTEL OTOKOTO
Otokoto Hotel was located in an upscale section of Owerri, notably the Amakohia side, at the time of its existence, and it was a popular hangout for Owerri’ s wealthy teenagers to gather, drink, and have a good time.
Duru’ s hotel consisted of three structures: (3, 5 & 6 Stories each, one behind the other).
It belonged to Chief Vincent Duru, the father of Obidiozor Duru, the leader of the Black Scorpions secret cult, which was responsible for thefts and kidnappings across the state.
THE STORY’ S BACKGROUND
The people of Owerri were already enraged by the unusual actions of some loud, highly powerful, and obscenely wealthy persons in the state before this tragic occurrence. These folks were well- connected, and they persecuted everyone they encountered.
Rumours abounded about their nefarious practices, including the possibility of ritual murders and killings, but no one had any firm evidence yet, and those who did were probably too nervous to say anything.
Whatever the case, these wealthy individuals who lacked truly substantial or clearly identifiable sources of income continued to live lavishly while spreading panic and anxiety in the Owerri community.
At the time, this was how Owerri was described. When the locals learned what had happened to the youngster inside the hotel, Owerri erupted in rage and fury that had been building for years.
The residents of Owerri marched out in their thousands for two days, protesting and rioting.
Even the military administrator of Imo State, Colonel Tanko Zubair, couldn’ t stop them (the former military governor, Navy Captain James Aneke’ s administration was already considered as corrupt, 419- based, and even implicated in the protection of the Otokoto men).
They just ran amok, with national and international media focusing on the Owerri riots of September 24 and 25, 1996, also known as the Otokoto riots, in which the residents decided they had had enough.
From luxurious hotels to luxury supermarkets, their flashy limousines, and sumptuous residences, everything alleged to belong to the ‘ Otokoto men’ was demolished and burned to the ground.
Any suspected Otokoto gang member was lynched.
Prior to the riots, members of the Otokoto gang and other secret societies (believed to be offshoots of campus hidden cults) engaged in ritual killings went around oppressing others with their ill- gotten cash, making other hardworking students look ignorant and foolish.
The people of Owerri had little faith in the police, and the commissioner of police at the time, David Abure, was seen as the incarnation of corruption, who dined with the bad guys.
INVESTIGATING THE PROBLEM
After his arrest, Ekeanyanwu was held in police custody pending his trial. But, while he was in police custody, something magical happened, and he died four days later from food poisoning.
He murdered the youngster on Thursday, and he was discovered dead on Sunday morning.
Fortunately for the interrogators, Ekeanyanwu confessed and named Leonard Unaogu as the mastermind behind the ritual murdering syndicate before he was assassinated.
He admitted that the ritual murdering ring was a well- organized machine that specialized in gathering human body parts and selling them to those who wanted to use them for rituals and other foolishness. He further said that Unaogu gave him the instruction to obtain a human head.
According to reports, the Otokoto saga has been going on since 1976.
No one was spared at the Otokoto Hotel, according to confessional testimonies. Guests and unwary travelers who stayed at the hotel were drugged or attacked in the middle of the night, hacked to death, and then sliced into pieces for sale.
When police raided the motel, they uncovered not only the shallow grave containing the little boy’ s body, but also graves containing the bodies of other victims, who were rotting and dismembered.
Nobody knows how many remains were exhumed at the Otokoto Hotel.
Some were buried in unobtrusive places, such as beneath flowerbeds. Such heinousness, such depravity!
Leonard Unaogu, the man Ekeanyanwu referenced before he was poisoned to death, was a business mogul and he was Laz Unaogu, Abacha’ s younger brother and a serving minister.
The police eventually apprehended Leonard Unaogu.
When the police apprehended Unaogu, he told them he had never met someone named Innocent Ekeanyanwu and that he was not even in Owerri at the time the crime was committed, claiming to be in Lagos.
THE JUDGMENT AND TRIAL
The trial began on December 9, 1996, with Hillary Ngozi Opara serving as the first prosecution witness.
During the trial, nine people testified before Justice S. O Ekpe, who succeeded Justice Gabriel Ojiako, the former chief justice of Imo State.
Innocent Ekeanyanwu’ s confessing declaration was also accepted by the court.
According to Margaret Acholonu, a hotel receptionist, two holes were excavated on the hotel grounds, and Okoronkwo’ s body was exhumed from the second. She also named Chief Duru as a suspect.
She also claimed that she saw Ekeanyanwu with a black suitcase on that fatal day, and he informed her he was going to his village in Eziama.
Sergeant Sunday Onwucheka testified in court that he was at the office when Ekeanyanwu was apprehended with the innocent boy’ s fresh human head.
Before the police escorted Ekeanyanwu to the Otokoto Hotel, the crime scene, he confessed to killing the youngster at Mba River in Ikeduru and dumping his body inside the river, according to Onwucheka. The cops followed the false track to the Mba River, but discovered nothing.
So, on September 20th, about 7: 00 pm, they returned to Owerri. They continued their inquiry the following Monday and led him to the Otokoto Hotel, where the boy’ s decapitated body had already been identified before the police team arrived.
The case dragged on for nearly a year, with numerous adjournments, absence of counsel, the Presiding Judge, suspects, and even the retirement or transfer of judges.
Many people were irritated when the lawsuit was finally restarted.
The minister’ s brother, Leonard Unaogu, was chauffeured from the prison to the court in a brand new station wagon. Vincent Duru and other suspects were handcuffed and transported to the court in a Black Maria.
Duru objected to Unaogu receiving preferential treatment.
The case was heard by a number of judges.
Gabriel Ojiaku was the first to finish the prosecution, followed by Simeon Ekpe, who was almost finished when he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Finally, on April 28, 1999, Justice Chioma Nwosu- Iheme was appointed.
Chioma Nwosu- Iheme, Justice
All seven accused were sentenced to death by her including Chief Vincent Duru, the owner of the Otokoto Hotel, and Unaogu both denied knowing each other, but it was a lie, according to Justice Nwosu- Iheme.
In 2012, he filed an appeal, but he was unlucky because the sentence was upheld by the Appeal Court.
Leonard Unaogu: He died a few years ago in the Port Harcourt Prisons under unknown circumstances.
SECRET CULT OF THE BLACK SCORPION
Following their convictions, the convicts were all transferred to the Port Harcourt Prisons in the middle of February 2003, where they would be executed.
Several children had vanished in Owerri prior to the case of Okoronkwo, never to be discovered.
Some children have been kidnapped, and their wealthy parents have agreed to pay a ransom.
It was so serious that when Dr. Okoh’ s daughter was kidnapped by the Black Scorpions, an elite secret cult, in May 1995, the doctor was requested to pay $12, 000 before the girl was freed.
The police eventually attacked the Black Scorpions’ stronghold, and Obidiozor Duru (who also happens to be the son of Chief Vincent Duru, owner of the Otokoto Hotel) and Amanze Onuoha were both caught months later.
They were charged with armed robbery, a capital offence, before the Imo State Robbery and Firearms Tribunal.
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, a businessman and politician, was also included in the saga, but he denied any involvement in the case.
What followed was nothing short of a farce of justice.
In the prison, Duru and Onuoha were treated more like royals than convicts facing the death penalty.
They were given the most lenient visitation privileges and were allowed to eat food that they had prepared and brought from their homes.
They were treated as lords, and Duru (a psychology Ph. D. from California State University) even impregnated one of his female jailers and married her in the traditional way before completing his case.
And while they were in prison, the number of kidnappings of children in Imo fell dramatically.
Following a ruling by Justice Emmanuel Nnodim, six persons were executed by firing squad in 1997.
Obidiozor, the son of Black Scorpion Cult head Chief Vincent Duru, was among those slaughtered.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO VINCENT DURU?
One of the individuals convicted in the celebrated case of the ritual murder of September 19, 1996 in Owerri, Imo State, Chief Vincent Duru (alias Otokoto) was reportedly executed.
On Sunday, November 13, 2016, he was executed.
It had been 13 years since his conviction in 2003.
This was after the execution warrant had been approved by the authorities.
What Happened To His Personal Property?
During the governorship of Ikedi Ohakim, he attempted to withdraw the police’ s right of occupancy over the confiscated Otokoto properties, but citizens were claimed to have protested.
The Duru family is also claimed to have petitioned Governor Rochas Okorocha over the stolen property, claiming it belonged to the Otokoto Group rather than Duru.
Okorocha swept the subject off in a classy manner.
When the question of returning confiscated property to the Otokoto family comes up, the people of Owerri rise up and protest.