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The story of Otokoto money ritualists

THE STORY OF OTOKOTO MONEY RITUAL KILLINGS OF 1996

Before it was razed down, the Otokoto Hotel was owned by Chief Vincent Duru, the father of Obidiozor Duru, the leader of the Black Scorpions secret cult that was responsible for robberies and kidnapping of children in the state.

The Otokoto Hotel was located in an upscale area of Owerri, specifically the Amakohia side, and it was a favourite location for the rich and wealthy youths to meet, drink and have all manners of fun.

The people of Owerri were already very mad at the extremely powerful and obscenely wealthy individuals in the state. These people were highly-connected and oppressed everyone where they went. Rumours of their evil dealings and even the possibility of ritual murders and killings were rife, but no one really had any hard evidence to indict them. These insanely wealthy people had no real tangible or easily traceable sources of wealth kept, but they kept on living large and instilling an atmosphere of terror and fear on the Owerri populace.

Before the riots broke out, the youthful members of the Otokoto gang & other secret societies (believed to be offshoots of campus secret cults) involved in ritual killings went everywhere oppressing others with their ill-gotten wealth and making other hardworking youths look clueless & silly.

On 19th September 1996, in the city of Owerri Imo State, an innocent 11-year-old boy named Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo was murdered for Ritual purposes.

The little boy was hawking boiled groundnuts, which was his daily routine. He strolled along, selling his groundnuts for peanuts to whoever wanted to buy.

Innocent Ekeanyanwu (32yrs) holding the head of little Ikechukwu Okonkwo

When he got to Amakohia area of Owerri a man beckoned on him. The name of that man Innocent Ekeanyanwu, aged 32. The boy was called into the famous Otokoto Hotel. While waiting, he was given a bottle of Coca-Cola to cool off. As he was sipping the Coca-Cola, he dozed off, never to wake up again. His drink has been spiked. Innocent Ekeanyanwu took the limp body of the drugged boy into one of the hotel rooms, fish out a sharp cutlass and cut off the boy’s head.

After the boy’s head was cut off, he disembowelled his torso, removed his liver and other parts he needed. He packed his head inside a polythene bag and buried his remains.

Innocent Ekeanyanwu then took the polythene bag containing the boy’s head and headed for the house of the man who needed the fresh head. He boarded an okada heading to the residence of a highly-influential figure named Chief Leonard Unaogu at Eziama, Ikeduru Local Council Area. As they were going, the okada man named Opara realized that his passenger was carrying inside a polythene bag was a fresh human head. It was still dripping with blood. When they got to their destination, Innocent alighted. The Okada man alerted the police and they laid an ambush for him.

On getting to the residence of Chief Leonard with the head, he was told that Chief Unaogu had gone to Lagos. So Ekeanyanwu had no other option but to return to Owerri with the boy’s head.

The Police intercepted Innocent on his way back in a Peugeot 504 car. He was carrying the head with him in the polythene bag.

The information got out and the people became irate. When it was time to take the headless body of Ikechukwu to the local mortuary, there was a massive procession and protest by Owerri people. People came out in 1000s to protest the boy’s ritual killing. They stayed around and within the hotel premises, waited for the police to confirm that it was indeed a ritual murder while more were matching and trooping to the scene of the ritual murder as the news was spreading.

The media showed the image of Innocent Ekeanyanwu holding the head of his victim. They did that because they wanted the public to help identify the boy.

All hell broke loose as the enraged people of Owerri went haywire after the image was shown. Owerri residents abandoned their businesses and congregated at the town’s central marketplace. It was there they decided on the next plan of action and outlined their strategies to deal with the Otokotos. Unemployed and disgruntled youths took over the parks and issued threats to the Owerri millionaires.

From Owerri main market, the riots spread. The rampaging crowd first went to the morgue and from there, they rushed to the Otokoto Hotel and burnt it to the ground. From there, they went to the nearby palatial mansion of Chief Vincent Duru, the owner of Otokoto Hotel and destroyed his property, his expensive cars were wrecked and he narrowly escaped lynching.

From there, the crowd split into attack groups and spread out to other sites of the privileged elite and unleashed maximum destruction.

The well-known Piano Plaza and Stores, alongside another hotel, Chibet Hotel, and various businesses linked to the Otokoto and their associates were destroyed.

Any property suspected to belong to the ’Otokoto men’ were set ablaze, from posh hotels to luxury supermarkets, their flashy automobiles, palatial mansions, everything was destroyed and burnt to the ground. Any suspected member of the Otokoto gang was lynched.

Chief Francis Duru aka Otokoto

From there, they rushed to the palace of the traditional ruler and chairman of the state council of traditional rulers, Eze Onu Egwu Nwoke burnt down his residence, his cars and his filling station.

The crowd went after former Imo State officials. These officials were targeted because of what was described as their alleged unwillingness to properly tackle several cases of ritual murder, kidnapping and robbery while in office.

The angry rioters only agreed to calm down when the Imo State military administrator, Colonel Tanko Zubairu, assured them that a full, state-level investigation of the incident was going to be launched.

Following the arrest of Ekeanyanwu, he was remanded in police custody while awaiting trial. But while he was in the police custody, he died of food poisoning 4 days after his arrest. But unfortunately for the ritualists, Ekeanyanwu confessed and mentioned Leonard Unaogu as the brain behind the ritual killing syndicate before he was poisoned to death.

He confessed that the ritual killing ring was a well-organized machine that specialized in the harvesting of human body parts and sold them to those interested in using them for rituals.

Confessional statements revealed that no one was spared at the Otokoto Hotel. Innocent guests and unsuspecting travellers who lodged at the hotel were drugged or attacked in the middle of their sleep and hacked to death after which they were cut into pieces for sale.

Police officers who swooped upon the hotel discovered not only the shallow grave containing that of the little boy but also graves containing other victims with their decomposing and dismembered corpses.

The man that Ekeanyanwu mentioned before he was poisoned to death, Leonard Unaogu, was a business tycoon. He was the younger brother to Laz Unaogu, a serving minister under Abacha. He was eventually arrested by the police.

When the police arrested Unaogu, he said that he never knew anyone called Innocent Ekeanyanwu and that he was not even in Owerri when the crime was committed, saying he was in Lagos.

The trial started on the 9th of December, 1996, with Hillary Ngozi Opara as the first prosecution witness.

Nine people testified before Justice S.O Ekpe, who took over from Justice Gabriel Ojiako, the retired chief judge of Imo State, during the trial. The court also admitted the confessional statement of Innocent Ekeanyanwu.

Margaret Acholonu, a receptionist at the hotel, stated that two spots were dug at the hotel premises and it was from the second one that the body of Okoronkwo was exhumed. She also implicated Chief Duru.

She also said that on that fateful day, she saw Ekeanyanwu with a black bag and he told her he was going to his village at Eziama.
A sergeant, Sunday Onwucheka, told the court he was in the office when Ekeanyanwu was arrested with a fresh human head of the innocent boy.
According to Onwucheka, before the police took Ekeanyanwu to Otokoto Hotel, the crime scene, he confessed to killing the boy at Mba River in Ikeduru and dumped the body inside the river. The police followed him there but found nothing. So, at about 7:00 pm on the 20th of September, they returned to Owerri with him.

The following Monday, they continued with their investigation and took him to Otokoto Hotel where the headless body of the boy had already been identified before the police team arrived.

On 20th August 1997, a senior magistrate court in Owerri docked 10 police officers for the murder of Ekeanyanwu. They were: Ifeanyi Anozie; an Assistant Commissioner of Police; Chukwu Obasi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police; Kevin Ezirim, Christian Nnazi, Clifford Odiaka, Felix Nnorom, Christopher Aguobi, Ignatius Igwe, James Ibezere, Josephat Nwosu.

The case went on till 14th October 1997, over a year, and after series of adjournments, absence of lawyers, the Presiding Judge, suspects or even the retirement of judges or their transfer etc.

When the case finally resumed, many were pissed off. Leonard Unaogu, the minister’s brother, was transported in a new station wagon from the prison to the court like a royalty. Vincent Duru and other suspects were brought in a Black Maria from prison to the court, with handcuffs. Duru protested the preferential treatment given to Unaogu.

Many judges handled the case. First, it was Gabriel Ojiaku, then Simeon Ekpe who was almost done with the prosecution until he was elevated to Court of Appeal and then Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme.

Chief Vincent Duru; the owner of the Otokoto Hotel and Chief Leonard Unaogu denied knowing each other, but Justice Nwosu-Iheme said that was a lie.

justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu

Then finally on 28th April 1999, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme sentenced seven suspects to death by hanging; Chief Vincent Duru and Chief Leonard Unaogu inclusive.

After judgment, the convicts all moved to the Port Harcourt Prisons in the middle of February 2003 pending their execution.

Chief Vincent Duru appealed the sentence in 2012, but the sentence was upheld by the Appeal Court.

Leonard Unaogu died some years later at the Port Harcourt Prisons in what has been described as very mysterious circumstances.

Chief Vincent Duru was reportedly hanged. His execution took place on Sunday, November 13, 2016. This was 13 years after his 2003 conviction. This was after the government approved the execution warrant.

OBIDIOZOR DURU
Obidiozor Duru is the first son of Chief Vincent Duru and the leader of The Black Scorpion cult in Owerri.

Prior to the case of the 11-year-old Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo, several children had disappeared in Owerri, never to be found to date. Some were kidnapped and their wealthy parents will pay a ransom.

It was so serious that in May 1995, the daughter of Dr Okoh, a Physician in the city was kidnapped by the Black Scorpions and they asked the doctor to pay $12,000 before the girl will be released.

Eventually, the Police stormed the hideout of the Black Scorpions and months later, the leader of the cult, Obidiozor Duru and Amanze Onuoha, were both arrested.

They were brought before the Imo State Robbery and Firearms Tribunal on the charges of armed robbery, a capital offence.

Businessman and politician Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu were also mentioned in the saga but he denied ever knowing anything about the case.

Duru and Onuoha were treated like royalties in the prisoner rather than criminals awaiting the death penalty. They got the most liberal visiting privileges, ate food cooked and brought from their homes. They were like lords and Duru (a PhD holder in psychology from California State University) even impregnated one of his female Jailers and did a ‘traditional wedding’ with her before he completed his case.

And while they were incarcerated, the rate of child kidnappings in Imo dropped drastically.

In 1997, six people were executed by a firing squad following a judgement by Justice Emmanuel Nnodim. One of those killed was Obidiozor, the son of Chief Vincent Duru, leader of Black Scorpion Cult.

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