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Recent Kidnapping Spree, a Reenactment of a Gruesome Tale of Horror in 1996



The recent spate of kidnappings and brutal killings reminiscent of historical ritual murders in Eastern Nigeria which has brought back to memory, the chilling events surrounding the Otokoto Hotel ritual killing in Owerri, Imo State. The haunting incident occurred on September 19, 1996, during the regime of late General Sani Abacha, leaving an indelible scar on the city.

On a fateful day, an innocent 11-year-old boy named Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo, who earned his livelihood by hawking boiled groundnuts, met a gruesome end. Invited into the infamous Otokoto Hotel by a man named Innocent Ekeanyanwu, the unsuspecting boy was offered a bottle of Coca-Cola, blissfully unaware of the sinister fate that awaited him.

As young Okoronkwo sipped his soft drink, his vision blurred, and he succumbed to a drugged slumber. What followed was a heinous act that defies humanity – his head was severed from his body, and his organs were harvested. Ekeanyanwu, the perpetrator, then carried the severed head in a polythene bag to the residence of the orchestrator of this macabre ritual, a man named Chief Leonard Unaogu.

The horrifying tale unfolded further when an alert Okada rider, whom Ekeanyanwu had hired to transport him, discovered the grisly contents of the polythene bag – a fresh human head still dripping with blood. The rider promptly reported the shocking discovery to the police, setting off a chain of events that would expose the dark underbelly of the Otokoto Hotel.

In the wake of Okoronkwo’s murder, outraged Owerri residents took to the streets in protest, demanding justice for the innocent boy. The rioting crowd targeted not only the Otokoto Hotel but also the homes and properties of the affluent elite associated with the heinous crime.

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The aftermath of the protests led to the arrest of Ekeanyanwu, who subsequently confessed to his role in the ritual killing. He also implicated Leonard Unaogu as the mastermind behind the gruesome operation, revealing the hotel’s involvement in a well-organized ring specializing in harvesting human body parts for ritual purposes.

However, justice faced numerous obstacles and delays. Ekeanyanwu, while in police custody, mysteriously succumbed to food poisoning, leaving investigators with a poisoned witness. Nevertheless, his earlier confession provided critical information, and Leonard Unaogu was arrested.

The trial of the suspects spanned over a year, marked by numerous adjournments, legal complications, and changes in presiding judges. In the end, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme handed down death sentences to seven suspects, including Chief Vincent Duru, the owner of Otokoto Hotel, and Leonard Unaogu.

Despite appeals, the sentences were upheld, with Unaogu meeting a mysterious end in Port Harcourt Prisons years later. The Otokoto Hotel saga exposed the depths of ritual killings and sparked conversations about justice, corruption, and the dark undercurrents within society.

As the nation grapples with recent incidents of kidnapping and murders echoing past horrors, the Otokoto Hotel ritual killing serves as a stark reminder of the need for swift and uncompromised justice to deter such gruesome acts and protect innocent lives.

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