Imo Killings, Beheadings: Bizzare trend in Igboland

14:04 Aug 12 2021 Imo state

Children in Igboland in the days of old were often warned to beware of head-hunters. Children who grew up in the pre and post-civil war era, even up to the 1990s were often told that head-hunters lurked in the forests and farms around the corners. Parents told their children, even the adults about head-hunters who existed and cut off human heads for ritual purposes.

An Igbo chief told a story of how his youthful brother visited a friend in a neighbouring community but didn’t come back. That was in the 1970s and up till date, the friend he went out with couldn’t explain what happened to him.

The fact also remained that many never got to see or hear of any child whose head was decapitated. To some people, the story of head-hunters was just a myth to keep children at home in the pre and post-civil war era when it was believed the enemy forces still lurked around and there was so much hunger that many could eat other human beings.

In truth, children often disappeared and never returned. Even adults got missing and never returned. A local musician once told a story of a certain Ejiofor Okocha who went out with his friends and didn’t return. He was believed to be a victim of head-hunters.
That was before Otokoto happened in Imo.

Otokoto killing and beheading
On September 19th, 1996, an Owerri-based, businessman, Chief Vincent Duru who was known as Otokoto, the owner of Otokoto Hotel on Orlu Road, Owerri was fingered in the killing and decapitating of the head of an eleven-year-old boy.

The boy, Ikechukwu was hawking boiled groundnut to assist his economically disadvantaged family. He peddled his ware anywhere and everywhere in Owerri, all in a bid to raise funds to enable his mother to feed the family.

On a fateful day, Ikechukwu was passing in front of Otokoto Hotel, when a staff of Otokoto Hotel, beckoned on him to come into the hotel premises to buy groundnuts. Events thereafter showed that the perceived innocent call turned out to be anything but innocent!

Ikechukwu was treated like a very important guest at the hotel. His supposed customer gave him a chilled Coca-Cola soft drink, which he readily gulped with relish. The boy never knew that the drink was spiked. Thereafter, he slipped into a deep sleep.

Ikechukwu was then lifted in this helpless state into one of the hotel rooms that turned out to be a slaughter slab. His head was decapitated, his abdomen ripped open, his liver harvested and the tip of his penis cropped off. Other vital organs of the boy were carefully harvested and stacked in a polythene carrier bag and the remains of the boy were buried in a shallow grave within the hotel premises. The room was thoroughly washed before the head-hunter left to deliver his “priced product”, Ikechukwu’s head, to his ally!

Those familiar with the Otokoto story would perhaps not feel strange about the current trend of killings and beheadings happening in Imo.

In the case of Otokoto, fate played a fast one on the perpetrator, making it impossible for him to deliver the “priced product”, possibly by sheer God’s divine intervention.
The only option left for the head-hunter was to go back to Owerri with his “product” but somewhere along the line, the seemingly endless stream of blood, dropping from his carrier bag and the way he jealously guarded the bag, led to the suspicion of a commercial motorcyclist who tipped off the police and they quickly organized an emergency roadblock.

The information eventually turned out to be very credible and the police arrangement paid off. They intercepted the head-hunter who was then traveling back to Owerri, in a Peugeot 505, which was, in every respect, a luxury car in 1996.

Otokoto protests…
The story of the decapitation of Ikechukwu spread like wildfire across Imo State and beyond. The scenario was further hyped, when the electronic and print media beamed life, the image of the murderer, carrying the head of little Ikechukwu in his hands. This instantly sent residents of Owerri municipality berserk. The sight was gory and the act, reprehensible.

Without any prompting from any person or group, but irked by the damnable happening, Owerri residents and those from the adjoining communities, trooped out in their numbers, for a massive protest that was eventually branded “Otokoto Riot.”

After the head-hunter was arrested by the police, an investigation into the ugly incident commenced. It was revealed that he was a gardener in Otokoto Hotel. But what drew the ire of Owerri residents was the shocking thing that this prime suspect reportedly died of food poisoning, barely four days after he was incarcerated in a police cell. It was suspected that some elements within the Imo State Command, had been compromised, and every effort was being made to seal “notable names involved in the gruesome murder of the young boy.

Nothing was again heard about the fabled police involvement in the suspect’s death in their custody. But he allegedly made several revelations before his untimely death.

He mentioned the name of the mastermind of the brutal murder of the young groundnut hawker.

He also disclosed that they ran a syndicate, whose stock in trade was kidnapping and harvesting human organs for varying reasons.

He was equally quoted as having told the police that Otokoto and his partners in crime, had been in the gory business as far back as the 1970s.
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