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“He Was Killed while Hawking Groundnuts”: How the Death of 11-Year-Old Caused the 1996 Otokoto Riot



A series of riots broke out on 19th September 1996 in Imo state after an innocent 11-year-old boy, Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo, lost his life

Anthony Okoronkwo was reportedly killed in an unfortunate manner for ritual purposes in the streets of Owerri, the state’s capital

The young boy was hawking boiled groundnuts when a gardener at a hotel cunningly invited him into the hotel and ended his life.

Otokoto riot 1996, 11-year-old, Innocent

Otokoto riot Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Zargar Source: UGC

Legit.ng in this article gives a historical account of the Otokoto riot of 1996.

How it all started

The civil unrest was fuelled by the revelation of the kidnapping and killing of an 11-year-old schoolboy boy, Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo.


Also, children of prominent Owerri residents, including medical doctors, Darlington Amamasi and Omaka Okoh, engineer E.C. Adiele, and Chime Nzeribe, were kidnapped by ritualist gangs who threatened their parents not to contact the police.

Ransom was paid to aid their release, but these hostages were never returned to their families, believed to have been used for ritual murders and organ trade.

Death of 11-year-old Anthony Okoronkwo

On September 19th, 1996, a young boy was hawking boiled groundnuts in Owerri, when a man pretending to be a customer, called him.

The 32-year-old ‘customer’ named Innocent Ekeanyanwu invited the little boy into the famous Otokoto Hotel and the little groundnut seller’s face lit up with so much joy.

While waiting, the boy was given a bottle of Coca-Cola to cool off and he innocently drank the Coke without thinking twice.

In only a few minutes, he dozed off with his tray full of groundnuts lying in a corner. The man who called him to buy his groundnuts had spiked the boy’s drink.

Immediately he saw the boy was asleep, he took him into one of the hotel rooms and ended the little boy’s life.

Innocent Ekeanyanwu lands in trouble

After committing the evil act, Innocent took the parts of the boy’s body he wanted and buried the remains.

He then took the polythene bag containing the boy’s head and headed to the house of the man who needed it. The man who was behind it all.

It was the Okada man named Opara, whom he stopped to take him to his destination that realized that his passenger was carrying inside a polythene bag a fresh head and raised an alarm.

Protests rock Owerri

The Police nabbed Ekeanyanwu on his way back in a Peugeot 504 car. He was going to the residence of a highly-influential figure named Chief Leonard Unaogu at Eziama, Ikeduru Local Council Area with the head.

When it was time to take the headless body of Ikechukwu to the mortuary, massive procession and protests rocked Owerri.

This became more violent when the media shared a photo of the suspect holding the late boy’s head.

All hell broke loose as the enraged people of Owerri went haywire after the image was first broadcast on the 24th of September.

The rampaging crowd first went to the morgue and from there, they rushed to the Otokoto Hotel and burnt it to the ground.

The crowd subsequently divided into attack groups and spread out to other sites of the privileged elite and unleashed maximum destruction.

How Ekeanyanwu died

Ekeanyanwu, who murdered the boy, was 32 and he worked as a gardener at the Otokoto Hotel.

Following the arrest of Ekeanyanwu, he was remanded in police custody while awaiting trial. But while he was in police custody, he was killed by food poisoning 4days after.

He killed the boy on Thursday and by Sunday morning, he was found Dead. But luckily for the interrogators, before he was killed, Ekeanyanwu confessed and mentioned Leonard Unaogu as the brain behind the ritual killing syndicate.

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