An Onitsha, Anambra State-based businessman, Wilfred Ezike, who was penultimate week allegedly brutalized by operatives of Anambra State Anti-Touts Special Squad, in a video that went viral, has said that he was “beaten” and “brutalised” at an underground cell SASA by some of its operatives over a N6.5 million debt allegedly owed him by some officials of the state government.

Ezike, popularly known as Mgbilimgba, who is also a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, in Anambra State, was seen in a viral video that circulated on the social media, where men of the anti-touts squad beat and brutalised him with short pestles and machetes over a yet-to-be-disclosed matter.

South-East PUNCH had reported that the viral video showed the anti-touts officials continuously hitting the man with a short pestle, while questioning him over a yet-to-be known matter. The officials were filming him as they continued to brutalise his ankles and knees with the short pestles and machetes.

Speaking to South-East PUNCH correspondent on his hospital bed, on Tuesday, Mgbiligba said he was arrested on Thursday, March 7, by SASA officials on the orders of its Director of Operations, over “false accusations” and other “sorts of allegations” still yet unknown to him.

He explained that his torture as seen in the video started on Friday, at about 10am the following day of his arrest, in SASA’s underground cell at Upper Iweka, Onitsha and lasted till Saturday night, when he was taken to Awka by the operatives in security vehicle.

He said his ordeals began on February 10, when some SASA officials came to the Head Bridge in Onitsha and arrested about five union members, including a relative of his, who works in a private park belonging to his brother.

He said, “I am a businessman and a stakeholder in the transportation sector and also a member of the Board of Trustees of transport unions and associations in Anambra State. I am also the Vice-Chairman, Transport Owners Association of Nigeria for Anambra North. I am not a ‘tout’ as they are claiming. I only manage my brother’s private park, which is legally recognised and approved by the state government.

“The problem started when some SASA officials came to the Head Bridge in Onitsha on February 10 and arrested about five union members, including my relative, who works in the private park. After every effort for them to release our members, failed, the union members lodged a petition at Zone 13, Ukpo. As a result of the petition, they came to arrest me, saying I wrote a petition against them and also leveled all sorts of allegations against me.

“Let me start from where the issue began, when Prof. Chukwuma Soludo came in as the governor of Anambra State in 2022, he suspended all transport union activities in the state. And as union members, we complied with this directive, but meanwhile, some people were allowed to work for reasons we did not know.

“I went to the chairman of the state Board of Internal Revenue to ask what was going on, he told me they were understudying the transport sector and were looking for ‘contractors’ who would help them run transport union activities with a view to boosting the state monthly internally generated revenue through that sector.

“Some time ago, we were in a meeting with some government officials where they said they were looking for ‘contractors’ who would help the state in the transport sector to help boost the monthly IGR through that sector, I told them that the previous administration owed me several millions of naira for the same ‘contract’ job I did, and that I will not do any ‘contractor’ job for the government again. I told them I would rather continue with my union activities.

“To cut the long story short, there is somebody working with the state government called ‘man in charge,’ I later got to know that he is the one that connived with SASA operatives and wanted to eliminate me over a business we did which has to do with a ‘revenue window.’ We wanted to do a business of that ‘revenue window,’ he asked me to pay N12.5 million for the concession, which I paid, but the revenue window failed.

“I approached him to return my money, after several attempts, he returned N6 million, remaining N6.5 million, I have been asking him for my balance and he has been ignoring me. ‘Man in charge’ vowed to silent me from asking for my remaining balance. He is using every state security apparatus available within his powers like SASA against me in order to ensure he went away with my money. He is using that tactics to intimidate me from demanding for my balance.

“It was the video that exposed them, if not; their plan was to eliminate me secretly. I was terribly brutalised by about six SASA officials using short pestles and other objects, while one of them was filming the process. It was a very horrible and traumatic experience.

“After the beatings in their cell at Upper Iweka in Onitsha, on Saturday night, they drove me to their office in Awka. On Sunday, I was bleeding so much, that they had to call their Director of Operations, who was in Abuja, telling him I was bleeding too much that he should give an order for a doctor to come and treat me, he did not respond immediately.

“After sometime, he called back and told his boys to give me a bail of N200,000. I called my brother and when he came, he transferred the N200,000 into the account they are using through a POS machine they brought.”

He added that his younger brother and his pregnant wife rushed him to the hospital, where he is currently receiving treatment.

He told South-East PUNCH, “I came into this hospital with lots of blood; I did not know that I would survive what happened to me. It was after the video leaked to the public and the criticisms that followed that the Commissioner for Homeland Security replied and started calling me a ‘tout.’ Till today, they have not pinpointed any specific offence I committed.

“How am I a ‘tout’… because I am managing my brother’s private park? They were the ones who said they want to decongest the roads that keke riders should go into my brother’s park and be loading passengers, so that they will not be blocking the road, so that has turned me to a ‘tout’?”

But when contacted, especially on the debt allegations, the spokesman for SASA, Nweke Nweke, denied the allegations, insisting that SASA did not go after Mgbiligba over any debt issue, but because of issues bordering on touting.

He said, “For the issues Mgbiligba raised, SASA is not a state government’s debt recovery agent, but a known anti-touting agency.

“If the government in any way owes Mmgbiligba, must he employ people, put them on the road to be molesting citizens in the name of recovering his purported debt.

“I am calling on the members of the public to discard his claims as they have no locus standi. Mmgbiligba, to the best of the knowledge of SASA, has infiltrated injuries on the members of the public through his self-styled revenue collections to the detriments of both the public and the state government.”