The Army said yesterday that troops of Exercise Python Dance III and some security operatives had arrested suspected thugs in Sokoto State.
Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman said in a statement that the hoodlums were nabbed with customised sticks and other weapons.
He said 16 of the thugs had been handed over to the police for further action.
Usman, however, regretted that there had been undue pressure on security agencies to free the hoodlums, raising concern about the clash between the police escort of a serving senator and a Department of State Services (DSS) operative on the matter.
He said: “Troops of 8 Division, Nigerian Army, on Exercise EGWU EKE III, in conjunction with other security agencies have recovered weapons from criminals and political thugs in Sokoto State.
“This has contributed immensely to a peaceful security situation in the state.
“However, yesterday (Saturday), troops on joint stop and search patrol with other security agencies, arrested 16 persons believed to be political thugs armed with weapons, on Illela-Danfulani-Gwadabawa Road.
“The suspects were nabbed armed with 27 axes and 16 customised sticks. While still conducting the search, a prominent politician in the state and a serving senator, came to the scene and ordered his mobile police escorts to release them.
“In the process, a Department of State Service operative was molested and his clothes torn. The patriotic and professional officer still held on to the seized weapons.
“Similarly, another prominent politician from Zamfara State had tried to influence the investigation of arrested armed thugs.
“These undue pressure and attempts to interfere with the conduct of the exercise for selfish reasons are indeed worrisome and disturbing. They will not be tolerated.
“The Army has always been professional, impartial and apolitical and will continue to be so. Since the operationalisation of the exercise last month, we have arrested thugs armed with weapons across the parties, without fear or favour.
“The thugs were documented and handed over to the police. We have noted with great concern that such criminals usually find themselves back into the society without any sanction.
“Consequently, we will like to reiterate our commitment to creating a conducive and secure environment for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the forthcoming general election.
“Therefore, we will not tolerate undue interference from any quarter in the discharge of this noble responsibility.
“We have resolved to hold on to any arrested criminal or thug till the end of the elections. All commanders have been directed to continue to carry out their duties diligently, despite the provocation from some misguided elements.”
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