The Nigerian Army has vowed not to tolerate undue interference by politicians in the conduct of its ongoing Exercise Egwu Eke III.
Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, the Army spokesman, gave the warning in a statement on Sunday after troops arrested 16 suspected political thugs in Sokoto State.
Egwu Eke III or Python Dance was launched nationwide on Jan. 2 to deal with criminal activities before, during and after the general elections.
It will be rounded off in March after the general elections.
Usman said the suspects were arrested armed with 27 axes and 16 customised sticks.
He said they were arrested on Saturday during joint stop and search patrol with other security agencies along Illela-Danfulani-Gwadabawa road.
The army spokesman, however, disclosed that a prominent politician in the state and a serving Senator, whose name he did not mention, 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 earlier tried to influence the investigation of arrested armed political thugs,” he said.
Usman restated that the army had always been professional, impartial and apolitical and would continue to be so.
According to him, since the beginning of the exercise in January, “we have arrested thugs armed with dangerous weapons across the various political 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.”
He said the army was committed to creating a conducive and secured environment for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the general elections.
“Therefore, we would not tolerate any undue interference from any quarters in the discharge of this noble responsibility.
“Additionally, we have resolved to hold on to any arrested criminal or armed thugs until the end of the elections.
“All Commanders have been further directed to continue to carry out their duties diligently, despite the provocation from some misguided elements.”