The Nigerian Army has announced the commencement of a nationwide “cyberwarfare” operation, as protests against police brutality continue in the country.
The army said the operation will be under the banner of Exercise Crocodile Smile, which it said is an annual exercise and traditionally holds in the last quarter of the year.
It made the announcement on Saturday at a press briefing held at a military camp in Ngamdu village of Borno State.
The army was represented at the press briefing by its Chief of Training and Operations, Nuhu Angbazo, a major general.
Journalists who travelled about 100km from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, to Ngamdu, were not allowed to ask questions or get clarification at the end of the briefing.
The statement was later communicated by the army’s spokesperson, Sagir Musa.
The army said the operation is “deliberately intended” to be all-encompassing, to include cyberwarfare exercises designed to “identify, track and counter negative propaganda in the social media and across the cyberspace”.
“This is the first-ever cyber warfare to be conducted in the history of the African armed forces; that will also improve Nigeria army’s capacity and resilience against hostile cyber acts in defence of our national security and critical national infrastructure,” it said.
Although the statement did not expressly list the ongoing protests as a possible target, the move is bound to raise concerns as another attempt by the government to clamp down on peaceful demonstrations across the country.
The protests, which have lasted over a week, have been galvanised by young social media activists using the hashtag, #EndSARS.
The army had earlier, in a response to the protests, pledged its loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari and vowed to protect the nation’s democracy “at all cost”.
That position was criticised by many Nigerians who urged the military to stay off the protests.
In its latest statement, the army said the exercise will include “positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country as a result of the ongoing operations in the various theatres of operations especially in the Northeast, North Central and North Western parts of Nigeria.”
It reassured “well-meaning” Nigerians of its commitment to the sustenance of peace and security in Nigeria and urged the support and understanding of members of the public.