11 days ago, Nigerians started what has now progressed into a movement against bad governance, accountability, and the cost of governance in the country. It started as splinters of demonstrations against the now-defunct police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), who are notorious for extortion, brutality, and killing of innocent young Nigerians – the same reasons we apprehend armed robbers.
In reaction, the Nigerian government have made efforts to stop the protest that has now gained global attention. From secret meetings to dialogues to ‘forced’ public addresses to even subtle threats, it has been highlights of failed attempts.
The latest attempt is to use the Nigerian Army to crack down on protesters using ‘cyberwarfare’ to tackle insurgency in Northeast Nigeria as the excuse.
In the press release dated Saturday, October 17, 2020, and signed by Colonel Sagir Musa, Acting Director Army Public Relations, the army is set to commence a 6th version of the Operation Crocodile Smile which will begin from October 20 to December 31.
See full statement here:
PRESS RELEASE NIGERIAN ARMY SETS TO COMMENCE EXERCISE CROCODILE SMILE VI NATION WIDE1. The Nigerian Army is set to…
Indeed, this is not the first time the Army is launching the exercise but the intent of this particular version raises questions; when you consider that social media is where #EndSARS started from and was made a global phenomenon.
In the second point from the statement, the army is set to commence cyber warfare to ‘identify, track and counter negative propaganda in the social media and across the cyberspace‘.
Does it mean the operation will begin to track negative comments about the government on social media? We all know that when this begins, more than half of social media users will be in guards rooms waiting for execution.
The army has also claimed to be charged with maintaining the peace and order of well-meaning Nigerians and this exercise is another operation to see to that.
This is coming on the heels of a previous statement, Thursday, October 15, where the Army recanted its readiness to defend the country and its democracy at all costs. The statement warned ‘subversive elements’ and ‘trouble makers’ to desist from actions that will affect the country.
This your operation shouldn't be aimed against peaceful protesters. Nigeria is a democratic state.The world is watching what is happening here right now.Any Officer found culpable of attacking protesters will face @IntlCrimCourt "I was following orders will not be an excuse"
— King 👑 Abayomi 🇳🇬 #EndSARS (@Yhormite01) October 17, 2020
Interestingly, in the latter part of the statement, there is a pointer to where the cyber warfare will face.
“Accordingly, the exercise will also 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.”
Yet, there are reasons to believe the exercise will ‘expand its frontiers’ and begin to attack Nigerians who just want to #EndSARS, #ReformPoliceNG and #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria; especially when you consider that the Army can focus on using locals to identify fleeing terrorists than coming to social media to find them.
Indeed, the timing of the Crocodile Smile operation is very questionable. An attack on peaceful protesters whether on the streets or on social media should be a cause for concern for many.
Michael is a dynamic writer who is still exploring the nuances of life and being human. When I’m not writing, I’m out with friends or spending nice time alone watching movies or TV Shows.
Michael is available on Twitter and Instagram @TheMichaelFaya