By Camillus Eboh and Alexis AkwagyiramABUJA/LAGOS, Oct 17 (Reuters) – The Nigerian army will begina two-month national exercise, it said on Saturday, whiledenying the move was part of any security response to recentwidespread demonstrations against alleged police brutality.Operation Crocodile Smile would run across the country fromOct. 20 to Dec. 31, the first time the annual exercise,typically concentrated in the Delta region, will be nationwide,Musa said. The move comes just days after the army said it was ready tostep in and restore order, but Musa said in a statement that theexercise “has no relationship with any lawful protest under anyguise whatsoever”.Nigerians demanding an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad(SARS) police unit and pressing for reforms and accountabilityhave been rallying across the country.The army had on Wednesday issued a statement warning what ittermed “subversive elements and trouble makers” that it was”ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacityto maintain law and order and deal with any situationdecisively”. Protesters have been using Twitter and the #EndSars hashtagto spread photos and videos showing alleged police brutality.Social media is also a hub for organising demonstrations andNigerians are using it to collect money and food to feedprotesters and support those who are arrested. Additionally, a group calling itself Anonymous has claimedto have hacked various government websites in recent days, andwarned it will continue to hack government websites and Twitteraccounts in order to aid the #EndSars movement. “The army hereby enjoins all law abiding Nigerians to goabout their lawful activities unhindered as the exercise hasnothing to do with ENDSARS protest, but a yearly event set outby the (army) in its efforts to ensuring safety and security ofNigeria and her citizens,” Musa said in a statement.Government officials have not responded to requests forcomment on whether any websites were hacked, and Reuters couldnot independently confirm the claims. However Musa said theexercise would for the first time include cyber warfaretraining.”The exercise is deliberately intended to be all-encompassing to include cyber warfare exercises designed toidentify, track and counter negative propaganda in the socialmedia and across the cyberspace,” Musa said in the release.
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