For the first time since 2012 when it added new Reconnaisance and Special Forces divisions to its ranks, the Nigerian Army has announced plans to developed a new high-tech fighting force to defend Nigeria from cyber terrorism and other virtual world saboteurs — while also aiding other military divisions with technological and online infrastructure for their operations.
The new Cyber Command service will be headquatered in Lagos, making Nigeria’s largest and most deveoped city the center for Nigeria’s technological security. The Nigerian Army Cyber Command (as the Army’s operational command for cyber) and its subordinate units will be engaged in the real world cyberspace fight against nation‐state actors, unaffiliated terrorists groups that operate in cyberspace and independent criminal actors.
The creation of the Nigerian Army Cyber Command and its move to centralize its operations is part of a bigger shift to high-tech warfare and training across the Nigerian armed forces, with skills honed in by a decade of counter isurgency and assymetric wafare.
While the Army’s Cyber Command structure is being put in place, the call is going out across the country to educate and train a new generation of digital warriors.
WHY CYBER COMMAND?
Since the inception of the Buhari administration, recruiting foreign fighters into Nigeria to fill in the ranks of Boko Haram, thereby sustaining the carnage and crises has been a very difficult endeavour for the powers that be to sustain without risking political and diplomatic capital. West Africa is the region with the most American drone bases in the world, yet for years thousands of fighters streamed across the border into Nigeria ”undetected” to replenish Boko Haram.
The Increase in military footprint of the Nigerian army in the border region with Niger, as well as the relocation of the Operational Command Centre of the Nigerian Army from Abuja to Maiduguri, the epicentre of the war helped stemmed the tide of foreign fighter pouring in into Nigeria. Drones and surveillance aircrafts, augmented with satellite reconnaissance has done a great job in policing the Sambisa area.
Unable to replace fighters lost to the Nigerian military like it once did with ease, the impact on the ground is profound. In less than a year Boko Haram lost virtually all territories it once held. Within two years they were pushed out of the Sambisa forest, the 66,000 square kilometer fortress that was once thought impregnable because of the sheer size of the area. But Boko Haram and their foreign backers are not giving up.
In July 2018, a Nigerian Air Force drone that had been monitoring a compound in Borno State where it was suspected a high value target was holed up spotted two Hillux Trucks leaving the compound. A small team of Special Forces troops were vectored to intercept, the terrorists were subsequently tracked and eventually apprehended 40km South of Rann area in Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno.
On the phone of the Boko Haram Commander, 90 Boko Haram propaganda videos and recruiting manual, as well as manuals on home made improvised explosive devices. The Nigeria Army said it had uncovered a Facebook account and other social media platforms allegedly used by a faction of the Boko Haram sect to recruit new members. The social media accounts had 2,000 followers.
The insurgents from the Albarnawi faction of Boko Haram were recruiting new members on social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, SnapChat, Instagram and Youtube. The army discovered these shocking details while interrogating a “highly placed Boko Haram commander known as Malu-Mamman Barde
Barde is among the most wanted Boko Haram suspect that had committed so many atrocities against humanity. Through the suspect’s mobile phone, they also found several videos soliciting finance for the group. They also found offensive some other videos where Barde was seen preaching Jihad and the ideology of the group, and pictures of him in military fatigue posing with an anti-aircraft gun, rockets and a Boko Haram flag.
The implication of this development is astounding. People can actually reach out to Boko Haram recruiters on their computers. You can send a message and in less than 24 hours a top Boko Haram will respond. It is only a matter of time before being a Boko Haram Jihadist doesn’t necessarily entail making the trip to secret Boko Haram bases scattered around the remote regions of northeast Nigeria, Niger and Chad. All they have to do is get an assault rifle and slaughter people at a church, mosque, market bus stations, night clubs or any other public places.
So far Southern Nigeria have been spared the horror of terror. Online recruiting from social media platforms have the potential to blur the battlefield, making everyone a potential target for terror. Without the bloodletting and violence to deter them, many disillusioned people can see Boko Haram as a sort of brotherhood from their computer screen and do something stupid, not to mention mentally ill people or schizophrenics.
Such people don’t necessarily care about the religion or twisted ideology, it has to do with tens of millions of jobless young Nigerian men with nothing to do, feeling powerless. In a country where the microscopic few control %80 of the nation’s wealth, with rising poverty, anxiety, depression, codeine and other drugs seen as an escape channel from the harsh reality of Nigerian life, this could be a tickling time bomb. The fact that Nigeria just outstripped India as the country with the most number of poor people doesnt help.
The Nigerian government should realise that these propaganda videos are dangerously inspirational. If you are in a state of anger, depression etc, they really wanna hook you in. The line between graduates going into Yahoo Yahoo, armed robberies, ritual murder and terrorism will be vague. It seems for years now since Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIS we have been talking about the propensity for a situation like this.
Thankfully the Nigerian Army is taking proactive measures in combating cyber terrorism.