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The Military of Nigeriamarker has active duty personnel in three armed services, totalling approximately 85,000 troops and 82,000 paramilitary personnel. It origins lie in the elements of the Royal West African Frontier Force that became Nigerian when independence was granted in 1960. In 1956 the Nigeria Regiment of the RWAFF was renamed the Nigerian Military Forces, RWAFF, and in April 1958 the colonial government of Nigeria took over from the British War Officemarker control of the Nigerian Military Forces.

Since its creation the Nigerian military has fought in a civil war – the conflict with Biafra in 1967-70 – and sent peacekeeping forces abroad both with the United Nations and as the backbone of the ECOWASmarker-sponsored ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in Liberiamarker and Sierra Leonemarker. It has also seized power twice at home (1966 & 1983) and today ‘has become entrenched in all facets of [Nigerian] civic and economic life,’ including manipulation of national political life – General Sani Abacha’s creation of artificial political parties – and a central role in the control and management of Nigeria’s oil wealth.

In the aftermath of the civil war, the much expanded size of the military, around 250,000 in 1977, consumed a large part of Nigeria’s resources under military rule for little productive return. The great expansion of the military during the civil war further entrenched the existing military hold on Nigerian society carried over from the first military regime. In doing so, it played an appreciable part in reinforcing the military’s nearly first-among-equals status within Nigerian society, and the linked decline in military effectiveness. Olusegun Obasanjo, who by 1999 had become President, bemoaned the fact in his inaugural address that year: ‘..Professionalism has been lost. heart bleeds to see the degradation in the proficiency of the military.’

Nigeria sends many of its officers to Pakistanmarker for training. Particularly, to institutions such as the Pakistan Military Academy, Command and Staff College in Quettamarker and to the National Defence University, Islamabad. Training establishments in Nigeria include the initial officer entry Nigerian Defence Academy at Kadunamarker, the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jajimarker, where a new simulation centre is being established,([3410]) and the National War College at Abujamarker([3411]). The U.S. commercial military contractor Military Professional Resources Inc. has been involved from around 1999-2000 in advising on civil-military relations for the armed forces, including operating the simulation centre at the AFCSC.


Crest of the Nigerian Army


The original elements of the RWAFF in Nigeria were formed in 1900. During the Second World War, British-trained Nigerian troops saw action with the 1st Infantry Brigade, the 81st and the 82nd Divisions who fought in the East African Campaign and the Far East.

In Nigeria, from a force of 8,000 in five infantry battalions and supporting units, strength rose to around 120,000 in three divisions by the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970. In terms of doctrine, the task of the Federal Nigerian army was not fundamentally changed: its task was to close with and defeat an organised enemy.

The rapid expansion saw a severe decline in troop quality. The Nigerian expansion process led to an extreme shortage of commissioned officers, with newly-created lieutenant-colonels commanding brigades, and platoons and companies often commanded by sergeants and warrant officers. This resulted in tentative command and control and rudimentary staff work. One result of the weak direction was that the Federals’ three divisions fought independently, and competed for men and materiel. Writing in a 1984 study, Major Michael Stafford of the US Marine Corps noted that “Inexperienced, poorly trained and ineptly led soldiers manifested their lack of professionalism and indiscipline by massacres of innocent civilians and a failure to effectively execute infantry tactics.” Among the results was the 1967 Asaba massacre.

The influence of individual personalities are generally greater in the armies of developing states than in developed ones, as the latter tend to have weaker institutional frameworks. Key personalities involved in the Nigerian case included then-Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo is particularly important due to his efforts to reorganise his command, 3 Division, during the civil war to improve its logistics and administration. The reorganisation he instituted made the Division capable of carrying out the offensive that ended the civil war.

The Nigerian Army fought the civil war significantly underresourced; Obasanjo’s memoirs chronicle the lack of any stocks of extra equipment for mobilisation, and the ‘haphazard and unreliable system of procurement and provisioning,’ which stretched for the entire period of the war. Arms embargos by several Western countries made the situation worse.


The army, the largest of the services, has about 67,000 personnel. Its formations include the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division, headquartered in Kadunamarker in the north-west, and 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division (HQ Ibadanmarker in the South-West, includes 32 Artillery Brigade at Abeokutamarker), 3rd Armoured Division (HQ Rukuba Cantonment, Josmarker in the North-East, and including 21 Armoured Brigade Maidugurimarker, 23 Brigade Yola, and 33 Artillery Brigades), 81st Division (Amphibious) HQ in Lagos, which includes the 9th Brigade, based at the Ikejamarker compound in Lagos, 82nd Division (Airborne and Amphibious) HQ in Enugumarker in the South-East, which includes the 13 (15?) Brigade at Calabar and 34 Artillery Brigade at Obinzemarker/Owerrimarker, and the Abuja-based Guards Brigade. 3rd Armoured Division was responsible in 1983 for the security of areas bordering Chadmarker. Divisions in the Nigerian Army were first formed during the Nigerian Civil War, when in August-September 1967, 1 Area Command at Kadunamarker was redesignated 1 Infantry Division, 2 Division was formed under Colonel Murtala Mohammed, and the then Lagos Garrison Organisation was renamed 3 Infantry Division, later to become 3 Marine Commando Division.

Lagos and Abuja have garrison commands with the Lagos garrison as large as a division. 81 Division was the youngest Division in the Nigerian Army. The Division was formed on 26 May 2002 when the Lagos Garrison Command (as it then was) was upgraded to a full-fledged Division. The Division therefore inherited the security roles hitherto performed by the defunct Lagos Garrison Command. However a later undated article in a Nigerian online newspaper says the 81 Division was later again renamed the Lagos Garrison Command. In the 1980s, the Army's brigades included the 7th Infantry Brigade in Sokoto. There are also Divisional Artillery Brigades, among which are the 32 and 34 Artillery Brigades, ordinance corps units as well as Combat Engineer Regiments, and many other service support units spread across the country.


The Army has demonstrated its capability to mobilize, deploy, and sustain brigade-sized forces in support of peacekeeping operations in Liberiamarker. Smaller forces have been previously sent to the former Yugoslaviamarker, Angolamarker, Rwandamarker, Somaliamarker, and Sierra Leonemarker.Ex-President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo promoted and appointed Lt Gen Owoye Andrew Azazi as the Chief of the Defence Staff (CODS). Lt. Gen. Azazi was until his new appointment the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). He replaced General Martin Luther Agwai who was also promoted and appointed as the Commander of African Forces in Darfurmarker (the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur).

Lt. Gen. Azazi's appointment took effect from 1 June 2006, as contained in the statement dated 30 May 2006, issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Obong Ufot Ekaette.

The current COAS is Maj. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau who replaced Lt. Gen. Luka M. Yusuf in August 2008. Dambazau's previous service includes time with 146 Infantry Battalion as a junior officer, command of 1 Provost Group and 3 Provost Group, and command of 2 Division.



In 1887, the Colonial Government of Nigeria established the Lagos Marine as a quasi-military organization combining the duties of present day Nigeria Ports Authority, the Inland Waterways and the maritime policing duties of modern day Navy. When Northern and Southern Nigeria were brought together as one country in 1914, the two marine forces became the Nigeria Marine, and on 1 June 1956 after lobbying for a full-fledged naval force instead of a ports authority, the Nigerian Naval Force was established.

The Nigerian Navy command structure today consists of the Naval Headquarters based in Abujamarker, two operational commands with headquarters in Lagosmarker and Calabarmarker, two training commands with headquarters in Lagos but with training facilities spread all over Nigeria, two operational bases, five forward operational bases (with two more soon to come on stream), two Dockyards located in Lagos and Port Harcourt and two fleets based in Lagos and Calabar. The Navy has 8,000 personnel, including those of the Coast Guard.

The commander of the Nigerian Navy is Vice Admiral II Ibrahim, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS). He is assisted by 7 principal staff officers at the Headquarters known as Branch Chiefs. The PSOs are:, The Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral PS Adeniyi ,Rear Admiral Os Ibrahim, the Chief of Training and Operations, Chief of Accounts and Budget,Commodore Maculey, Rear Admiral Jonah, the Chief of Naval Engineering, Commodore S Orishamolade, the Chief of Logistics, and Rear Admiral I B Acholonu, the Navy Secretary.

Each of the Branches consists of Directorates. The Administration Branch, for instance, consists of Directorate of Education (headed by Cdre TO Olawumi) and Directorate of Medical Services (headed by Cdre K Ibe Lambert). The Directorate of Naval Information, headed by Captain H Babalola, is under the Chief of Policy and Plans.

The commands are under the flag officers commanding. Rear Admiral SU Umosen commands the Western Naval Command while Rear Admiral BA Raji commands the Eastern Naval Command. The Naval Training. The newly constituted Logistics Command is headed by Rear Admiral HOG Arogundade.

The Navy recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee in Lagos with a parade and a review of the fleet by the Commander in Chief, President Olusegun Obasanjo. To witness this colourful parade were the Chiefs of Naval Staff of African Navies and other friendly nations. In 2004, two Navy rear admirals were dismissed on corruption charges after having been convicted of involvement in the disappearance from Navy custody of the Russian oil tanker African Pride.

The IISS Military Balance 2007 lists the Nigerian Navy as having one MEKO 360 class frigate, NNS Aradu; one Vosper Mk 9 corvette, Enymiri (F 83); two modified Italian Lerici class coastal minesweepers (Ohue and Marabai, commissioned in 1987 and 1988 respectively); three French Combattante fast missile craft (Siri, Ayam, and Ekun); and four Balsam ocean patrol craft (ex buoy tenders). All these vessels are listed as having their serviceability in doubt. Vessels which may be operational are a German Lurssen 57-metre coastal patrol craft; twelve Defender patrol boats; the landing ship tank NNS Ambe (LST 1312); and the five logistics and support ships: one survey vessel, three tugs, and the training ship Ruwan Yaro (A 497). There are two Agusta Westland Lynx Mk.89 ASW helicopters and three Agusta A-109 Hirundo/Power helicopters, all except the Lynxs are operational. However on the 20th of April 2007 an Augusta Helicopter belonging to the Nigerian Navy crashed during a flight between the oil city of Port Harcourt and the southeastern city of Owerri, and all the three naval personnel aboard were feared killed, bringing the total number of Augusta helicopters to 2. In 2009 recent reports indicate that the Navy has just purchased another 3 A-109s in addition to two 38 ft Manta Class Patrol boats.In late 2006/early 2007, a naval exercise was held which saw several previously thought unservicable ships involved.On April 12, 2009, the Navy commissioned two 38-metre Mantra Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) - NNS ZARIA and NNS BURUTU and two new Augusta helicopters procured from Alenia, Italy.

CONSTRAC is the Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Training Conference. The First CONSTRAC was held at Obudu in Cross River State in Nov 2006. The Nigerian Navy has just concluded the Second Chief of the Naval Staff Training Conference in Sokoto, Nigeria. It was held at Sultan Macido School of Qu'ran and General Studies between 29 Oct 07 and 2 Nov 07.

Air Force

The Nigerian Air Force (10,000 - IISS Military Balance 2007) flies transport, trainer, helicopter, and fighter aircraft, of which the IISS says there is 'very limited operational capability'.

Nigeria also has pursued a policy of developing domestic training and military production capabilities. Nigeria has continued a strict policy of diversification in her military procurement from various countries.

Other components

There is a Joint Task Force in the Niger Deltamarker region designated "Restore Hope."

Nigerian military forces abroad

Anglophone ECOWAS members established ECOMOG, dominated by the Nigerian Army, in 1990 to intervene in the civil war in Liberia.

In December 1983, the new Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime announced that Nigeria could no longer afford an activist anti-colonial role in Africa. That policy statement did not deter Nigeria under Generals Ibrahim Babangida in 1990 and Sani Abacha in 1997 from sending ECOMOG peacekeeping forces under the auspices of ECOWASmarker into Liberia and later Sierra Leone when civil wars broke out in those countries. President Olusegun Obasanjo in August 2003 committed Nigerian troops once again into Liberia, at the urging of the United States, to provide an interim presence until the UN's force UNMIL arrived. Charles Taylor was subsequently eased out of power and exiled to Nigeria.

In October 2004, Nigerian troops again deployed into Darfurmarker, Sudan to spearhead an AU force to stop the genocide in Darfur. Nigeria boasts to have contributed more than 20,000 troops/police to various UN missions since 1960. The Nigeria Police Force and troops have served in places like UNIPOM (UN India-Pakistan Observer mission) 1965, UNIFIL in Lebanonmarker 1978, the UN observer mission, UNIIMOG supervising the Iran-Iraq ceasefire in 1988, former Yugoslavia 1998, East Timormarker 1999, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker (MONUC) 2004.


  1. IISS Military Balance 2007, Routledge, p.286
  2. Library of Congress Country Studies, Nigeria
  3. J. ‘Kayode Fayemi, ‘Governing the Security Sector in a Democratising Polity: Nigeria’ in Gavin Cawthra & Robin Luckham (eds) Governing Insecurity: Democratic Control of Military and Security Establishments in Transitional Democracies, Zed Books, London/New York, 2003, pp.57-77
  4. Obasanjo, quoted in Herbert M. Howe, Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States, Lynne Rienner, Boulder/London, 2001, p.54. In fairness, it should be noted that Obasanjo has also been accused of misuse of his personal position for profit.
  5., accessed October 2009 and Peter Singer, 'Corporate Warriors,' Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2003, p.131-2. ISBN 0-8014-4114-5
  6. Scott report, Sunday Telegraph, 11 January 1970, via N.J. Miners, ‘The Nigerian Army 1956-66,’ Methuen and Co. Ltd, London, 1971, p.229
  7. Neville Brown, "The Nigerian Civil War," Military Review, vol. 48, October 1968, p. 28, cited in Major Michael Stafford, Quick Kill in Slow Motion, Marine Corps CSC, 1984, at
  8. Stafford study, 1984
  9. Olunsegun Obasanjo, My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-70, Heinemann, Ibadan/London/Nairobi, 1980, p.61
  10. IISS Military Balance 2007, p.287
  11. Army Games Begin in Abeokuta
  12. Nigerian Army 3 Division, verified October 2008
  13. Jimi Peters, The Nigerian military and the state, I.B. Tauris, 1997, p.174, via Google Books
  14. General Olunsegun Obasanjo, 'My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-70,' Heinemann, Ibadan/London/Nairobi, p.18 (Via Joint Services Command and Staff College Library)
  15. Nigerian Army Website, accessed August 2008
  16. Saxone Akhaine, Army chief decries military's involvement in politics, Guardian, Kaduna, 13 October 2008
  17. Dambazau: A General's General, accessed September 2008
  20., accessed February 2008
  21. Naval Open Source Intelligence on the Nigerian Navy, bottom two articles
  22. IISS Military Balance 2007, Routledge, p.287. Most name and pennant number information is from Captain Richard Sharpe RN (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 1999-2000, Jane's Information Group, Coulsdon, Surry, p.485-7
  23. Segun Adeyemi, 'Nigerian Navy exercise tests operational capability, 'Jane's Defence Weekly, Vol. 44, No. 5, 31 January 2007, p.16

Further reading

  • Robin Luckham, The Nigerian military; a sociological analysis of authority & revolt 1960-67, Cambridge [Eng.] University Press, 1971.
  • N.J. Miners, ‘The Nigerian Army 1956-66,’ Methuen and Co. Ltd, London, 1971


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