Nigerian Armed Forces

Nigerian Armed Forces
Nigerian Armed Forces
Nigerian Defence Forces Flag.svg
Current form 1960
Service branches Army, Navy, Air Force
President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan
Defence Minister of Nigeria Adetokunbo Kayode
Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin
Available for
military service
26,802,678[1] males, age 18-49 (2005 est.),
25,668,446 females, age 18-49 (2005 est.)
Fit for
military service
15,052,914 males, age 18-49 (2005 est.),
13,860,806 females, age 18-49 (2005 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
1,353,180 males (2005 est.),
1,329,267 females (2005 est.)
Active personnel 85,000 (ranked 51)
Percent of GDP 1.5% (2006)
Related articles
History Military history of Nigeria
Congo Crisis
Biafran War
Sierra Leone Civil War
Conflict in the Niger Delta

The Nigerian Armed Forces are the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The military has active duty personnel in three armed services, totaling approximately 85,000 troops and 82,000 paramilitary personnel.[2] Its 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 Office control of the Nigerian Military Forces.[3]

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 ECOWAS-sponsored ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in Liberia and Sierra Leone. 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.[4]

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.’[5]

Nigeria sends many of its officers to Pakistan for training. Particularly, to institutions such as the Pakistan Military Academy, Command and Staff College in Quetta and to the National Defence University, Islamabad. Training establishments in Nigeria include the initial officer entry Nigerian Defence Academy at Kaduna, the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, where a new simulation centre is being established ([1]), and the National War College at Abuja ([2]). 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.[6]


Legal standing

The roles of a country’s Armed Forces are entrenched in her Constitution. The defence of the territorial integrity and other core interests of the nation form the major substance of such roles. Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria addresses the Nigerian Armed Forces:

  • (1) There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an air force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.
  • (2)The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of -
  • (a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;
  • (b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air;
  • (c) Suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the d. President but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
  • (d) Perform such other functions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly.
  • (3) The composition of the officer corps an other ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.


The Nigerian Army or NA is the Land branch of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the largest among the Armed Forces.

The current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) is Lt. Gen. O.A. Ihejirika[7]


The Nigerian Navy or NN is the Sea branch of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Nigerian Navy command structure today consists of the Naval Headquarters based in Abuja, two operational commands with headquarters in Lagos and Calabar, 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..

Air Force

Roundel of the Nigerian Air Force

The Nigerian Air Force was formally established in January 1964 with technical assistance from West Germany. The air force started life as a transport unit with aircrew being trained in Canada, Ethiopia and India. The air force did not get a combat capability until a number of MiG-17 aircraft were presented by the Soviet Union in 1966.

In 2007 the Air Force had a strength of 10,000.[8] It flies transport, trainer, helicopter, and fighter aircraft, of which the IISS says there is 'very limited operational capability.'

The Air Force sponsors the Air Force Military School, Jos, Nigeria..

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.

The current Chief of Air Staff (CAS) is Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko UMAR (DSS psc fwc MSc), appointed on 8 September 2010.[9]

Other components

There is a Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta region designated "Restore Hope."[10] JTF HQ is located at Yenagoa.

Nigerian military forces abroad

A Nigerian ECOMOG soldier outside Monrovia, Liberia (1997)

In December 1983, the new Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime announced that Nigeria could no longer afford an activist anti-colonial role in Africa. Anglophone ECOWAS members established ECOMOG, dominated by the Nigerian Army, in 1990 to intervene in the civil war in Liberia. The Army has demonstrated its capability to mobilize, deploy, and sustain brigade-sized forces in support of peacekeeping operations in Liberia. Smaller army forces have been previously sent on UN and ECOWAS deployments in the former Yugoslavia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sierra Leone.[citation needed]

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 ECOWAS 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 Darfur, 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 Lebanon 1978, the UN observer mission, UNIIMOG supervising the Iran-Iraq ceasefire in 1988, former Yugoslavia 1998, East Timor 1999, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) 2004.

Nigerian officers have served as chiefs of defence in other countries, with Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe serving as Sierra Leone chief of staff in 1998-1999,[11] and Nigerian officers acting as Command Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia from at least 2007.


  1. ^ For updated figures see CIA, World Fact Book - Nigeria
  2. ^ IISS Military Balance 2007, Routledge, p.286
  3. ^ Library of Congress Country Studies, Nigeria
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^, accessed October 2009 and Peter Singer, 'Corporate Warriors,' Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2003, p.131-2. ISBN 0-8014-4114-5
  7. ^
  8. ^ IISS Military Balance 2007
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Dr Nowa Omoigui

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
  • Jimi Peters, 'The Nigerian Military and the State,' 1997, ISBN 1 85043 874 9
  • Nigerian Army Education Corps and School, History of the Nigerian Army 1863-1992, Abuja, 1992

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