History of Nigerian Army: Facts You Need To Know

The Nigerian military is undoubtedly among the largest in Africa.  It is divided into the 3 components, vis-à-vis, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force.  It was first established in 1900 and its former name was Royal West African Frontier Force.


Its name was however changed to the Nigerian Army in 1960; that was shortly after Nigeria’s independence from Great Britain.

It was initially called the Nigerian Regiment during the World War II. Nigeria Regiment participated in the World War II alongside a number of other African countries.  Its name was changed to Nigerian Military Force in 1958.

Nigerian Army’s present Commandeer-in-Chief is the president of Nigeria and that is General Mohammadu Buhari. Present Defense Minister is Mansur Dan Ali. The present Chief of Defense Staff is General Abayomi Olonisakin.

As at present, the Nigerian army has up to 102,000 men and officers. Its budget allocation for 2016 is N429 billion and this represents just 0.4% of the Nigerian GDP.

The Nigerian Army had participated in a number of wars till date. Some of them are the Congo Crises that occurred between 30th of June, 1960 and 25th of November 1965 and the Nigerian Civil War that occurred between July 1967 and January 1970.

Others are the Chadian Military affair that occurred in 1983, the First Liberian Civil War that occurred between 1989 and 1997, the Second Liberian Civil War that occurred between 1999 and 2003 and the Sierra Leone Civil War that occurred between 23rd of March, 1991 and 18th of January, 2002

Also, they participated in the Conflict in the Niger Delta that had started since 2004 and it is still ongoing and the Boko Haram Insurgency that started since 2009 and it is still ongoing.

The Nigerian Army is prominent among members of ECOMOG.  The Nigerian army had also been able to seize power from democratically elected presidents two times already, namely 1966 and 1983.

There had been a number of military-to-military coups over the years too. In actual fact, the last military rule in Nigeria just ended less than 20 years ago in 1999.

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Before the Nigerian civil war, number of men and officers in the military was about 18,000. However, the number got expanded to about 126,000 after the Nigerian Civil War. This was one of the factors that led to ability of the Nigerian army to seize power for over 30 years.

One of the most uncomfortable aspect of this is that the Nigerian army was not contributing anything to the country’s GDP; yet, they are taking so much out of it.

Despite the increase in size of the Nigerian Army, there is decline in professionalism and response to duty. During the civil war, number of non-commissioned officers increased a great deal and there were very few commissioned officers available. This led to a situation in which ordinary lieutenant-colonels were commanding brigades.

There were instances where platoons were being commanded by sergeants and companies commanded by warrant officers.  This led to fall in standard in the Nigerian Army.  It also led to situation whereby the soldiers were ineptly led, poorly trained and largely inexperienced.

Indiscipline became the order of the day too and civilians were the ones that bore the brunt mostly. Infantry tactics too were poorly executed as a result.

Activities of the Nigerian army are directed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC).

If the truth must be told, the Nigerian Army is among the best equipped military outfits in Africa.  The idea of having Divisions in the Nigerian Army started from the time of the Nigerian Civil War.

Area Command located at Kaduna was renamed as 1 Infantry Division between August and September 1967.  This was formed under Colonel Murtala Mohammed.

The Lagos Garrison Organization on the other hand was re-designated 3 Infantry Division.  It was however renamed as 3 Marine Commando while Colonel Benjamin Adekunle was the Commanding Officer.

By the time the Nigerian Civil War ended, the Nigerian Army already had 3 Divisions. These 3 Divisions were then reorganized to 4 Divisions.  Each of the Divisions controls each of the four territories in Nigeria.  The intention of this was to put an end to the initial regional structure that Nigeria had.

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The 4 Divisions were organized in such a way that each of them has access to the sea. Consequently, logistic support and triservice cooperation becomes very easy.

The Nigerian Army later abandoned this structure and opted for assignment of Sectors to each of the divisions.  This led to the allocation of North West Sector to the 1 Division having it headquarters at Kaduna.

2 Division with its headquarters at Ibadan was named South West Sector. 3 Division having its headquarters at Jos, was named North East Sector. The 82 Division with its headquarter at Enugu was named the South East Sector.

32 Artillery Brigade located at Abeokuta is under command of the 2nd Division at Ibadan. The 2nd Division also controls the 4 Brigade located at Benin City, the 195 Battalion located at Agenebode as well as the 19 battalion located at Okitipupa. Its signal unity is the 52 Signal Regiment.

The 3rd Armored Division has its headquarters at Rukuba Cantonment in Jos. It includes the 33 Artillery Brigades, the 23 Brigade in Yola and the 21 Armored Brigade in Maiduguri.

The 81st Airborne and Amphibious Division with its headquarters at Lagos has under its command the 9th Brigade having its base at the Ikeja compound in Lagos.

Also, the 82nd Division with its headquarters at Enugu has under its command the 34 Artillery Brigade located at Obinze/Owerri, the 13th Brigade located at Calabar and the 2 Brigade located at Port Harcourt.  In 1964, the Composite Division at Enugu was renamed as 4th Infantry Division.

Both Abuja and Lagos have Garrison Commands.  The Lagos garrison is however as large as a division.  The youngest of all the Divisions in the Nigerian Army is the 81 Division; it was formed in 2002, 28th of May to be precise.  Its formation was due to the upgrading of the Lagos Garrison Command to full Division.


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