Nigeria Navy is one of the three arms of the Nigerian military, which include Nigerian army and Nigerian Air Force. While the Army sees to land warfare, the Air Force handles air warfare. The Nigerian Navy, on the other hand, handles water warfare. These three unite together to maintain the border integrity of the Nigerian State.
This write up is more concerned about the Nigerian army and we are going to look at the history of this very special arm of the Nigerian armed forces.
The origin of the Nigerian military can be traced to the time of colonial rule. They were originally a colonial marine department of the Royal Navy. This colonial department got established in 1887. It was then a quasi-military organization; it combined the duties of the Nigerian port authority, the inland waterways and the Navy.
The navy aspect of the Nigerian Military participated in the First World War between 1914 and 1918 in the Cameroun against the Germans. As at that time, the Royal Navy did not deem it fit to establish a functional navy for Nigeria; their understanding then was that the UK has the responsibility to provide security in the Nigerian waterways. This was the situation of things until after the Second World War in 1945.
Once the Second World War was over, the colonial administration decided to establish Nigerian Port Authority and this task was removed from the Navy. Nigerians, who were in the navy at that time continued to push for the establishment of Nigerian Navy.
The very first officer to head the Nigerian Navy Defense Force (NNDF) was Captain Skutil. He was one of the forces pushing for the establishment of the Nigerian navy. His effort was prominent and one could say he was principal to the final decision of the colonial administration towards establishing the Nigerian Navy.
Finally, in 1956, the colonial government made a policy statement for establishment of the Nigerian naval Force.
Also Read: Ranks in the Nigerian Navy
The NNDF started operations on the 1st of June, 1956 with eleven assorted ships and craft these comprise 2 survey vessels, one patrol; craft, 2 training boats, one tug, 3 VIP boats and one general purpose launch.
The very first naval legislation was passed on the 1st of August, 1956 by the House of Representatives. It was later assented to by Sir James Robertson, the Governor General, on the 5th of September, 1956. This was referred to as the Nigerian Navy Ordinance.
As a result of the legislation, the NNDF was designated the Royal Nigerian Navy. The prefix “Royal’ was however removed in 1963 when Nigeria became a Republic. This was how the name became Nigerian Navy.
As at the time the Nigerian Navy was established, it could only patrol 3 nautical miles. This was the limit of the Nigerian territorial waters. This shortcoming was however corrected in the Navy Act of 1964. The limitation was then removed and the Nigerian Navy could patrol farther.
Around independence, very few patrol boat was available to the Nigerian Navy. These days, however, the number of patrol boats available has increased. Today, the Nigerian Navy can stand as a multi-mission maritime arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. They now have various peacetime and wartime roles.
The Nigerian Navy was charged with the role of defending the Nigerian coastal region according to the 1999 Constitution. They provide assistance with enforcing pollution laws, fishery protection, bunkering laws, immigration and Custom laws. Also, they enforce all international and national maritime laws that are acceded to or ascribed to by Nigeria.
The Armed Forces Act also charged the Nigerian Navy to coordinate national hydrographic survey and making of charts. Also, they are involved in promoting, enforcing and coordinating safety regulations in Nigeria territorial waters and EEZ of Nigeria. The roles mentioned above cover all the diplomatic, policing and military functions of a modern army.
Civil war roles
The Nigerian Navy was fully involved during the Nigerian Civil War, most especially after the January 1967, Aburi Talk was aborted.
The Nigerian Navy was involved in policing the Nigerian territorial waters. They played a major role in enforcing the order of the Federal Military Government that banned shipping in the eastern part of Nigeria during that period.
The constant patrol set up by the Nigerian Navy blocked the Atlantic seabed effectively and also made it completely impossible for any large scale importation of the arms and ammunition required by Biafra.
The Nigerian Navy was also involved in several amphibious landings in the region. A good example of this is the Bonny Landing that took place in July 1967. This was the first of its kind in any third world country.
This was followed shortly by the Delta Ports amphibious operations that occurred in the middle of September 1967. The purpose of the operation was to recapture the ports at Sapele, Koko and Warri from the Biafrans.
In November 1967, yet a similar operation took place that resulted to the liberation of Calabar. This was shortly followed by the 3rd Marine Commandos landing at the Oron Beachhead, which led to the capture of mainland Cross River State.
Naval ships in the fleet of the Nigerian Navy, especially the NNS Nigeria, also provided logistic support by shipping arms and ammunition. The ship also provided casualty evacuation as well as carried troops for reinforcement.
Notably, during the Bonny amphibious landing when things became critical, it was the timely arrival of the NNS NIGERIA that saved the day. The ship brought in troop reinforcement on the 5th of January 1967 and this saved the face of the federal government.
After civil war
The Nigerian government was able to accrue quite an amount of revenue from the sales of crude oil after the civil war.
The Nigerian Navy authorities then began plans to acquire more ships to ensure better protection for the offshore resources of Nigeria in a rather comprehensive manner. This was when the Contingency Plan for the Protection of Offshore Installations was approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Navy acquired several warships and they also acquired 2 squadron missile-carrying Fast Attack Crafts. The NN Flotilla got split in 1982 to Eastern and Western Fleets. Each of them has headquarters in Lagos and Calabar respectively.