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The Nigerian Army is the largest component of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and is responsible for land warfare operations. It is governed by the Nigerian Army Council. It bears the brunt of the nation’s security challenges, notably the Boko Haram insurgency.
The original elements of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in Nigeria were formed in 1900. During the Second World War, British-trained Nigerian troops saw action with the 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, the 81st and the 82nd (West Africa) Divisions which fought in the East African Campaign (World War II) and in the Far East.
The roots of the ethnic cleavages which started to rip through the army after independence had some of their origins in British recruiting practices, with line infantry and the artillery being raised from the North, but during the expansion of the force during the Second World War a large proportion of more educated southerners being brought in to take up posts that required more technical training. Like in Ghana, there was significant pressure to “Nigerianize” the armed forces, with, for example, two officers being promoted to Brigadier as a concession to public opinion on the occasion of the last British commander arriving in Lagos. 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 did not fundamentally change: its task remained to close with and defeat an organized 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 in rudimentary staff work. One result of the weak direction was that the Federals’ three divisions fought independently, and competed for men and material. 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 is generally greater in the armies of developing states, as they tend to have weaker institutional frameworks. Key personalities involved in Nigeria included then-Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo is particularly important due to his efforts to reorganize his command, 3 Division, during the civil war to improve its logistics and administration. The reorganization he instituted made the Division capable of carrying out the offensive that ended the civil war.
Nigerian Army Structure
The Nigerian Army is governed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC). The Nigerian Army is functionally organized into combat arms, which are infantry and armored; the combat support arms, which are artillery, engineers, and signals; the combat support services comprise the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, supply and transport, ordinance and finance. Others include the military police, intelligence, physical training, chaplains, public relations and band. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) located in Minna is responsible for doctrinal, training and combat development, and supervises training centers. There are 17 Corps Training Schools and the Nigerian Army College of Logistics (NACOL).
Current formations include:
- 1 Division, headquartered in Kaduna
- 2 Division (HQ in Ibadan)
- 3 Armoured Division HQ in Jos
- 6th Amphibious Division HQ Port Harcourt
- 7th Infantry Division (OP-LD) HQ in Maiduguri
- 8th Division HQ Sokoto
- 81st Division (Amphibious) HQ in Lagos
- 82nd Division (Airborne and Amphibious) HQ in Enugu
- Training and Doctrine Command HQ Minna
The government and military chiefs, working with the National Assembly, civil society and international partners, need to do much more: implement comprehensive defense sector reform, including clear identification of security challenges; a new defense and security policy and structure to address them; and drastic improvement in leadership, oversight, administration and accountability across the sector. It currently has over 6,000 officers and 150,000 soldiers.