Nigerian Army

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Nigerian Army
Flag of the Nigerian Army Headquarters.svg
Crest of the Nigerian Army
Founded 1960–present
Country  Nigeria
Type Army
Size Est. 62,000[1] to 100,000 [2]
Headquarters Abuja, Nigeria
Motto(s) "Victory is from God alone"
Chief of Army Staff Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai [3]

The Nigerian Army (NA) is the largest component of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and responsible for land warfare operations. It is governed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC).[4]

Given its considerable investment in materiel, the Nigerian Army has generally been perceived as one of the better equipped fighting forces on the African continent.[5] It bears the brunt of the nation's security challenges, notably the Boko Haram insurgency.[6]

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.

In Nigeria, from a force of 18,000 in infantry battalions and supporting units, strength rose to around 126,000 in three divisions by the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 .[7] In terms of doctrine, the task of the Federal Nigerian army did not fundamentally change: its task remained 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 in rudimentary staff work.[8] 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." [9] 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 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 under-resourced; 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 lasted for the entire period of the war.[10] Arms embargoes imposed by several Western countries made the situation more difficult.

As of 2015, the Nigerian Army has a personnel strength of approximately 62,000.[1]


Divisions in the Nigerian Army originated during the Nigerian Civil War, when in August–September 1967, 1 Area Command at Kaduna 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 be renamed 3 Marine Commando under Colonel Benjamin Adekunle.[11]

At the end of the Civil War, the three divisions of the army were reorganised into four divisions, with each controlling territories running from North to South in order to deemphasise the former regional structure. Each division thus had access to the sea thereby making triservice cooperation and logistic support easier. This deployment formula was later abandoned in favour of the present assignment of sectors to the divisions. Thus 1 Division with HQ at Kaduna is allocated the North West sector; 2 Division with HQ at lbadan South West sector, 3 Division with HQ at Jos North East sector and 82 Division with HQ at Enugu South East sector.[citation needed]

Its formations include the 1st Division, headquartered in Kaduna in the north-west, and 2nd Division (HQ Ibadan in the South-West, which includes 32 Artillery Brigade at Abeokuta).[12] 2nd Division also possibly includes 4 Brigade at Benin City, with 19 Battalion at Okitipupa and 195 Battalion at Agenebode. 52 Signal Regiment may be the divisional signals unit. 3rd Armoured Division's headquarters is at Rukuba Cantonment, Jos, in the North-East, and includes 21 Armoured Brigade Maiduguri, 23 Brigade Yola, and 33 Artillery Brigades.[13] 81st Division (Amphibious) HQ in Lagos, which includes the 9th Brigade, based at the Ikeja compound in Lagos, 82nd Division (Airborne and Amphibious) HQ in Enugu in the South-East, which includes the 2 Brigade at Port Harcourt, 13 Brigade at Calabar and the 34 Artillery Brigade at Obinze/Owerri. The Composite Division at Enugu was formed in 1964 as 4th Infantry Division, in 1975 became Lagos Garrison Organization; in 1981 became 4th Composite Division; became a Composite Division in May 2002.[14] 3rd Armoured Division was responsible in 1983 for the security of areas bordering Chad.[15]

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.[16] 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,[17] ordnance corps units as well as Combat Engineer Regiments, and many other service support units spread across the country. The 7th Infantry Division was established in August 2013 for the war against Boko Haram. The creation of the new division brought to six the Army divisions in the country. The 7th Division also known ast JTF-RO is currently headquartered in Maiduguri.[18][18]

Training and Doctrine Command formed in 1981, and is located at Minna. It supervises the army's schools, including the Depot. The Army sponsors the Nigerian Military School at Zaria.

Nigerian military forces abroad[edit]

Nigerian soldiers in Somalia, 1993

In December 1983 the new régime of the Head of State of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, announced that Nigeria could no longer afford an activist anti-colonial role in Africa. Anglophone members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 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 had previously carried out UN and ECOWAS deployments in the former Yugoslavia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sierra Leone.[citation needed]

The anti-colonial policy statement did not deter Nigeria under Generals Ibrahim Babangida in 1990 and Sani Abacha in 1997 from sending peacekeeping troops as part of ECOMOG under the auspices of ECOWAS into Liberia and later into 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[by whom?] and exiled to Nigeria.

In October 2004, Nigerian troops deployed into Darfur, Sudan to spearhead an African Union force to protect civilians there.

In January 2013, Nigeria began to deploy troops to Mali as part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.

Nigeria claimed to have contributed more than 20,000 troops and police officers 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,[19] and Nigerian officers acting as Command Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia from at least 2007.

Chiefs of the Nigerian Army[edit]

Following is a chronological list of officers holding the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC) or Chief of Army Staff (COAS).[20]

Officer Title Period Served Remarks
Maj Gen Kenneth G. Exham 1956–1959 Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Maj Gen Foster GOC
Maj Gen John Alexander Mackenzie GOC 1963
Maj Gen Sir Christopher Welby-Everard GOC 1963–1965 Last British GOC
Maj Gen Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi GOC 1965–1966 Later military ruler
Lt Col Yakubu Gowon FSS COAS January 1966 - July 1966 Later military ruler
Lt Col Joseph Akahan OFR FSS COAS May 1967 - May 1968
Maj Gen Hassan Katsina rcds psc COAS May 1968 - January 1971
Maj Gen David Ejoor COAS January 1971 - July 1975
Lt Gen Theophilus Danjuma COAS July 1975 - October 1979
Lt Gen Ipoola Alani Akinrinade CFR FSS COAS October 1979 - April 1980 nil
Lt Gen Gibson Jalo CFR FSS JSS COAS April 1980 - October 1981
Lt Gen Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi CFR FSS COAS October 1981 - October 1983
Maj Gen Ibrahim Babangida COAS January 1984 - August 1985 Later military ruler
Lt Gen Sani Abacha GCON, DSS mni COAS August 1985 - August 1990 Later military ruler
Lt Gen Salihu Ibrahim FSS FHWC COAS August 1990 - September 1993
Lt Gen Aliyu Gusau Mohammed DSS rcds COAS September 1993 - November 1993
Maj Gen Chris Alli CRG DSS ndc psc(+) COAS November 1993 - August 1994??
Maj Gen Alwali Kazir DSS Usawc psc(+) COAS August 1994 - March 1996
Lt Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi DSS Usawc psc(+) COAS March 1996-May 1999
Lt Gen Victor Malu DSS mni fwc psc COAS May 1999 - April 2001
Lt Gen Alexander Ogomudia COAS April 2001 - June 2003 Later Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Lt Gen Martin Luther Agwai COAS June 2003 June 2006 Later Commander of the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur.
Lt Gen Owoye Andrew Azazi COAS 1 June 2006 - May 2007 Later Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Lt Gen Luka Yusuf CFR GSS GPP DSO psc(+) fwc Msc COAS June 2007 - August 2008
Lt Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau CFR GSS psc ndc fwc(+) PhD COAS August 2008 - September 2010
Lt Gen Onyabor Azubuike Ihejirika CFR GSS psc(+) fwc fniqs COAS September 2010 - January 2014
Lt Gen Kenneth Minimah GSS psc(+) fwc COAS January 2014 – July 2015
Major-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai COAS July 2015 - Date Commander Multinational Joint Task Force (May 2015 - July 2015)

Army equipment[edit]

Despite a disproportionate emphasis on the materiel and sophistication of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and despite possessing some formidable hardware, the army has been hamstrung by technical deficiency and an exceptionally poor standard of maintenance.[21] Its overabundance of foreign suppliers, including Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, the former Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, has also complicated logistics. Calculating the size and scope of replacement inventories alone is impossible given the menagerie of equipment in use.[21]

The Nigerian Army maintains at least 82 different weapon systems and 194 types of ammunition, of 62 different categories, from 14 manufacturers worldwide.[21]

Small arms[edit]

Name Type Country of Origin Notes
Beretta 92[22] Semi-automatic pistol  Italy
Beretta M1951[23] Semi-Automatic Pistol  Italy
Browning Hi-Power Semi-Automatic Pistol  Belgium Some of Nigerian manufacture.[24]
Walther P5[22] Semi-Automatic Pistol  West Germany
Beretta M12[25] Submachine gun  Italy Some of Nigerian manufacture.[26]
Heckler & Koch MP5[23] Submachine gun  Germany
Sa vz. 23 Submachine gun  Czechoslovakia
Sten[5] Submachine gun  United Kingdom
Sterling[23] Submachine gun  United Kingdom
Uzi[23] Submachine gun  Israel
Beryl M762[27] Assault Rifle  Poland
M16A1[28] Assault Rifle  United States
FN FNC[23] Assault Rifle  Belgium
Beretta AR70/90[23] Assault Rifle  Italy
SIG SG 540[23] Battle Rifle   Switzerland
Daewoo K2[29] Assault Rifle  South Korea
AK-47 Assault Rifle  Soviet Union Produced as OBJ-006.[30][31]
AKM[32] Assault Rifle  Soviet Union
FN FAL Battle Rifle  Belgium Local variant designated NR1.[33][34][35]
Heckler & Koch G3 Battle Rifle  West Germany Some of Nigerian manufacture.[36]
BM-59 Battle Rifle  Italy Some of Nigerian manufacture.[37]
Vz. 52 rifle Semi-automatic rifle  Czechoslovakia
Browning M2[23] Heavy machine gun  United States
Degtyaryov 1938/46 Light machine gun  Soviet Union
FN MAG General purpose machine gun  Belgium Some of Nigerian manufacture.[26]
RPK Light machine gun  Soviet Union
RPG-7 Anti-tank weapon  Soviet Union Some of Nigerian manufacture.[38]

Missiles and Recoilless Rifles[edit]

Name Type Country of Origin Notes
Swingfire[39] Anti-tank missile  United Kingdom 100 in stock.[40]
M40[6] Anti-tank weapon  United States
Carl Gustav Anti-tank weapon  Sweden 30 in service.[23]


Name Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
T-72 Main Battle Tank  Soviet Union 16[41] Sourced from the Czech Republic.
T-54/55 Main Battle Tank  Soviet Union 24[6] 50 delivered.[40]
Vickers Tank Main Battle Tank  United Kingdom 108[6] Mk III.
AMX-30 Main Battle Tank  France 16[6]
FV101 Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle  United Kingdom 157[6]
FV107 Scimitar Reconnaissance Vehicle  United Kingdom 5[6]
BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle  Soviet Union 4[42] BVP-1 variant.
Saurer 4K 4FA Armoured Personnel Carrier  Austria 250[6] 300 delivered.[43]
MT-LB Armoured Personnel Carrier  Poland 67[40] Sourced from Poland.
Mowag Piranha Armoured Personnel Carrier   Switzerland 110[6]
BTR-3 Armoured Personnel Carrier  Ukraine 47[40] BTR-3U "Guardian" variant.
BTR-70 Armoured Personnel Carrier  Soviet Union 18[44]
BTR-60 Armoured Personnel Carrier  Soviet Union 6[45]
Saracen Armoured Personnel Carrier  United Kingdom 10[6] 20 delivered.[40]
Saxon Armoured Personnel Carrier  United Kingdom 75[40] Serviceability doubtful.[6]
Panhard M3 Armoured Personnel Carrier  France 18[6]
Igirigi Armoured Personnel Carrier  Nigeria Replaced the Pf1.[46]
Otokar Cobra Multipurpose Armoured Vehicle  Turkey 204[6]
RG-34 MRAP  South Africa Local variant designated Proforce Pf1.[47]
Casspir MRAP  South Africa 5[6] Casspir III variant.
Reva MRAP  South Africa Mk III.[48]
ERC-90 Armoured Car  France 80[43] 40 with Lynx turret.
EE-9 Cascavel Armoured Car  Brazil 70[6] Delivered in 1994.[40]
Panhard AML Armoured Car  France 130[6] AML-60 and AML-90 variants.
Saladin Armoured Car  United Kingdom 16[40]
Shorland Armoured Car  United Kingdom Mk 3.[49]
Fox Scout Car  United Kingdom 55[40]
Panhard VBL Scout Car  France 72[40]
Ferret Scout Car  United Kingdom 25[43] 40 delivered.[40]
FV104 Samaritan Tracked Ambulance  United Kingdom
KrAZ-6322[50] Utility Truck  Ukraine
Pinzgauer[51] Utility Truck  Austria
Land Rover Utility Vehicle  United Kingdom Some of local manufacture.[49]
Haflinger Utility Vehicle  Austria 400[51]
Toyota Hilux[52] Light Truck  Japan
Tarpan Honker[53][54] Multipurpose Jeep  Poland 25


Name Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Palmaria Self-propelled Howitzer  Italy 25[43]
APR–40 Multiple Rocket Launcher Romania Socialist Republic of Romania 30[6]
RM-70 Multiple Rocket Launcher  Czechoslovakia 6[42]
L16 81mm Mortar  United Kingdom 200[43] Some of Nigerian manufacture.[55]
ZiS-3[43] Antitank Gun  Soviet Union
D-30 Howitzer  Soviet Union 90[40]
D-74 Howitzer  Soviet Union 90[40]
M46 Howitzer  Soviet Union 7[6]
D-20 Howitzer  Soviet Union 4[6] Delivered in 1992.[40]
Haubits FH77 Howitzer  Sweden 24[43]
OTO Melara Mod 56 Howitzer  Italy 124[6] 200 delivered.[40]

Air defence[edit]

Name Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Bofors L/60 Towed anti-aircraft gun  Sweden 12[6]
ZPU[43] Towed anti-aircraft gun  Soviet Union
ZSU-23-4 Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun  Soviet Union 30[6]
ZU-23-2 Towed anti-aircraft gun  Soviet Union 350[6]
Blowpipe Surface-to-air missile  United Kingdom 48[43]
Roland Surface-to-air missile  France 16[43] Mounted on AMX-30 chassis.
Strela 2 Surface-to-air missile  Soviet Union 100[6]


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