Nigerian Army

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Nigerian Army
Nigerian Army Logo With Correct Inscriptions.png
Emblem of the Nigerian Army
Country Nigeria
RoleLand warfare
Size160,000 (2020)[1]
Part ofNigerian Armed Forces
Motto(s)"Victory is from God alone!"
AnniversariesNigerian Army Day (6 July)
EngagementsCongo Crisis
Nigerian Civil War
First Liberian Civil War
Sierra Leone Civil War
Nigeria-Cameroon border conflict
Conflict in the Niger Delta
Boko Haram insurgency
Northern Mali War
Invasion of the Gambia
Insurgency in Southeastern Nigeria
Nigerian bandit conflict
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Muhammadu Buhari
Chief of Defence StaffGeneral Lucky Irabor
Chief of Army StaffLieutenant General Faruk Yahaya
Nigerian Army Flag.png

The Nigerian Army (NA) is the land force of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is governed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC).[2] The Chief of Army Staff is the highest ranking military officer of the Nigerian Army.[3]



The Nigerian Army traces its history to Lieutenant John Hawley Glover's Constabulary Force, which was largely composed of freed Hausa slaves in 1863.[4] The Constabulary Force was established with the primary goal of protecting the Royal Niger Company and its assets from constant military incursions by the neighboring Ashanti Empire.[5] This policing force would slowly grow in size and capability to meet the needs of the British Empire in its West African territories, and would later form the nucleus of both the Gold Coast and the Hausa Constabulary, both of which would become the Ghana Regiment and Southern Nigeria Regiment respectively by 1879. These regiments would be incorporated into the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in 1900 by the British Colonial Office, following British military experiences in the Benin Expedition of 1897, as well as wider British efforts of complete reorganization of its African colonial units such as that of the Egyptian Army earlier in the year. 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.

Independence and civil war[edit]

The roots of the ethnic cleavages which started to rip through the army after independence had some of their origins in colonial 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,[6] strength rose to around 120,000 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 organized enemy.

The rapid expansion of the Nigerian Army in the wake of the civil war witnessed a severe decline in troop quality.[8] The expansion process overseen by the Nigerian army command staff 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 by Nigerian army personnel.[9] One result of the weak direction was that the federal government's three field divisions fought independently, and competed for men and material. Writing in a 1984 study, Major Michael Stafford of the United States Marine Corps noted the following: "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."[10] Among the results of this failure of command experience and professionalism was the 1967 Asaba massacre, resulting in the deaths of some one thousand civilians and individuals of Igbo descent.

In November 1970, the U.S. intelligence community concluded the following: "The Nigerian Civil War ended with surprisingly little rancor. The defeated Igbos are accepted as fellow citizens in many parts of Nigeria, but not in some areas of former Biafra where they were once dominant. [Iboland] is an overpoperated, economically depressed area, where massive unemployment is likely to prevail for some years." Furthermore, U.S. analysts would go on to state that: "Nigeria is still very much a tribal society, in which clan, tribal and regional jealousies, hostilities and interests count for more than national attachment. General Gowon, Head of the Federal Military Government (FMG), is the accepted national leader and his popularity has grown since the end of the war. The FMG is neither very efficient nor dynamic, but the recent announcement that it intends to retain power for six more years has generated little opposition so far. The Nigerian Army, vastly expanded during the war, is both the main support to the FMG and the chief threat to it. The troops are poorly trained and disciplined and some of the officers are turning to conspiracies and plotting. We think Gowon will have great difficulty in staying in office through the period which he said is necessary before the turnover of power to civilians. His sudden removal would dim the prospects for Nigerian stability."[11]

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 was 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 permitted 3 Division to successfully conduct the offensive operations that would ultimately lead to the end the civil war in Nigeria. 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.[12] Arms embargoes imposed by several Western countries made the situation more difficult.

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 Ibadan South West sector, 3 Division with HQ at Jos North East sector and 82 Division with HQ at Enugu South East sector.[13]

Recent history[edit]

Its formations include the 1 Division, headquartered in Kaduna in the north-west, and 2 Division (HQ Ibadan in the South-West, which includes 32 Artillery Brigade at Abeokuta).[14] 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. 3 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.[15] 81st Division (Amphibious) HQ in Lagos, which includes the 9 Brigade, based at Ikeja Cantonment in northern 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 34th Artillery Brigade at Obinze/Owerri. The Composite Division at Enugu was formed in 1964 as 4 Division, in 1975 became Lagos Garrison Organization; in 1981 became 4 Composite Division; became a Composite Division in May 2002.[16] 3rd Armoured Division was responsible in 1983 for the security of areas bordering Chad.[17]

Lagos and Abuja have garrison commands, with the Lagos garrison as large as a division. 81st Division was previously the youngest division, formed on 26 May 2002 when the Lagos Garrison Command (as it then was) was upgraded to divisional status. The Division, therefore, inherited the security roles hitherto performed by the defunct Lagos Garrison Command.[18] However a later undated article in a Nigerian online newspaper says the 81st 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,[19] ordnance corps units as well as Combat Engineer Regiments, and many other service support units spread across the country.

The 7th Division (also known as JTF-RO) was established in August 2013 for the war against Boko Haram. The creation of the new division brought to six the number of divisions. The 7th division is headquartered in Maiduguri.[20] The division includes a combat motorcycle unit as part of its 25th Task Force Brigade.[21] The purpose of this unit is stated as securing roads in Yobe and serving as a force multiplier in combat operations.[21] 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 and Command Secondary Schools all over the federation.


The Nigerian Army as of 2016 consisted of some 6,000 officers and 150,000 enlisted personnel.[22] The army itself is governed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC). The Nigerian Army is functionally organized into combat arms, which are infantry and armoured; the combat support arms, which are artillery, engineers, signals, and intelligence; the combat support services comprise the Nigerian Army Medical Corps,[23] supply and transport, ordinance and finance. Others include the military police, physical training, chaplains, public relations and the Nigerian Army Band Corps.[24] The 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).[24][25]

The Nigerian Army said its newly created the 6 Division in Port Harcourt was established to organize and improve its internal security operations in four states of the Niger Delta. The division will cover the army's 2 Brigade in Akwa Ibom, 16 Brigade in Bayelsa, and 63 Brigade in Delta respectively; while the divisional headquarters will be located in Port Harcourt. This arrangement will help to curtail activities of militants, banditry, inter-communal clashes, illegal bunkering, kidnapping, robberies, Niger Delta Avengers and pipeline vandalism prevalent in the area. Insecurity in these states negatively impacts on the national economy resulting from sabotage by criminal entities within the region.[26]


Current formations include:

Geographical distribution[edit]

Military locations[edit]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inspecting the Presidential Guard Brigade during his visit to Abuja in October 2007.

The following are installations owned by the Nigerian Army:[30]

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.[31] Smaller army forces had previously carried out UN and ECOWAS deployments in the former Yugoslavia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sierra Leone.[32]

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,[33] 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 U.S. pressure[34] and exiled to Nigeria.

In October 2004, Nigerian troops were deployed into Darfur, Sudan to spearhead an African Union force to protect civilians there.[35]

In January 2013, Nigeria began to deploy troops to Mali as part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.[36][37]

Nigeria claimed to have contributed more than twenty thousand 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 Army 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,[38] 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).[39]

Officer Title Period Served Remarks
Maj Gen Kenneth G. Exham GOC 1956–1959 Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Maj Gen Norman Foster GOC 1960–1962
Maj Gen John Alexander Mackenzie GOC 1963 2nd Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers
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
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 Last 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
Lt Gen Martin Luther Agwai COAS June 2003 – June 2006 Later Force Commander of the UNAMID
Lt Gen Owoye Andrew Azazi COAS 1 June 2006 – May 2007 Later Chief of Defence Staff
Lt Gen Luka Yusuf COAS June 2007 – August 2008
Lt Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau COAS August 2008 – September 2010
Lt Gen Onyabor Azubuike Ihejirika COAS September 2010 – January 2014
Lt Gen Kenneth Minimah COAS January 2014 – July 2015
Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai COAS July 2015 – January 2021 Commander Multinational Joint Task Force (May 2015 – January 2021)
Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru COAS January 2021 – May 2021 ( died in office)
Lt Gen Farouk Yahaya COAS 27 May 2021 – until date


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.[40] Its overabundance of foreign suppliers, including Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, the United States 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.[40][41][42]

The Nigerian Army maintains at least eighty-two different weapon systems and 194 types of ammunition, of sixty-two different categories, from fourteen manufacturers.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The International Institute of Strategic Studies (14 February 2020). The Military Balance 2020. Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated. p. 493. ISBN 9780367466398.
  2. ^ Parliament of Nigeria. "Nigerian Armed Forces Act, 1994" (PDF). International Red Cross. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan sacks military chiefs". BBC News. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  4. ^ "History of the Nigerian Army". Nigerian Army. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  5. ^ "celebrating nigerian army at 152". Thisdaylive. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  6. ^ Gutteridge, Military in African Politics, 1969, 97.
  7. ^ Scott report, Sunday Telegraph, 11 January 1970, via N.J. Miners, The Nigerian Army 1956–65, Methuen and Co. Ltd, London, 1971, p. 229
  8. ^ Sieff, Kevin (10 May 2015). "The Nigerian military is so broken, its soldiers are refusing to fight". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  9. ^ Neville Brown, "The Nigerian Civil War," Military Review, vol. 48, October 1968, p. 28, cited in Major Michael Stafford, Quick Kill in Slow Motion, Marine Corps CSC, 1984, at
  10. ^ Stafford study, 1984
  11. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2 November 1970), National Intelligence Estimate 64.2–70: Prospects for Postwar Nigeria (PDF), United States Department of State, archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2009, retrieved 17 August 2013
  12. ^ Olusegun Obasanjo, My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, Heinemann, Ibadan/London/Nairobi, 1980, p. 61
  13. ^ "Nigerian Army Logbaby". Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Home". Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  15. ^ "The Nigerian Army - 3 Division". Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  16. ^, Concise World Armies 2006
  17. ^ Jimi Peters, The Nigerian military and the state, I.B. Tauris, 1997, p. 174, via Google Books
  18. ^ "Nigerian Army". Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  19. ^ Saxone Akhaine, Army chief decries military's involvement in politics, Guardian, Kaduna, 13 October 2008
  20. ^ John Pike. "Nigeria – 7th Infantry Division". Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  21. ^ a b "Nigerian Army Inducts Combat Motorbikes Battalion To Fight Boko Haram". Defense World. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Nigerian Army plans to double in size | IHS Jane's 360". Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  23. ^ Soldiering as a Career. Nigerian Army.
  24. ^ a b "Nigerian Army Order of Battle". Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g "Nigerian Army- Official Website".
  26. ^ a b "Why we created new Nigerian Army division in Niger Delta – Major General – Premium Times Nigeria". 19 November 2016.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nigerian Army Order of Battle". Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  28. ^ Emmanuel, Ankeli (28 November 2016). "Nigeria: Army Council Approves 8 Division for Sokoto". AllAfrica.
  29. ^ "Preventing Coups in Nigeria". Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  30. ^ "Barracks". Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  31. ^ "Waging War to Keep the Peace: The ECOMOG Intervention and Human Rights (Human Rights Watch Report, June 1993)". Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  32. ^ "Nigerian Army Order of Battle". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  33. ^ "Nigerian troops off to Liberia". News24. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  34. ^ "Nigeria would shield Taylor from trial". CNN. 10 July 2003.
  35. ^ "BBC NEWS | Africa | Rwandan soldiers arrive in Sudan". 15 August 2004. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  36. ^ "Nigeria expends N7bn on troops, logistics to Mali – Jonathan – Vanguard News". Vanguard News. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  37. ^ "U.S., Africa say Mali action counters growing Islamist threat". Reuters. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  38. ^ "Account Suspended".
  39. ^ "The Nigerian Army - Chronicle of Command". Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  40. ^ a b c John Olukayode Fayemi. "NThreats, Military Expenditure and National Security: Analysis of Trends in Nigeria's Defence Planning, 1970 – 1990" (PDF). University of London. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Nigerian Army Uses Trump's Words to Justify Fatal Shooting of Rock-Throwing Protesters". Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  42. ^ "Army better equipped, motivated under Buhari – Army Chief". The Informant247. 29 May 2022. Retrieved 30 May 2022.

External links[edit]