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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).[3] It bears the brunt of the nation's security challenges, notably the Boko Haram insurgency.[4]

Nigerian Army
Flag of the Nigerian Army Headquarters.svg
Flag of the Nigerian Army
Founded 1960–present
Country  Nigeria
Type Army
Size 200,000 (2016)[1]
Headquarters Abuja, Nigeria
Motto(s) "Victory is from God alone"
Engagements Congo Crisis
Nigerian Civil War
First Liberian Civil War
Sierra Leone Civil War
Conflict in the Niger Delta
Boko Haram insurgency
Northern Mali War
Invasion of the Gambia
Commander-in-Chief President Muhammadu Buhari
Chief of Army Staff Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai[2]

General Aguiyi Ironsi

General Theophilus Danjuma

General Ibrahim Babangida

General Sanni Abacha

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.[5] 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.

Once among Africa’s strongest and a mainstay of regional peacekeeping, it has become a flawed force. The initially slow, heavy-handed response to the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency raised serious concerns, President Muhammadu Buhari has taken some steps to reverse the decline and has recorded significant gains against Boko Haram, but ongoing prosecution of former chiefs for graft have further deepened the military’s reputation as poorly governed and corrupt. The government and military chiefs, working with the National Assembly, civil society and international partners, need to do much more: implement comprehensive defence sector reform, including clear identification of security challenges; a new defence and security policy and structure to address them; and drastic improvement in leadership, oversight, administration and accountability across the sector.[6]

Until recently, the military was under-resourced, with comparatively low budgets, disbursed irregularly and unpredictably. From 2000 to 2008, its budget was less than 3 per cent of overall government expenditure. From 2009 to 2014, it increased to an average of 7.2 per cent of government spending ($5-$6 billion); but, as in the past, this was still allocated disproportionately to recurrent expenditures, leaving very little for crucial capital investment.[7]

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.[8] Arms embargoes imposed by several Western countries made the situation more difficult.

Since 2015 the Nigerian army has embarked on a massive rearmament and modernization program, taking the Nigerian army into the 21st Century battlefield with new modern weapons, better training and a new doctrine centred around information gathering, mobility and firepower.

It currently has over 6,000 officers and 150,000 soldiers.[9]



From the Civil WarEdit

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).[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 3rd Armoured Division was responsible in 1983 for the security of areas bordering Chad.[13]

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.[14] 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,[15] 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 number of Army divisions. The 7th Division also known ast JTF-RO is currently headquartered in Maiduguri.[16][16] The division includes a combat motorcycle unit as part of its 25 Task Force Brigade.[17] The purpose of this unit is stated as securing roads in Yobe and serving as a force multiplier in combat operations.[17]

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.

The Nigerian Army said its newly created 6 Division in Port Harcourt was established to organise and improve its internal security operations in four states of the Niger Delta. the Division will cover the army’s 2 Brigade Akwa Ibom; 16 Brigade Bayelsa and 63 Brigade in Delta, respectively, with divisional headquarters 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.[18]

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, yesterday said that a new Army Division has been approved by Army Council for Sokoto. The 8 Division of the Nigerian Army will be established in the state to enhance professionalism. Buratai noted that the new division would strengthen the security in the zone.[19]


The Nigerian Army is governed by the Nigerian Army Council (NAC). The training centers are supervised by TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command).[20]

Current formations include:

Nigerian military forces abroadEdit

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.[30] 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,[31] 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.[32]

In January 2013, Nigeria began to deploy troops to Mali as part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.[33][34]

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,[35] and Nigerian officers acting as Command Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia from at least 2007.

Chiefs of the Nigerian ArmyEdit

Following is a chronological list of officers holding the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC) or Chief of Army Staff (COAS).[36]

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 (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
Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai NAM GSS psc(+) ndc (BD) COAS Since July 2015 Commander Multinational Joint Task Force (May 2015 – July 2015)

Army equipmentEdit

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.[37] 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.[37]

The Nigerian Army maintains at least 82 different weapon systems and 194 types of ammunition, of 62 different categories, from 14 manufacturers worldwide.[37]

Infantry weaponsEdit

Type Country of Origin Notes
Beretta 92[38]   Semi-automatic pistol   Italy
Beretta M1951[39]   Semi-Automatic pistol   Italy
Browning Hi-Power   Semi-Automatic Pistol   Belgium   Nigeria Some of Nigerian manufacture.[40]
Walther P5[38]   Semi-Automatic Pistol   West Germany
Submachine guns
Beretta M12[41]   Submachine gun   Italy   Nigeria Some of Nigerian manufacture.[42]
Heckler & Koch MP5[39]   Submachine gun   Germany
Sa vz. 23   Submachine gun   Czechoslovakia
Sten[43]   Submachine gun   United Kingdom
Sterling[39]   Submachine gun   United Kingdom
Uzi[39]   Submachine gun   Israel
IWI Tavor[44]   Bullpup assault rifle   Israel
Beryl M762[45]   Assault Rifle   Poland 2000 units
FB Mini-Beryl[46]   compact assault rifle (carbine)   Poland 10 test units (wz. 1996C)[47]
M16A1[48]   Assault Rifle   United States
FN FNC[39]   Assault Rifle   Belgium
Beretta AR70/90[39] Assault Rifle   Italy
Daewoo K2[49]   Assault Rifle   South Korea 33,000 Units have been bought
OBJ-006   Assault Rifle   Soviet Union   Nigeria Produced as OBJ-006.[50][51]
AKM[52]   Assault Rifle   Soviet Union
SIG SG 540[39]   Battle Rifle    Switzerland
NR1   Battle Rifle   Belgium   Nigeria Local variant designated NR1.[53][54][55]
Heckler & Koch G3   Battle Rifle   West Germany   Nigeria Some of Nigerian manufacture.[56]
BM-59   Battle Rifle   Italy   Nigeria Some of Nigerian manufacture.[57]
Vz. 52 rifle   Semi-automatic rifle   Czechoslovakia
Machine guns
RPK   Light machine gun   Soviet Union
Degtyaryov 1938/46   Light machine gun   Soviet Union
UKM-2000   General purpose machine gun   Poland
FN MAG   General purpose machine gun   Belgium   Nigeria Some of Nigerian manufacture.[42]
Browning M2[39]   Heavy machine gun   United States
Sniper rifles
Alex-338   Sniper rifle   Poland

Missiles and Recoilless RiflesEdit

Type Country of Origin Notes
Anti-tank missiles
Swingfire[58]   Anti-tank missile   United Kingdom 100 in stock.[59]
Recoilless rifles
M40[4]   Anti-tank weapon   United States
Carl Gustav   Anti-tank weapon   Sweden 30 in service.[39]
Rocket-propelled grenades
RPG-7   Anti-tank weapon   Soviet Union
Some of Nigerian manufacture.[60]

Armoured fighting vehicleEdit

Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Main battle tanks
T-72   Main Battle Tank   Soviet Union 77[61] Sourced from the Czech Republic.
T-54/55   Main Battle Tank   Soviet Union 24[4] 50 delivered.[59]
Vickers Tank   Main Battle Tank   United Kingdom 108[4] Mk III.
AMX-30   Main Battle Tank   France 16[4]
Reconnaissance vehicles
FV101 Scorpion   Reconnaissance Vehicle   United Kingdom 157[4]
FV107 Scimitar   Reconnaissance Vehicle   United Kingdom 5[4]
ERC-90   Armoured Car   France 80[62] 40 with Lynx turret.
EE-9 Cascavel   Armoured Car   Brazil 70[4] Delivered in 1994.[59]
Panhard AML   Armoured Car   France 130[4] AML-60 and AML-90 variants.
Saladin   Armoured Car   United Kingdom 16[59]
Fox   Scout Car   United Kingdom 55[59]
Panhard VBL   Scout Car   France 72[59]
Ferret   Scout Car   United Kingdom 25[62] 40 delivered.[59]
Infantry fighting vehicles
BMP-1   Infantry Fighting Vehicle   Soviet Union 4[63] BVP-1 variant.
Armoured personnel carriers
Saurer 4K 4FA   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Austria 250[4] 300 delivered.[62]
MT-LB   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Poland 67[59] Sourced from Poland.
Mowag Piranha   Armoured Personnel Carrier    Switzerland 110[4]
BTR-4   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Ukraine BTR-4 with Grom module
BTR-3   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Ukraine 47[59] BTR-3U "Guardian" variant.
BTR-70   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Soviet Union 18[64]
BTR-60   Armoured Personnel Carrier   Soviet Union 6[65]
Saracen   Armoured Personnel Carrier   United Kingdom 10[4] 20 delivered.[59]
Saxon   Armoured Personnel Carrier   United Kingdom 75[59] Serviceability doubtful.[4]
Panhard M3   Armoured Personnel Carrier   France 18[4]
Infantry mobility vehicles
Igirigi MRAP   Nigeria Replaced the Pf1.[66]
Otokar Cobra   Multipurpose Armoured Vehicle   Turkey 204[4]
International MaxxPro   MRAP   USA
BAE Caiman   MRAP   USA
CS-VP3   MRAP   China 120
Proforce PF1   MRAP   South Africa /   Nigeria RG-34 Local variant designated Proforce Pf1.[67]
Casspir   MRAP   South Africa 5[4] Casspir III variant.
Reva   MRAP   South Africa 40[68] Mk III.[69]
Plasan Sand Cat   Composite armored vehicle   Israel
Light Armored Vehicles
SPARTAN MK.III   Light Armored Vehicle   Canada [70]
INKAS LAPV Light Armored Patrol Vehicle   Canada [71]
Shorland   Armoured Car   United Kingdom Mk 3.[72]
Armoured Ambulances
FV104 Samaritan Tracked Ambulance   United Kingdom


Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
KrAZ-6322[73]   Utility Truck   Ukraine

Mine flailEdit

Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
BOZENA 5[74] Unmanned ground vehicle   Slovakia clearance of all conventional antipersonnel and antitank land mines and for IED removal assistance.[75]

Utility VehicleEdit

Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Pinzgauer[76]   High-Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle   Austria
Land Rover   Utility Vehicle   United Kingdom   Nigeria Some of local manufacture.[72]
Haflinger   Utility Vehicle   Austria 400[76]
Toyota Hilux[77]   Light Truck   Japan
Tarpan Honker[78][79]   Multipurpose Jeep   Poland 25
IVM G-12[80] Special Purpose Vehicles[81]   Nigeria


Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Self-propelled artillery
Palmaria   Self-propelled Howitzer   Italy 25[62]
APR–40   Multiple Rocket Launcher   Socialist Republic of Romania 30[4]
RM-70   Multiple Rocket Launcher   Czechoslovakia 6[63]
L16   81mm Mortar   United Kingdom   Nigeria 200[62] Some of Nigerian manufacture.[82]
Anti-tank guns
ZiS-3[62]   Antitank Gun   Soviet Union
D-30   Howitzer   Soviet Union 90[59]
D-74 Howitzer   Soviet Union 90[59]
M46   Howitzer   Soviet Union 7[4]
D-20   Howitzer   Soviet Union 4[4] Delivered in 1992.[59]
Haubits FH77   Howitzer   Sweden 24[62]
OTO Melara Mod 56   Howitzer   Italy 124[4] 200 delivered.[59]

Air defenceEdit

Type Country of Origin In Service Notes
Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons
ZSU-23-4   Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun   Soviet Union 30[4]
Towed anti-aircraft guns
Bofors L/60   Towed anti-aircraft gun   Sweden 12[4]
ZPU[62]   Towed anti-aircraft gun   Soviet Union
ZU-23-2   Towed anti-aircraft gun   Soviet Union 350[4]
Surface-to-air missiles
Blowpipe   Surface-to-air missile   United Kingdom 48[62]
Roland   Surface-to-air missile   France 16[62] Mounted on AMX-30 chassis.
Strela 2   Surface-to-air missile   Soviet Union 100[4]



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