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). 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.
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. 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.