Country Listing

Nigeria Table of Contents




Army Armoured Corp personnel checking vehicles
Courtesy Embassy of Nigeria, Washington


Army Signal Corps members testing equipment
Courtesy Embassy of Nigeria, Washington

In preparation for the restoration of civilian rule in 1979, specified geographic areas of responsibility defined from north to south were assigned to the army's three infantry divisions. By design these divisional areas cut across ethnic, regional, and state boundaries, thus denying division commanders a ready base for political mobilization. Each division had a mobile brigade as a protective screen for the capital. A fourth formation, composed mostly of logistical units, was deployed around Lagos.

By 1990 the army, which numbered at least 80,000, had been restructured into four divisions to accommodate the formation of an airborne division in 1981. The First Mechanized Infantry Division, headquartered at Kaduna, had brigades at Sokoto, Kano, and Minna. The Second Mechanized Infantry Division was headquartered at Ibadan. The Third Armored Division was based at Jos, with one mechanized and two armored brigades. The Eightysecond (Airborne) Division, stationed at Enugu in the southeast, had three brigades (airborne, airmobile, and amphibious) to defend the Cameroon border and for other foreign commitments. Each of the four divisions had an artillery and engineering brigade and a reconnaissance battalion. Finally, a Guard Brigade of three battalions and an armored reconnaissance battalion near Lagos provided security for army logistical units and the seat of government. The guard battalions were rotated periodically, as evidenced by the move of the Sixth Guard Battalion from Lagos to Port Harcourt in mid-1986. The guards thwarted the April 1990 coup attempt, losing five members in defense of Dodan Barracks. The army was equipped with tanks and other armored vehicles, and with artillery of various kinds (see table 17, Appendix).

In October 1986, Nigeria announced a plan to set up a reserve army under the Directorate of Army Recruitment, Resettlement, and Reserve. By 1990, however, the reserve force was still in the planning stage. Also under consideration for several years was the creation of an army light aviation force, for which American Bell 412 helicopters were being considered. It was not clear whether this was to be part of the new airborne brigade, or another unit.

In 1989 the army established a rapid deployment force to be used for any contingency, particularly in relation to neighboring African countries. This unprecedented formation might have resulted from concern about reported South African attempts to gain a foothold in Nigeria's "soft underbelly" in Equatorial Guinea, to deter such actions in the future, and to ensure combat readiness for any foreign contingency. Nigerian spokesmen stressed that the force was not intended to intimidate Nigeria's neighbors, but to fight external and internal threats.

The Nigerian army and headquarters were undergoing restructuring in late 1990. As part of the continuing reorganization, army headquarters redesignated and upgraded the authority of the officers reporting to the chief of staff. The director of training and operations was renamed chief of operations, and the director of staff duties and plans was retitled chief of policy and plans.

Data as of June 1991