Country Listing

Nigeria Table of Contents


Military Capabilities

Compared with its neighbors, Nigeria possessed overwhelming military strength. Its sizeable and relatively well-equipped armed forces were capable of defending the country against any likely external threat and of projecting power in the region. In fact, prior to the Persian Gulf war of 1989-90, Nigeria was the only country in west-central Africa to mount and sustain military operations abroad. Although the army had been cut by more than one-half since 1970, its firepower and mobility have increased considerably. The other services have grown little, but their combat systems increased in number and sophistication. The navy expanded its mission from coastal defense to sea-lane protection and acquired modest amphibious and antisubmarine warfare capabilities. Likewise, the NAF developed and improved its capacity for ground attack, air support, interdiction, air defense, airlift, and air mobility operations.

Nigeria's military capabilities were subject to several systemic constraints, however. Economic difficulties and budgetary limitations slowed the pace of military modernization, delayed new equipment procurements, hindered defense industrial growth, reduced training, and magnified logistical and maintenance deficiencies. The diversity of equipment of foreign origin precluded standardization and compounded logistics and maintenance difficulties. Indeed, in the 1980s it was estimated that, at any given time, one-third of Nigeria's major systems was operational, another third could be made operational within a few weeks, and the remainder was indefinitely unserviceable. Moreover, the top military echelons had become politicized, engrossed in government functions, and preoccupied with internal security at the expense of professional military development. Inefficiency and corruption exacerbated these problems, all of which combined to hurt operational readiness and effectiveness. However, the progressive withdrawal of the military from politics during the transition to the Third Republic (expected to begin with the completion of the return to civilian rule in late 1992), the restructuring of the armed forces, and the emphasis on professionalism since the late 1980s were intended to remedy these problems.

Data as of June 1991