Can Nigeria Defend Herself ? Need For a New Security Architecture.

Nigeria needs to overhaul its entire Security Architecture to protect the Nigerian people and its immense natural resources.

Nigeria is the 9th largest producer of crude in the world and 6th largest exporter of crude in OPEC ( Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries)

The quality of Nigerian crude (Bonny light) is the most sought after in the world because its light and remarkably easy and cheap to refine.

Nigeria has the 10th largest proven oil reserves in the world with 39 billion barrels. It’s worth an estimated $3.4 trillion.

While the oil wells in the Middle East are running dry, with some countries like the UAE expecting their wells to run dry in 15 years, in Nigeria the reverse is the case. In the past 10 years %90 of new oil discoveries were made outside the Niger Delta. Lagos and Oyo joined the league of Oil producing states in Nigeria.

In the oil rich Lake Chad basin, Niger and Chad have all but nearly exhausted their crude deposits (which wasn’t much in the first place ) with nothing to show form or, and are once again setting their eyes on Nigeria’s untapped deposits in the Nigerian controlled islands in the Lake Chad basin and parts of Borno state.

Apart from energy, Nigeria’s unique rainforest is among the richest in the world.

Resource rich countries like Nigeria sorrounded be desperately poor resoyrce poor countries giverned by autocrats are a natural target. Nigeeia MUST build up a robust defense architecture if it hopes to survive.

Nigeria has had nearly 17 years of uninterrupted military operations. Save for the Niger Delta insurgency, Nigeria’s recent wars have been externally orchestrated with one goal in mind – to fracture the country. It is no brainer why.

Nigeria is an anomaly to Western powers. A black country with a population larger than two of Europe’s most populous country combined, a staggering amount of minerals and energy resources, a fairly independent foreign policy and the bastion for security and economic development in an entire region.

This is an ANOMALY !! No black country should be this wealthy, independent and wield so much cultural, economic and military influence. Such anomalies must be fixed.

Faced with these challenges and pushbacks, a sensible country will effectively arm itself against potential attacks from belligerent neighbors. As the richest economy in Africa and an energy superpower, the Nigerian military is not resource starved. 

With a defense budget of $5 billion (2014/2015/2016) Nigeria spends nearly as much as Pakistan on defense. Nigeria should possess the force necessary to deter aggresion, and combat them in certain areas if deterrence fails. This is particularly true with regards to the two most powerful disruptors -Paris and Washington.

NATO’s destruction of Libya, the militarization of the Sahel, AFRICOM Command, and the formation of foreign military bases in West and Africa are all troubling. Low oil prices and its attendant economic problems threatens the ability of despots to hold on to power, fuelling the need to grab resources or embarking on military adventurism to divert attention from pressing domestic problems.

Nigeria’s defense planning certainly must take these threats into account. There should be no chance, for example, of losing our military superiority over our neighbours to such an extent it insentifies the risk of aggression. It is critical to let our neighbors know that Nigeria will simply not stand aside or choose the part of appeasement if our francophone neighbours appetite for territory grows. (In fact, I believe our lethargic response to provocations have emboldened our enemies.) They need to know where the tolerance line is, and when it is crossed.

Nigeria’s foreign policy has for a decade been that of appeasement and concessions. We gave up the Bakassi Peninsula without much of a fight. Twice we turned a blind eye when Cameroon opened the floodgates of its massive dams with little warning, flooding Nigerian cities, killing hundreds, destroying 55,000 homes, submerging entire villages and causing billions of naira in damages.

We’ve turned a blind eye to multiple unauthorized incursions into Nigerian territory by the Chadian and Cameroonian army, killing as any as 170 people, burning whole villages then retreating back across the border. 

We’ve turned a blind eye to the estimated $13 million the Cameroonian government paid to Boko Haram in ransom payment without consulting the Nigerian government. We’ve had the BIR kill 90 Nigerians in Bakassi over their refusal to pay illegal taxes.

What has a decade of restraints, concessions and appeasing autocrats given Nigeria? 

This is why Nigeria must relegate its pacifist big brother act responsibly nonsense to history and embark on a massive rearmamemt program. It is about time Nigeria start thinking hard about deterring bad behaviour. We have the manpower as well as the economic and technological resources to make it happen.
There are many who believe the deterrence already exists. Nigeria has an active duty force larger than the next 16 countries combined. The Nigerian Navy has more tonnage than the entire West African countries combined. It looks impressove on paper, but does this translate into a formidable deterrence?

In a hypothetical scenario, can Nigeria effectively defend itself from a near peer external aggresor? Let us examine the forces at play.

In recent months relations between Abuja and N’Djamena has been strained over repeated Chadian incursion into Nigerian territory without seeking authorization.

As tensions between Chad and Nigeria over the Lake Chad basin grows, it is not impossible to expect that a miscalculation on either side will trigger a military conflict or outright full scale war between Nigeria and France’s strategic protege and ally, with two squadrons of Mirage 2000’s, a drone base, two air defense sites and 3,000 French troops. 


This scenario brings in focus the state and competency of the Nigerian armed forces and the overall capacity of Nigeria to defend herself against an alliance of Chad and France. I added France into the mix because unlike in the 80’s, there is %100 certainty France will intervene covertly, or if push comes to shove will risk all and intervene militarily. 

An army marches on its stomach.

– Napoleon.

A war between Africa’s richest nation and one of Africa’s poorest nation will be over in three weeks or less. No amount of ruthlessnes or military tactics will influence the inevitable. It is simply impossible.

Sustaining a war effort requires massive reserves, not only in men, but also material. Not only will  Chads poor inventory of ammunition dwindle down in few weeks, but also will run out of food, water and fuel supply. Yes there will be interdiction operations by both sides, difference is that Nigeria has a coastline, Chad is landlocked. With these basic items in short supply, Chadian forces might not be able to continue to fight or sustain the tempo of operations for long periods.

As the war turns against Chad, many will start deserting the repressive regime, hastening the process of capitulation. This is why France will intervene. Chad by virtue of its vaunted military is arguably the most strategic ally of France in Africa. Paris will not standby and watch the decimation of its puppet Idris Derby.

On paper the Nigerian military seem like an impressive force. But is it really so? Defense Nigeria analyses the capabilities of the Nigerian military and provides reasons why a fight between both countries will end in a stalemate with neither side able to ochieve the core overriding objectives – Chad because of the size of its army, Nigeria because of the presence of French military forces in Chad.

Toothless Navy

In war, the first thing each side tries to do is to take out the others economic infrastructure to gain the advantage. It will be the job of the Nigerian Navy to protect the vast $3 trillion worth of reserves as well as the vast multi-billion offshore oil infrastructure.
The Nigerian Navy is the 3rd largest in Africa, with 70 vessels which In theory looks formidable, but in practise can only carry out little more than basic shoreline defence, with virtually no anti ship missile capabiity. While the quantity is great, their quality isn’t. The navy is hopelessly under armed. China’s offer to arm the new NNS Unity with anti ship missikes was turned down by the Nigerian Navy over cost. 

So we have the Nigerian Navy spending $630 million on a brand new warship, but opting to leave the ship with virtually no offensive and defensive armaments, save for its 72 mm deck gun. Genuis. 

The economic lifeline of Nigeria may very well depend on the ability of the Nigerian Navy to protect her huge energy reserve.

But with what?
Lacking in anti-ship  firepower, the Nigerian Navy is at best a green water navy and operated mainly within its 150 km EEZ. The only class of ships in the Navy with enough range and endurance to conduct blue water operations are its two Ex U.S Hamilton Class Cutter ( Corvettes), and one Frigate. All with no anti ship missiles, air defense missiles and anti submarine torpedoes. 

In contested waters these ships will not last an hour.  They will easily be detected by enemy submarines and maritime patrol planes, which The enemy will definately deploy in the event of a conflict. The enemy will easily neutralise these ships and enforce a naval blockade. 

The largest percent of the Nigerian Navy fleet is made up of small patrol vessels. The can only operate 20 miles of the Nigerian coast.

Obsolete Air Force

If you do not have air superiority, you have no business going to war.

In the 21st century battlefield you cannot isolate the air force from ground operations. Air power is crucial in determining the outcome of a war. Nigeria’s advantage in the air, by virtue of having an air force made the difference in the war against Boko Haram

On paper the NAF is the largest in the region, processes more than 250 aircrafts of various airframe. But %99.9 of its fixed wing combat capable aircrafts are 3rd generation. 

The Chengdu F-7Ni Airguard is the NAF most modern fighter by virtue of the fact it is the only supersonic aircraft in Nigeria as a whole. The NAF operates 9 of these. The air to air missiles of the F-7Ni are the PC-9, It is old and no match for the Mirage. It will be slaughtered in an air to air engagement with the SU-22, MiG 29 or Mirage 2000 right inside Nigerian airspace. 

It is startling, almost surreal and very hard to reconcile in my head that despite a decade of constant military engagements, Africa’s richest economy relies solely on its air force to defend the nations airspace and strategic infrastructure. No air defence missile batteries, no surface to air missiles of any sorts.

Even more disturbing is the fact that of the nine remaining F-7N interceptor, only six are air worthy and available at any time to intercept hostiile aircrafts in Nigeria’s airspace.

Complementing the combat aircraft fleet of the NAF are 16 Dassault Donier Alpha jets and a similar number of L-39 Albatros. Both of which are trainer aircrafts configured for combat duties in the light attack roles.

Nigeria does have an impressive combat helicopter fleet with 15 Mi-24 hind helicopter gunships, 12 Mi-35 helicopter gunships, and complemented by weaponised utility helicopters such as the Mi-17 helicopter, Super Puma helicopters, AW109 etc.

Powerful Army

The strenght of the Nigerian military lies in its ground forces. Nigeria has an active duty force of 160,000 men and 32,000 in reserve, making its ground forces the largest in Sub Sahara Africa . The troops are bolstered by an additional 180,000 paramilitary force that can easily be drafted into regular combat units should the need arise.

 Though years ago it suffered a series of embarrassing defeats at the hands of the Boko Haram insurgency due to a myriad of factors, chief of which are under investment in the army as well as employing conventional warfare doctrine against an unfamiliar enemy in an assynetric battlefield.  
The Nigerian army promptly learnt its lesson and has to a large extent made the reforms necessary to become a highly effective fighting force in the 21st century battlefield. The Nigerian army is amongst the very few armies in Africa with a dedicated air wing independent of the NAF. The Nigerian Army Aviation comprises of AW101 Scout helicopters, Gazelle attack helicopters, Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters etc.

Nigerian troops are moderately equipped, with some units ill-equipped and others highly equipped. Nigeria’s conventional forces, like the troops are fairly moderately equipped. 

Nigeria has an overwelming advantage in heavy amour and artillery. 

Amoured Corp


There are about 200 + main battle tanks, but %90 of these tanks in the Nigerian army  are based on the 1970’s Soviet T-72’s with modern upgrades such as thermal imaging and optical targeting. Others are the British built Vickers MK III Eagle tanks, also 1970 vintage technology. But having the only tank force in West Africa there is really no incentive for Nigeria to spend money on 4th generation tanks.


Complementing Nigeria’s amoured force are lots of light tanks and amoured fighting vehicles. Scorpion light tanks, Panhard AML-90, etc.


No contest. 

Snipets from the Next Episode

The Necessity for a robust Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) systems.

In the last two decades, the Nigerian military has had unchallenged air superiority with no peer competitor in the region, thus minimizing the need for intercepting air targets;- however the increasing volatility of the region, the militarization of the region, foreign military bases and the emergence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 4th generation combat aircrafts poses a threat if not addressed with capable systems now.

The Nigerian Army has just 16 ROLAND anti aircraft missile systems in service. These are tactical battlefield SAMS designed for low flying aircrafts. There are huge gaps of unacceptable proportions exist and steps should be taken to plug this gap and create a robust air defense posture to protect the homeland.

Defense Nigeria will identify the threat that is of most concern and how SHORAD operations will have to modernize to balance these threats.

To be continued.


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