While the military is no where near where it should be given Nigeria’s status in Africa, the Nigerian armed forces have undergone tremendous changes in the past decade. With the constant military engagements, the military has increased in size from a low of about 88,000-120,000 in 2005, to between 185,000 to 200,000 today.
Military educational programs, which has helped Nigeria churn out some of the best high quality educated officers on the continent has also improved.
Until recently the core of the Nigerian Military Doctrine has been largely defensive in nature and attention was paid to force projection assets for its numerous peacekeeping roles. Despite the size and overwhelming military superiority vis-a-vis her Francophone foes, the key thesis of Nigeria’s defense posture has been to avoid conflicts and manage disagreements prayerfully.
In cases where a conflict cannot be prevented, or an attack is carried out on Nigerian soil, the military doctrine states that Nigeria will localize and neutralize military threats, never to invade a hostile country.
The only General who did (Buhari in the 3 Day war with Chad) Muhammadu Buhari who defied an order not to cross beyond into enemy territory was almost Court Marshalled when elements of the 21 armoured Brigade chased Chadian soldiers deep into Chadian territory until kilometres from N’djamena, the Chadian capital. Political, diplomatic and other non-military settlement was preferable at both global and regional levels.
Nigeria’s Military Doctrine can be traced back o the formation of ECOWAS, where Nigeria relied on its status as the regional hegemon to contain Francophone aggression and expansion against itself and its Anglophone allies (Ghana, Liberia, Sierra-leone).
There was an informal security guarantees that Nigeria provides to ECOWAS member states. surrounded by smaller awake States, Nigeria fell into the trap of complacency and false sends of security, consistently refusing to invest in its military on a strategic level.
Large scale wars carried out by a hostile enemy on Nigerian soil was unthinkable, hence no need to be unprepared for them. To the Nigerian government the highest threat for the country is coming from low intensity conflicts in its neighbourhood. This illusion was shattered by Boko Haram.
The primary feature of Nigeria’s understanding of defense in the last decade has been rude awakening metted on Nigeria by Boko Haran, and the realization of the existing asymmetry of capabilities of Chad, Nigeria’s bitter military rival. It was clear, artillery and tanks is almost useless in an asymmetric environment. Toyota pickup trucks and troops mobility does.
For this reason, Nigeria has been consistently, and notwithstanding any circumstances, modernizing its military with weapons suited for Counter Insurgency and Urban Guerrilla warfare, and also allowing for the ability to deter a potential conflict against a conventional enemy skilled in assume try.
The maintenance of strategic parity with the Francophone block, and particularly France, Cameroon and Chad , is the key element of the Nigerian Military Doctrine. Accordingly, recent efforts by Nigeria to end the Boko Haram insurgency once and for all and focus on national development while forging strategic ties with China and Russia are perceived with real concern and strong resistance from France an lately the United States, but of which have set up multi–million dollar air and drone bases on all countries surrounding Nigeria.
Nonetheless, as Muhammadu Buhari came to power, he fired the Service Chiefs and appointed new competent Service Chiefs. Then he called for a review on the nature and character of Nigeria’s security threats and challenges.
Indeed, a new National Defense Doctrine was adopted. The new Defense Posture remained essentially defensive in character with emphasis on technology and self-sufficiency, but at the same time reflected Nigeria’s growing concern over its vulnerability in the face of emerging conflicts within its immediate neighborhood.
In order to counter these threats, the president set the priority of implementing a program of military reform that would concentrate on strengthening intelligence gathering capacity to take terrorists unawares and end their terrorist activities in the country, as well as a commitment to self sufficiency in weapon production and its intention to strengthen its scientific, technical and resource independency in developing and producing major types of armaments.
President Buhari charged the Ministry of Defence to come up with a plan for the establishment of a military industrial complex for the local production of weapons for the use of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He stated that the local production of weapons was meant to end the current over-reliance on other countries for military equipment and logistics. In a speech at the National Defence College the president said such a thing was not acceptable to his administration.
“We must evolve viable mechanisms for near-self-sufficiency in military equipment and logistics production complemented only by very advanced foreign technologies.
“The Ministry of Defence is being tasked to draw up clear and measurable outlines for development of a modest military industrial complex for Nigeria.
In this regard, it is to liaise with other strategic MDAs and industries to re-engineer the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria to meet national military hardware and logistics requirements”
So how far has Nigeria gone in this endeavour?
The evolution of then the Nigerian armed forces.
Here are some of the technologies that has transformed the Nigerian military.
Combat drones have allowed the Nigerian army to deploy ordnance against the enemy while sipping on a bottle of Coca-Cola while safely remaining hundreds of miles away from the frontlines. This has helped the military limit the number of combat fatalities of pilots.
Already amongst Africa’s largest militaries, the Nigerian army embarked on an ambitious expansion programme to address the manpower needs of the force to respond appropriately to contemporary threats to national security, by increasing the size its personnel strength from its present 150,000 to slightly above 200,000. Making the Nigerian army larger than the combined armies of the entire West African countries.