Time to Alter Nigeria’s Military Doctrine.

The Nigerian Federation, by virtue of its size, soft power, economic might and natural resources is one of the most important country in the world. It is the biggest majority black nation the world has ever and will never see.

For this reason alone Nigeria is a prime target for the forces of good and evil. Situated in a region of relatively tiny countries Nigeria’s size stands out even more. To put things into perspective, the combined population of all West African countries is just over half the size of Nigeria.

Economically Nigeria is even more in a league of its own. The GDP of Lagos State, one of Nigeria’s 32 States is bigger than the economies of all West African countries combined. If Lagos was a sovereign State it will have Africa’s 5th largest economy.

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Lagos Nigeria. GDP $150 billion (2016 est)

Same goes for the Nigerian armed forces. Its active duty personnel surpasses that of the next 16 countries combined and is the continents 4th largest defence spender after Egypt, Algeria and South Africa.

The size and dependency  of the countries bodering Nigeria makes them vulnerabe, and often times they are often willing to be used as proxy against Nigeria if the price is right.  For this reason Nigeria has for decades made a commitment to the restoration of peace and order in those countries, as well as the promotion of socio-economic and political development of the region Internal conflicts in some member states within the region are affecting Nigeria’s desire to achieve political and economic development.

The situation in Mali, Niger and Southern Cameroon is giving the region cause for concern in its quest for long-term survival of democracy. Not long ago (January 2018), living up to its status as regional hegemon, Nigeria spent $300 million in the Gambia and sent naval and air assets to the Gambia, leading the operation to enforce an ECOWAS mandate to restore democracy in the Gambia, that was under threat.

Apart from this, the situation in Mali and Niger, especially the rebellion in the Northern part of the country, portends grave danger to our sub-region due to the assemblage of desperate armed groups that can easily cross the border into northern Nigeria and replenish the ranks of Boko Haram. Radical groups in the Sahel region’s outreach extends far beyond the sub-region and if not decisively tackled, the socio-economic development could destabilise the entire region further.

The exact figure of Nigeria’s defence budget varies from year to year, but it averages $5 billion a year, yet Nigeria’s nearly 200,000 strong fighting force is quite simply punching far below her weight. Why isn’t the Nigerian military splurging on new capabilities on a scale that befits an important and wealthy country like Nigeria?


The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does. Increase in funding for the Nigerian military does not have the same effect that it does in other professional militaries, where capabilities are immediately affected. Nigeria’s defense budget is almost entirely consumed by a mixture of payroll, basic supplies and graft. Much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top, if you will.

Purchases of new weapons systems are rare, with new equipment often amounting to refurbished platforms that spent their most useful years in other countries forces. A perfect example is the former US Coast Guard cutter pensioned off cheaply to the Nigerian Navy in 2012. The ship, the former USCG Gallatin, first sailed in 1967.  Save for the 76mm deck guns, one of these ships are equipped with missiles or torpedoes.

On paper, Nigeria has almost 95 aircraft and 75 warships, for instance. In reality, fewer than 5 F-7N i fighters are tasked with defending the skies over Nigeria. The navies warships include a host of small coastal patrol craft with minimal offensive capability, in effect, motorboats.

After the return of democracy in 2009, the Nigerian military was deliberately made a modest force. Nigeria’s new civilian leadership regarded the army with suspicion – an attitude reinforced by 40 decades of military rule. Funding was slashed, existing plans for weapons upgrades was cancelled. Highly trained commanders were forcefully retired, the air force was the worse hit.

Foreign Policy or Lack Thereof

For years Nigeria believed peace and security can be obtained via appeasement, generosity and diplomatic political correctness. Well reality has caught up with us. Unlike the likes of Egypt and Algeria, Nigeria is a behemoth in a neighborhood made up of tiny countries.

Without a near peer adversary Nigeria saw a regional peace support role for itself between the late 1980s and the turn of the century. Before that, in the 1970s, Nigeria perceived the main threat to security as external and largely Francophone, with relatively small armies as well.

Neither posture encouraged the need to diversify the military function to focus more on developing a military-industrial complex and a culture of self-reliance

Consequently whereas there was recognition within the Army’s school of infantry, as at 1978, for a culture of self-sufficiency and the development of a military industrial complex to ensure a powerful army in keeping with its place in the world, this development will be stifled over the decades.

In the 70s and 80s Nigeria was a promising power, rich in oil and a strong economy and walking towards the centre of the world stage as it gains more power. It inevitably faces increasing … challenges. Nigeria’s forward thinking leaders at that time realized that national revival could be interrupted if the economy, technology and defence are not enhanced at the same time.

It was obvious and the signs were ominous, having witnessed French support in equipment and finance for the secessionist Biafra. It was no secrete the powers that be will do all it can to cut Nigeria to size whenever the opportunity presents itself. Yet the Nigerian military persistently failed to develop theory and practice suitable for defending Nigeria against a powerful enemy in the modern battlefield.

The military’s doctrine relied too heavily on ground infantry to accommodate its own experiential learning and the local operational environment. Its view on a Military Industrial Complex was primitive. Ironically this era was the golden age of Nigerian industry and productivity.

Manufacturing centres in cities like Kano rivaled Lagos in heavy industries. Many countries with less industrial base than Nigeria at this time had already integrated civilian resources into military development, and the building of national defence could bring tremendous economic and social benefits.

Nigeria’s political leadership has an attitude shaped more by pacifism. The military had culturally, institutionally, and doctrinally, failed to purposely prepare for a day Nigeria will face a near peer or more powerful adversary. The consequences of this is all too evident.


Nigeria needs new policies to overcome internal and external security challenges. One based on deterrence through strength, where Nigeria uses every aspect of her power ; demography, economic and military might to pursue her national interest.

The very first step of reforms is to decide what the goal of the military is. A military first and foremost exists to defend a nation, but its goals are usually more complex. The exact goal of a military directly corresponds to the nation’s geopolitical situation, its enemies or potential enemies, foreign policy, and national resources. Nigeria’s new Military Posture should revolve around the following :

Nigeria cannot afford to lose a single war
Defensive on the strategic level, no territorial ambitions
Desire to avoid war by political means and a credible deterrent posture
Preventing escalation
Determine the outcome of war quickly and decisively
Combating terrorism
Very low casualty ratio

The first step is identifying the kind of Nigeria is defending against, or with more imperial nations, the kind of threats Nigeria will face when expanding its national influence through force.


The next step is to identify what resources Nigeria military has to work with. The two resources Nigeria needs to figure out is the total available manpower and budget.


The keystone of modern armies is the concept of combined arms, which marries all the combat disciplines into a cohesive forces to bring maximum strength down on the enemy and provide versatility.  It will be most likely a combined arms force that uses infantry, AFV’s, helos and etc. Since Nigeria may not have the resources it needs due to fiscal reasons, the goal of Nigeria’s military leaders must be to compensate for every combat arms weakness with the others’ strength.


The Nigerian Air Force is the weakest link of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Air Force needs to be restructured and oriented in its entirety. The primary factor to consider is its power projection capability as well as how important it is for the air force to provide close air support to ground forces.

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NAF Alpha Jet. The Alpha jet is a trainer aircraft with secondary light attack capability.

For example, if Nigeria’s enemies would invade via the sea and do not share a land border, it does not make much sense to keep relying on trainer aircrafts and low performance aircaft like the Super Tucano to protect Nigeria’s airspace.

Instead, the focus would be on modern 4th generation fighter jets with reasonable payload capacity and Close Air Support aircrafts. Almost any nation with a cadre of forward thinking leaders will primarily focus on the concept of air supremacy or superiority, giving the nation complete or near complete control of the skies.

An important point to remember is that airplanes need runways to function. Runway denial has become a pivotal part of aerial warfare and they can be destroyed or rendered unusable. For this reason Nigeria needs to throw away its vintage WW2 era crap it relies on for air defenses and start investing in sensible air defense systems and networks crucial  to protect against enemy aircraft and missiles.

In a logical world, a nation that does not have a first-rate air force will probably rely on heavy air defenses to protect its ground troops. With Nigeria the reverse is the case. It’s very tasking trying to make sense out of Nigeria’s consistent  refusal and unwillingness to invest in long or medium range air defense systems given that if there is any country in Africa that needs AADs the most, that country is Nigeria by virtue of her staggering oil reserves and some of the continents best infrastructure.

As of this writing Nigeria relies on 16 ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft guns, 16 ROLAND SHORAD (Short range air defense) and a coupe of MANPADs.  The operational status of the ROLAND ADS probably not 100%

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ZSU-23-4 Shilka anti aircraft vehicle.

A large, well-trained, and super effective air force will probably be most nations’ number one defense priority, but as always with Nigeria the reverse is often the case also. It’s hard to believe Nigeria relies on 9 F-7Ni Airguards for fighter interceptor. Besides being the only supersonic aircraft in the AF, the F-7Ni is the only aircraft in Nigeria with air to air missiles, yet there are just NINE  F-7N in service.


Navies around the world belong to three categories, blue, the ability to operate on the worlds oceans and high seas, green, the ability to operate in a nations littoral zone, and brown. The Nigerian Navy belongs to neither of these categories. Looking at the kind of ships in service with the navy and their corresponding firepower, the Nigerian Navy has the ability to control at best rivers, canals, and waterways inside Nigeria with its 30mm cannon and 76mm deck guns. At the most, the Nigerian navy  can carry out limited operations in Nigeria’s EEZ, but nothing else. Sub Sahara Africa’s biggest navy cannot carry out offensive and defensive operations outside of its immediate territorial waters.




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