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Nigerian Army - History

The Nigerian army traces its historical origins to three nineteenth century military formations. The history of the Nigerian Army dates to 1863 [1863], when Captain [Lieutenant?] John Glover of the Royal Navy selected 18 indigenes from the Northern part of the country and organized them into a local force, known as the "Glover Hausas".

The small force was used by Glover as governor of Lagos to mount punitive expedition in the Lagos hinterland and to protect British trade routes around Lagos. In 1865, the "Glover Hausa" became a regular force with the name "Hausa Constabulary". It performed both police and military duties for the Lagos colonial government. It later became "Lagos Constabulary".

The Glover's Hausas mission was expanded to include imperial defense when dispatched to the Gold Coast during the Asante expedition of 1873-74. Enlarged and officially entitled the Hausa Constabulary in 1879, this unit performed both police and military duties until 1895, when an independent Hausa Force was carved out of the constabulary and given exclusively military functions. This demographic recruitment base perpetuated the use of Hausa as the lingua franca of command in Ghana and Nigeria, where it persisted into the 1950s. It also marked the historical origin of the ethnic imbalance that has characterized the Nigerian armed forces to this day. On incorporation into the West Africa Frontier Force (WAFF) in 1901, the Hausa Constabulary became "Lagos Battalion".

In addition to the Hausa Constabulary, the British Government included the Royal Niger Company (RNC), Constabulary Force in Northern Nigeria in 1886 and the Oil Rivers irregular. The Oil Rivers Irregulars was created during 1891-92; it was later redesignated the Niger Coast Constabulary and formed the basis of the WAFF's Southern Nigeria Regiment. The Royal Niger Company Constabulary was raised in 1888 to protect British interests in Northern Nigeria. It later provided the nucleus of the Northern Nigeria Regiment of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF).

In 1889, Lord Fredrick Lugard formed the incipient body of what was to be known in 1890, as the West Africa Frontier Force, (WAFF), in Jebba, Northern Nigeria. The new unit expanded by absorbing the Northern Nigeria-based elements of the Royal Niger Company (RNC) Constabulary. In 1897 WAFF was founded under the command of Colonel Frederick (later Lord) Lugard to counter French encroachments from the north.

By the end of 1901, it had incorporated all paramilitary units in the other British dependencies into its command, thus fully meriting its designation "WAFF". By 1901 WAFF was an interterritorial force composed of the Nigeria and Gold Coast regiments, the Sierra Leone Battalion, and the Gambia Company, and commanded by a small number of British army officers and noncommissioned officers seconded to the force. WAFF was under the Colonial Office in London, but each regiment was commanded by an officer responsible directly to the local colonial governor.

The establishment of West Africa Frontier Force (WAFF) led to the merger of all units into regiment in each of the dependencies. The merger in Nigeria produced the Northern Nigerian Regiment and Southern Nigerian Regiment. The First commanders of the Southern Regiments of WAFF were Lt CHP Carter (1899-1901) and Col J Wilcox (1900-1909) respectively. The two regiments were later used for expeditions during the annexation of Nigeria by Lord Lugard between 1901 and 1903.

With the amalgamation of Nigeria on January 1, 1914, the unification of the Northern and Southern Regiments came into being and this witnessed the birth of the Nigerian Regiments of the WAFF. The Northern Nigerian Regiments became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Nigerian Regiment, while the Southern Nigerian Regiment became the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Nigerian Regiments (NR).

These colonial units fought in the Great War, in the German colonies of Cameroons and Togoland, and in German East Africa. In 1928 the WAFF became the Royal West African Frontier Force, and in 1939 control of RWAFF shifted from the Colonial Office to the War Office.

In 1930 the Nigeria Regiment had about 3,500 men. During the 1930s, as part of a RWAFF reorganization, its four battalions were reorganized into six, and the colony was divided into northern and southern commands; major units were at Sokoto, Kano, Zaria, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Yola, Enugu, and Calabar. Although Hausa and their language predominated in the infantry and general support units, specialists were recruited mainly from the south. For example, the signals company required fluency in English, so Yoruba were recruited for that unit.

In World War II, Nigerians saw action in Kenya and the Italian East Africa and Burma campaigns, and Nigeria was the assembly and training site for the two West African divisions dispatched to Burma. In 1941 auxiliary groups, consisting of 630 porters organized into three companies for each infantry brigade, were also formed. After the war, the auxiliaries were disbanded, but some locally recruited carriers continued to be employed. In the 1950s, expansion to a two-brigade army was undertaken, and specialized combat and service units such as light artillery, communications, signals, medical, engineers, and motor transport were formed.

The Mounted Infantry of the Northern Regiments became the ordinary Infantry Battalion after the Second World War. A field artillery also existed in the Northern Regiment. In the postwar years, RWAFF resumed its primary mission of internal security. Nigerian units undertook police actions and punitive expeditions to break strikes, to control local disturbances, to enforce tax collection, and to support police anticrime operations. They also mounted a major internal security operation in the southern part of British Cameroons to counter secessionists rebelling against colonial authority.

In 1956 the Nigeria Regiment was renamed the Nigerian Military Forces, RWAFF, and in April 1958 the colonial government of Nigeria took over from the War Office control of the Nigerian Military Forces. Africanization of the officer corps began slowly but accelerated through the 1950s. The first Nigerian officer was appointed in 1948; by independence in 1960, there were eightytwo Nigerian officers, mostly Igbo from the southeast. This ethnic imbalance within the officer corps contrasted with that in the rank and file, where northerners predominated.

With the visit of Queen Elizabeth of Britain between 28 January and 15 February, 1956, the Nigerian regiment was renamed the Queens Own Nigerian Regiments (QONR). Also in the same year, the regionalization of the WAFF came into existence and each military force became independent of the other. As a result, the QONR became the Nigerian Military Force (NMF). By 1st June, 1958, the British Army Council in London relinquished control of NMF to the Nigerian Government. In 1960, when Nigeria became independent, the NMF became known as the Royal Nigerian Army (RNA). When Nigeria became a republic, the RNA changed to the Nigerian Army. In the same year, the Army changed its uniform, rank structure and instruments from those of RWAFF to new ones including green khaki uniform.

The poor economic situation of the 1990s necessitated a review of Nigeria's defence policy and the restructuring of the NA to match with the economic realities of that time. The period coincidentally witnessed more of NA's involvement in various Internal Security (IS) operations, participation in peacekeeping operations and the imbroglio with Cameroon over Bakassi Peninsula. In addition to these, Nigeria was apprehensive of possible conflicts with her other neighbors. It would require a well-structured force with adequate manpower and equipment to meet these challenges




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