The Nigerian Army is the main part of Nigeria’s military that fights on land. It’s really important for keeping Nigeria safe. Nigeria is the country with the most people in Africa. The military also has a Navy and an Air Force.
The Nigerian Army was the first part of the military to be created. It started when the British set up different groups of soldiers in the late 1800s to control what is now Nigeria.
The British made these groups quickly because they needed to take charge of Nigeria for business reasons. This article gives a fair history of the Nigerian Army.
Origin/Founding of the Nigerian Army
The Nigerian Army started from three military groups in the 1800s. Captain John Glover first made a small local force in 1863 called the “Glover Hausas.” They helped keep Lagos safe and protect British trade routes. This group later became a formal police unit called the “Hausa Constabulary.”
This group was sent to the Gold Coast in the 1870s and got more responsibilities. It was renamed and became a military-only force in 1895. They spoke Hausa as their main language, which is still true in the Nigerian military today.
Besides the Hausa Constabulary, the British also had other groups like the Royal Niger Company Constabulary and the Oil Rivers Irregulars. These groups protected British interests in different parts of Nigeria.
In 1890, Lord Fredrick Lugard organized all these groups into one force called the West Africa Frontier Force (WAFF). This force was made to protect against attacks from the French. By 1901, WAFF included groups from other British territories too.
WAFF was led by British officers and answered to the colonial governors. It was part of a bigger office in London. In Nigeria, WAFF was split into the Northern and Southern Nigerian Regiments. These groups helped when Nigeria was officially joined together between 1901 and 1903.
Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorate
The Northern and Southern Regiments were united at the merger of Nigeria on January 1, 1914, and the Nigerian Regiments of the WAFF were thus born. The Nigerian Regiment’s (NR) 1st and 2nd Battalions were formed from the Northern Nigerian Regiments, and its 3rd and 4th Battalions from the Southern Nigerian Regiments. These colonial forces served in German East Africa, the Cameroons, and Togoland during the First World War. The WAFF changed its name to the Royal West African Frontier Force in 1928, and the administration of the RWAFF passed from the Colonial Office to the War Office in 1939.
About 3,500 soldiers were a part of the Nigeria Regiment in 1930. Major units were located at Sokoto, Kano, Zaria, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Yola, Enugu, and Calabar during the RWAFF reorganisation of the 1930s, which resulted in the division of the colony into northern and southern commands and the reconfiguration of its four battalions into six. Specialists were primarily hired from the south, despite the fact that Hausa and their language predominated in the infantry and general support groups. For instance, Yoruba were hired for the signals firm since that section needed people who could speak English fluently.
Nigeria served as the assembly and training location for the two West African divisions sent to Burma during World War II, and Nigerians participated in combat in Kenya as well as the Italian East Africa and Burma operations. Auxiliary units, made up of 630 porters divided into three companies for each infantry brigade, were also established in 1941. The auxiliary were abolished after the war, but some carriers who had been hired locally stayed on the job. A two-brigade army was expanded, and specialised combat and service units including light artillery, communications, signals, medical, engineers, and motor transport were established in the 1950s.
After the Second World War, the Northern Regiments’ Mounted Infantry became the regular Infantry Battalion. The Northern Regiment had a field artillery as well. RWAFF resumed its principal goal of ensuring domestic security in the years following the conflict. To break strikes, to regulate local disturbances, to ensure tax collection, and to support police anticrime operations, Nigerian troops executed police actions and punitive expeditions. In the southern region of British Cameroons, they also launched a significant internal security operation to quell secessionists who were defying colonial rule.
The Nigeria Regiment was renamed the Nigerian Military Forces, or RWAFF, in 1956, and the colonial government of Nigeria assumed control of the force from the War Office in April 1958. The officer corps gradually became more African throughout the 1950s. By the time of independence in 1960, there were eighty-two Nigerian officers, predominantly Igbo from the southeast, having been appointed since the country’s first one in 1948. The officer corps had a greater ethnic balance than the rank and file, where northerners were more prevalent.
Visit of Queen Elizabeth of Britain
The Nigerian regiment was renamed the Queens Own Nigerian Regiments (QONR) during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the country between 28 January and 15 February 1956. The WAFF was regionalized and each military unit became independent of the others in the same year as well. The QONR changed its name to the Nigerian Military Force (NMF) as a result.
By June 1st, 1958, the Nigerian Government had taken over management of the NMF from the British Army Council in London. The NMF changed its name to the Royal Nigerian Army (RNA) in 1960, the year Nigeria gained independence. The RNA became the Nigerian Army after Nigeria became a republic. The Army replaced its RWAFF-era uniform, rank system, and equipment with new ones in the same year, including a green khaki uniform.
The lengthy history of the army that evolved into the Nigerian Army cannot be adequately covered in a few web pages. We do, however, hope that this article would make contemporary Nigerians more aware of the colonial conquest battles and give credit where credit is due—to our forebears who battled to preserve our independence.