Nigeria @62: Nigerian Military’s evolution from Frontier Force to giant
By Sumaila Ogbaje, News Agency of Nigeria
The Armed Forces of any nation represents its strength, courage and sovereignty.
It is also a symbol of unity.
It defends and maintains nations’ territorial integrity, national symbols and cohesion in their countries.
The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) was established 159 years ago and has evolved through different stages.
With a force of no fewer than 223,000 active personnel today, the Nigerian military is one of the largest uniformed combat services in Africa.
According to the latest Global Firepower index, the Nigerian armed forces are the fourth most powerful military in Africa, and ranked 35th globally.
The history of the Nigerian military dates back to 1863, when Lt. Glover of the Royal Navy selected 18 indigenes from the northern part of present day Nigeria and organised them into a local force, known as the “Glover Hausas”.
Glover, then governor of Lagos used the group to mount punitive expedition into Lagos hinterland and to protect British trade routes around Lagos.
In 1865, the “Glover Hausa” became a regular force with the name “Hausa Constabulary”.
The West African Frontier Force, the official progenitor of the Nigerian Army was a multi-battalion field force.
The Nigerian Navy on the other hand, owes its origin to the Nigerian Marine.
Formed in 1914 after the amalgamation of the then Northern and Southern Nigeria protectorates, the Nigerian Marine, as it became known after 1914, was a quasi-military organisation.
This Force later expanded to become the Southern Nigerian Marine in 1893.
In July 1959 the Nigerian Naval Force transformed into a full-fledged Navy as Queen Elizabeth II granted it permission to use the title `Royal Nigerian Navy`.
The title was changed to the Nigerian Navy in 1963 after Nigeria became a republic.
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 Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) to new ones including green khaki uniform.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was officially established by a statutory Act of Parliament in April 1964 to achieve a full complement of the military defence system of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on sea, air and ground;.
Its birth sought to ensure a fast versatile mobility of the Armed Forces; provide close support for the ground-based and sea borne forces in all phases of operations, among others.
Today, the Nigerian military face a number of internal security challenges which undermine stability within the nation and the sub-Sahara region as a whole.
The military has waged this war since July 2009. There is also the recent menace of banditry, kidnapping and violent crisis in the North West and farmers-herders clashes in the North Central and other parts of the country.
Another group that has tested the resolve of the military is the Southeast-based Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); and pipeline vandals and oil thieves in the Niger Delta region.
To meet these and other challenges posed by the dynamics in national and international security, the Nigerian Armed Forces have committed to a number of wide-ranging modernisation programmes.
These includes the acquisition of new armoured vehicles, modern combat aircraft such as the Tucano and aerial reconnaissance drones, and the refurbishing of naval vessels which had suffered prolonged period of poor or minimal maintenance.
The war against terrorism in the north east has largely been won, with routine attacks of the insurgents now a rarity.
“Your collective efforts have resulted in the relative peace being enjoyed in the region today.
“Under my watch, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been provided a firm strategy and clear sense of direction to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country”, Buhari said.
The success story of the military operation has not gone unnoticed among the people of the area.
The Northern Youth Network, Convener, Malam Abdulrahman Ahmed at a recent news conference commended them for restoring sanity in the area.
The Biafra war of 1966-1970 was the greatest test the Nigerian military.
It emerged from the battle with its head held high, having fought gallantly to stop the secession quest of the self-declared Republic of Biafra.
In his 2022 New Year Message, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor commended the sacrifices of the military in keeping the country united and safe.
“In-retrospect, the end of 2021 affords the AFN unique opportunity to remember the sacrifices of its men and women who work in extreme conditions in trenches, in fields.
“The work in far-flung places away from the comfort of their loved ones to keep Nigerians safe and secure”, he said.
On the international scene, the Nigerian contingent have played and continued to play active role in both the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations.
The Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, said that Nigeria had contributed over 100,000 peacekeepers in over 40 peacekeeping missions in Africa and across the globe since 1960.
He spoke at Joint World Press Conference on Tackling Insecurity in Nigeria organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture recently.
One area political and security experts overall, the military has performed excellently, except its incursion into politics which started with the 1966 coup led by Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu.
Some have argued that the military intervened to been to stabilise the polity and restore sanity into the polity.
After the coup, the subsequent counter coups and interruption of democratic governance totaling over decades, the military returned Nigeria to civilian rule in 1999, though
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Farouk Yahaha, says to hit higher heights in regional and global operations, the military personnel must remain professional and apolitical.
“I want to enjoin all formation and unit commanders on the need to be vigilant and aware of all situations through constant monitoring.
“They should also ensure proactive solution to situations,” he said in Abuja at the closing session of the 2022 Chief of Army Staff 3rd quarter conference.
**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria