The original elements of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in Nigeria were formed in 1900. During the Second World War, British-trained Nigerian troops saw action with the 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, the 81st and the 82nd (West Africa) Divisions which fought in the East African Campaign (World War II) and in the Far East.
In Nigeria, from a force of 18,000 in infantry battalions and supporting units, strength rose to around 126,000 in three divisions by the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970. In terms of doctrine, the task of the Federal Nigerian army did not fundamentally change: its task remained to close with and defeat an organized enemy.
The influence of individual personalities is generally greater in the armies of developing states, as they tend to have weaker institutional frameworks. Key personalities involved in Nigeria included then-Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo is particularly important due to his efforts to reorganize his command, 3 Division, during the civil war to improve its logistics and administration. The reorganization he instituted made the Division capable of carrying out the offensive that ended the civil war.
The Nigerian Army fought the Civil War significantly under-resourced; Obasanjo’s memoirs chronicle the lack of any stocks of extra equipment for mobilisation and the “haphazard and unreliable system of procurement and provisioning” which lasted for the entire period of the war. Arms embargoes imposed by several Western countries made the situation more difficult.
At the end of the Civil War, the three divisions of the Army were reorganised into four divisions, with each controlling territories running from North to South in order to deemphasise the former regional structure. Each division thus had access to the sea thereby making triservice cooperation and logistic support easier. This deployment formula was later abandoned in favour of the present assignment of sectors to the divisions. Thus 1 Division with HQ at Kaduna is allocated the North West sector; 2 Division with HQ at Ibadan South West sector, 3 Division with HQ at Jos North East sector and 82 Division with HQ at Enugu South East sector.
Its formations include the 1 Division, headquartered in Kaduna in the north-west, and 2 Division (HQ Ibadan in the South-West, which includes 32 Artillery Brigade at Abeokuta). 2nd Division also possibly includes 4 Brigade at Benin City, with 19 Battalion at Okitipupa and 195 Battalion at Agenebode. 52 Signal Regiment may be the divisional signals unit. 3 Division‘s headquarters is at Rukuba Cantonment, Jos, in the North-East, and includes 21 Armoured Brigade Maiduguri, 23 Brigade Yola, and 33 Artillery Brigades. 81st Division(Amphibious) HQ in Lagos, which includes the 9 Brigade, based at the Ikeja compound in Lagos, 82nd Division (Airborne and Amphibious) HQ in Enugu in the South-East, which includes the 2 Brigade at Port Harcourt, 13 Brigade at Calabar and the 34th Artillery Brigade at Obinze/Owerri. The Composite Division at Enugu was formed in 1964 as 4 Division, in 1975 became Lagos Garrison Organization; in 1981 became 4 Composite Division; became a Composite Division in May 2002. 3rd Armoured Division was responsible in 1983 for the security of areas bordering Chad.
Lagos and Abuja have garrison commands, with the Lagos garrison as large as a division. 81st Division was previously the youngest division, formed on 26 May 2002 when the Lagos Garrison Command (as it then was) was upgraded to divisional status. The Division, therefore, inherited the security roles hitherto performed by the defunct Lagos Garrison Command. However a later undated article in a Nigerian online newspaper says the 81st Division was later again renamed the Lagos Garrison Command. In the 1980s, the Army’s brigades included the 7th Infantry Brigade in Sokoto. There are also Divisional Artillery Brigades, among which are the 32 and 34 Artillery Brigades, ordnance corps units as well as Combat Engineer Regiments, and many other service support units spread across the country.
The 7th Division (also known as JTF-RO) was established in August 2013 for the war against Boko Haram. The creation of the new division brought to six the number of divisions. The 7th division is headquartered in Maiduguri. The division includes a combat motorcycle unit as part of its 25th Task Force Brigade. The purpose of this unit is stated as securing roads in Yobe and serving as a force multiplier in combat operations. Training and Doctrine Command formed in 1981, and is located at Minna. It supervises the Army’s schools, including the Depot. The Army sponsors the Nigerian Military School at Zaria.