Armed Forces Overview: The military, which ruled Nigeria for all but four years during the period 1966–99, is now subject to civilian rule. Internal divisions, public support for democratic rule, and the armed forces’ poor image are all factors militating against a coup in the current environment. Nigeria’s military is primarily used in international peacekeeping operations.
Foreign Military Relations: Nigeria’s military has participated in several peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa to help raise the country’s profile as a regional power. Nigeria remains committed to this policy despite the death of two Nigerian soldiers assigned to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, in October 2005. The United States and China are vying for military influence in Nigeria. In February 2006, Nigeria’s vice president criticized the United States for not protecting Nigeria’s oil industry from attacks by insurgents affiliated with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Although the U.S. government had provided military technical assistance and training, it had not followed through completely with the promised delivery of high-speed patrol boats, apparently out of concern that the Nigerian military was involved in the sale of stolen oil to criminal gangs. As a result, Nigeria was turning to China to supply patrol boats. China has been ramping up its military presence in the oil-rich Niger Delta to safeguard its own energy-related investments.
External Threat: Nigeria’s neighbors do not pose an external threat, with the possible exception of Cameroon, with whom Nigeria is embroiled in a dispute over control of the oil-rich Bakasi Peninsula. Nigeria has not yet complied with the International Court of Justice’s 2002 ruling in favor of Cameroon. Foreign support for Islamist militant groups in the north and cross-border criminal activities may be the most acute external threats.
Defense Budget: In 2004 Nigeria’s military budget was about US$737.6 million, representing 0.8 percent of gross domestic product.
Major Military Units: Nigeria’s armed forces consist of 78,500 active-duty personnel assigned as follows to the various services: army, 62,000; navy, 7,000; and air force 9,500. The army is organized into one armored division, one composite division (motorized, amphibious, and airborne), two mechanized divisions, and one Presidential Guard brigade. The navy’s headquarters is at Lagos, the western command is at Apapa (near Lagos), and the eastern command is at Calabar (inland along the Cross River, near the Bakasi Peninsula). In 2000 the air force moved its headquarters from Lagos to Abuja.
Major Military Equipment: The army has 150 main battle tanks (although 100 Soviet-era T–55 tanks may not be serviceable), 100 light tanks, 250–322 reconnaissance vehicles, up to 417 armored personnel carriers, 431 towed artillery, 27 self-propelled artillery, 25 multiple rocket launchers, more than 330 mortars, and unspecified numbers of antitank guided weapons, recoilless launchers, air defense guns, surface-to-air missiles, and surveillance vehicles. The navy has one principal surface combatant, eight patrol and coastal combatants, two mine warfare vessels, one amphibious vessel, and five support and miscellaneous vessels, but not all of these ships may be ready for action. Navy aviation has four helicopters of doubtful serviceability. The air force has 84 combat aircraft and 10 armed helicopters of doubtful serviceability.
Military Service: The age requirement for voluntary military service is 18 years.
Paramilitary Forces: Nigeria’s paramilitary forces, including the port security police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ security and civil defense corps, are estimated at 82,000.
Foreign Military Forces: On December 8, 2005, the United States and Nigeria reached an agreement to patrol the Niger Delta jointly to prevent insurgent attacks on energy installations. However, implementation of the agreement has been delayed, and the Nigerians have turned to China, which, like the United States, is heavily invested in Nigeria’s energy industry, for security assistance.
Military Forces Abroad: Nigeria has participated in United Nations (UN) operations and missions in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Western Sahara. In September 2005, Nigeria withdrew 120 Nigerian police officers serving in the UN Congo mission because of accusations that they had engaged in sexual abuses.
Police: The Nigeria Police Force, which was established in 1930 and most recently reorganized along more decentralized lines in 1988, now ranks as the largest police force in Africa, with 300,000 officers, or one for every 430 citizens. The police are authorized to train 40,000 new officers each year until 2007. The president appoints the inspector general of police, who is responsible for the operational control of the force. As the ultimate police authority, the president may issue directives to the inspector general regarding the maintenance of public order. The police face the challenge of combating trans-border gang activity, human trafficking, and a wide variety of financial crimes, particularly the so-called 419 scam, whereby criminals persuade targets to advance them money in order to receive a larger payment. The police have extensive powers, including the power to arrest without a warrant, conduct searches and seize property, and detain suspects. According to a March 2006 report by the U.S. Department of State, abuses by the Nigerian police, including the use of lethal force against suspects, are commonplace. In addition, in July 2005 Human Rights Watch issued a highly critical report on police torture and deaths in custody in Nigeria. The report found that attempts to reform the police had been largely symbolic and failed to address torture adequately.
Internal Threat: The two principal threats to domestic security are violence in the Niger Delta and sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians. The catalyst for violence in the Niger Delta, where the country’s energy sector is concentrated, is the indigenous population’s dissatisfaction with their impoverished condition despite the wealth generated by the area’s resources and the environmental degradation caused by energy-related development. This disenchantment has spawned a militant group known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MEND is seeking a more equitable distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth so that it benefits the local population, particularly the indigenous Ijaw tribe. In early 2006, MEND militias attacked oil installations and kidnapped foreign oil industry workers in an effort to press their demands. These actions led to a 20 percent reduction in Nigeria’s oil production. In April 2006, MEND leaders rejected a conciliatory gambit by President Obasanjo, who promised to provide 20,000 new jobs and build a new highway in the delta region.
In addition to MEND, another internal security threat is sectarian violence, which has cost the lives of more than 10,000 Nigerians since 1999. In the north, where Muslims predominate, Islamic groups have introduced sharia, or Islamic law, in 12 states, causing many Christians to flee. Similarly, in the south, where Christians predominate, Muslims complain about discrimination and treatment as second-class citizens. In early 2006, reports about derogatory cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers led to a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence; more than 100 people were killed, and numerous churches and mosques were destroyed. According to a May 2005 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Islamic extremist activities in the north are being funded by foreign sources. Although the report did not specify the foreign sources, it cited Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan as funding the construction of mosques and religious schools and asserted that Nigerian clerics trained in Saudi Arabia had been indoctrinated to promote hatred and violence against non-Muslims. The Nigerian government is particularly concerned about an Islamist group known as “Hisbah” that enforces sharia in the northern state of Kano. In February 2006, the government alleged that Kano was training 100 militants belonging to this group in intelligence gathering and jihadist operations at the behest of foreign powers.
Terrorism: The U.S. Department of State has commended Nigeria for “forging an anti-terrorism consensus” in sub-Saharan Africa following al Qaeda’s attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. In fact, Nigeria has coordinated the United States-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, which conducts counterterrorism exercises in the region to prevent extremist groups from taking root. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which seeks to drive out foreign energy companies and force the government to share energy-derived wealth with its citizens, disclaims any affiliation with any external terrorist group such as al Qaeda. Nevertheless, it engages in acts of violence, including sabotage of energy-related infrastructure and the kidnapping of foreign oil workers. As of October 2005, the U.S. Department of State did not include MEND on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations, so it might be more appropriate to characterize MEND as an insurgency.
Human Rights: In its 2005 report on human rights practices around the world, the U.S. Department of State found that Nigeria’s human rights record was “poor.” According to the report, Nigerian government officials and police were responsible for “serious abuses,” including politically motivated killings; the use of lethal force against suspected criminals and hostage-seizing militants in the Niger Delta; beatings and even torture of suspects, detainees, and convicts; and extortion of civilians. Other abuses included violence, discrimination, and genital mutilation directed against women, child labor and prostitution, and human trafficking. Compounding these abuses was the application of Islamic law (sharia) in 12 northern states. Sentences imposed under sharia included amputations, stonings, and canings, but no death sentences were carried out. In addition, the Department of State noted restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, movement, and privacy.