The Nigerian Army (NA) is the largest component of Nigerian Armed Forces, with 130,000 active front-line personal and 32,000 reserve personal. 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 81stand 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 organised enemy.
The rapid expansion saw a severe decline in troop quality. The Nigerian expansion process led to an extreme shortage of commissioned officers, with newly created lieutenant-colonels commanding brigades, and platoons and companies often commanded by sergeants and warrant officers. This resulted in tentative command-and-control and in rudimentary staff work. One result of the weak direction was that the Federals' three divisions fought independently, and competed for men and material. Writing in a 1984 study, Major Michael Stafford of the US Marine Corps noted that "Inexperienced, poorly trained and ineptly led soldiers manifested their lack of professionalism and indiscipline by massacres of innocent civilians and a failure to effectively execute infantry tactics." Among the results was the 1967 Asaba massacre.
The influence of individual personalities are 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 reorganise his command, 3 Division, during the civil war to improve its logistics and administration. The reorganisation 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.