Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Nigeria

Author: Adesoji Adeniyi, Freelance Peace and Security Researcher and Analyst, London, United Kingdom (

Armed Forces[1] Helicopters Defense
Uniformed Peacekeepers UN Contribution Breakdown Other Significant Deployments
World Ranking (size): 49
Army: 62,000
Navy: 8,000
Air: 10,000
+ Paramilitary 82,000
Army: 21
(9 attack, 6 multirole, 3 transport, 5 training)
Navy: 5
(2 multirole, 3 light transport)
2014: US$5,273m[2]
(1% of GDP)
2013: US$2,143m
(0.76%of GDP)
2012: US$2,033m
(0.75% of GDP)
2011: US$2,249m
(0.92% of GDP)World Ranking (2016): 55
(233 women)
(28 Feb. 2015)
Rank: 9th
(5th in Africa and in African Union)
MINURSO 4 experts
MINUSMA 322 (142 police, 180 troops)
MINUSTAH 3 police
MONUSCO 22 (6 police, 16 experts)
UNAMID 1,035 (96 police, 1 expert, 938 troops)
UNIFIL 1 troop
UNISFA 2 troops
UNMIL 1,542 (156 police, 8 experts, 1,378 troops)
UNMISS 23 (20 police, 3 experts)
UNOCI 7 (4 police, 3 experts)
MNJTF vs Boko Haram 3,250 (pending)
AMISOM  200 police
Defense Spending/Troop:[3] US$26,788 (compared to global average of approximately US$70,000)


Part 1: Recent Trends

Nigeria first provided UN peacekeepers to Congo (ONUC) from 1960 to 1964. Since then, Nigeria has been an active participant in UN peacekeeping missions, deploying military contingents, unarmed military observers, military staff officers, formed police units, police advisors and civilian experts to over 25 UN missions. Nigeria is currently one of the largest UN contributing countries with military and civilian personnel deployed in ten UN peacekeeping operations and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).



Nigeria has also played pivotal roles in other non-UN missions in Africa. As the preponderant power in West Africa, Nigeria has been the main provider of military and other resources for ECOWAS peace operations to the tune of US$8 billion[4] in its various missions in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. During the peak of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars in the 1990s, Nigeria provided over 70% of ECOMOG’s military and civilian personnel, as well as logistical support. In 2003, it deployed 1,500 troops to the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), and a medical and signals team to the ECOWAS Mission in Cote d’Ivoire in 2003 (ECOMICI). In 2004, 1,500 Nigerian troops were deployed in Darfur as part of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Recently, Nigeria also provided 1,200 troops to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), and 200 police officers to AMISOM. Nigeria deployed the first set of individual police officers (IPOs) in Africa in ONUC in 1960 while the pioneer Formed Police Unit (FPU) of 120 officers was deployed in Liberia in 2004.

However, since the mid-2000s, Nigeria’s domestic security challenges have affected the country’s ability to sustain its troop contribution to peace operations. Troops are increasingly deployed to trouble spots across Nigeria, most especially in the Northeast which is heavily affected by the where the Boko Haram insurgency. In fact, the need to tackle the Boko Haram menace was the main reason given by the Nigerian federal government for the postponement of the recently concluded general elections in Nigeria by six weeks from February 14 and 28, to March 28 and April 11. The insecurity caused by Boko Haram is also the reason for the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) which is expected to fight the militant group in northeastern Nigeria and its border regions. Troops are expected from the Lake Chad Basin Commission Countries (LCBC) – Nigeria, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon; as well as from Benin. Nigeria is expected to contribute 3250 of the MNJTF’s 8700 troops when it becomes operational. However, the exact date for the operationalisation of the MNJTF is yet to be finalised. But while the planning of the MNJTF is finalised, tremendous gains have been recorded in the battlefield against Boko Haram in recent times after the postponement of the general election by the Nigerian armed forces with support from the Chadians, Nigerien and Cameroonian forces. Nigerian troops are also deployed to the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the South-south geopolitical zone which continues to experience threat of militancy and oil theft. The security challenges faced by Nigeria have resulted in a reprioritization of troop deployments. An increasing number of troops are being recalled from peacekeeping missions as in Mali, and redeployed to restive regions within the country.

Nigeria’s peacekeepers receive training at the Peacekeeping Wing (PKW) of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps Centre. Established in 2004, it was upgraded and made an autonomous training institution in 2009 with a new name: the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre (NAPKC). The center undertakes research and delivers training that contributes to peace support operations worldwide. NAPKC was established primarily to give Nigerian troops pre-deployment training on Peace Support Operations. To date, NAPKC has delivered over 230 courses and trained over 53,000 peacekeepers.[5] It has also expanded its scope of training to include individual courses accredited by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and meeting the training requirements of member states of ECOWAS and the AU. The Centre also collaborates with Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) and Pacific Architecture Engineers (PAE) to enhance pre-deployment training (PDT) for Nigerian units. The Center’s other partners include the German Technical Assistance Team (GTAT), Peace Operation Training Institute (POTI) and The British Training and Monitoring Team (BTMAT).

Nigerian nationals have also occupied strategic positions in UN peacekeeping. Three Nigerians – Prof. Ibrahim Gambari (Joint AU-UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Darfur [UNAMID]), Olu Adeniji (Central African Republic (CAR) and Sierra Leone), and Margaret Vogt (CAR), have served as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General. In addition, six Nigerians have served as UN force commanders: Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (ONUC Congo), Major General Chris Garuba (Angola), Lt. Gen. Isaac Obiakor (UNMIL Liberia), Major General Joseph Owonibi (Liberia), Gen, Martin Luther Agwai (UNAMID Darfur), and Maj. Gen. Moses Obi (UNMIS South Sudan). Generals Obiakor and Agwai also served as Chief Military Adviser and Deputy Military Adviser at UN Headquarters respectively.

Part 2: Decision-Making

The primary responsibility for the deployment of Nigerian troops in peacekeeping missions falls on the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces. The decision-making process can, however, be divided into two stages (strategic and operational) and requires the approval of the Nigerian Senate, though it is not governed by parliamentary legislation.

At the strategic level, the President relies on his ministers and advisers on Defense, Foreign Affairs, National Security, as well as the Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces and the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The President can also refer to the National Defense Council or National Security Council – organs mandated by law to act in an advisory capacity on such matters. Before a commitment is made to provide UN peacekeepers, a domestic threat assessment is carried out in order to ascertain, if any, the adverse effect the proposed troop deployment might have on national security. This assessment, which is the duty of Nigeria’s military and civilian intelligence agencies, clarifies the type and duration of support that can be rendered in any particular situation. The final decision must then also be in conformity with Nigeria’s Constitution, specifically the five primary foreign policy objectives as stated in Section 19.[6] It must also be based on the understanding that an effective command and control structure, as well as clearly defined rules of engagement will be provided. This is usually addressed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed between Nigerian and the United Nations, in addition to other issues like concerns over internal security requirements, political climate and potential ethnic tensions, number of peacekeepers, and exit strategy in emergency situations as well as the human, financial and logistical resources required. The conclusions reached on the basis of the threat assessment are then forwarded to the President together with recommendations on the type and level of contribution. The President then decides. If he is in favor, a request is forwarded to the Senate for approval, and also for budgetary allocation to be made for the mission. After this, the process of selection and training of peacekeepers begins at the operational level.

At the operational level, selection procedures for potential peacekeepers vary between the Nigerian Armed Forces (NAF) and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). In the Armed Forces, the key players in the selection process include the Director of Peacekeeping Operations, Defense Headquarters (DHQ), Chief of Army Training and Operations, Chief of Air Force Training and Operations, and Chief of Navy Training and Operations. While the Director of Peacekeeping Operations superintends over the NAF’s peacekeeping activities, it is the primary responsibility of the Chief of Training and Operations of each arm of the NAF to supervise the selection processes of their individual headquarters. Once completed, selected personnel are sent to the NAPKC for pre-deployment training and other trainings required for the specific mission. A medical exam is also conducted on selected candidates. The Director of the NPF’s Peacekeeping Directorate is responsible for the selection of police officers.

Part 3: Rationales for Contributing

Political rationales: Nigeria’s active participation in UN peacekeeping is primarily motivated by its quest for global peace, security and stability. There is also the belief that Nigeria’s active participation in peacekeeping could strengthen its case for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council. Nigeria’s foreign policy, and by extension its political rationale for participating in peace support operations, is generally conditioned by four cardinal issues. Most important is Nigeria’s security, independence and prosperity, centered on its immediate neighbours – Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The second relates to events and stability in West Africa, while the third focuses on issues of peace, security and development in Africa. The last involves Nigeria’s relationship with institutions and countries outside of Africa. As a result, the West African sub-region, and then Africa are paramount to Nigeria in its calculations.

Nigeria has also been using the mechanism of peacekeeping to boost its leadership credentials in Africa, and its military and diplomatic status within international society. Peacekeeping is one of the activities through which Nigeria has assumed the position of a key player in international conflict management.

Normative Rationales: Nigeria considers it a moral duty to promote peace among all states and among all peoples. Nigeria also considers it a moral obligation to fight for equal rights and respect for all Africans, and black people worldwide. Given the plethora of security challenges faced by the black race, Nigeria should intervene in conflict or crisis situations if capable.

Security rationales: The protection of Nigeria’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, as well as lives and properties of Nigerians at home and abroad is a major consideration for embarking on peace operations. Although Nigeria considers itself duty-bound to play a leading role in addressing Africa’s security challenges, it tacitly includes ensuring its own security. In an increasingly globalized world, conflicts and civil wars might have devastating impacts on neighboring and other countries. Therefore, the fear of civil wars spreading is a core rationale behind Nigeria’s participation in peace operations.

Economic rationales: There is always an economic dimension to any country’s foreign policy calculation including contributing to peace operations where there are pecuniary gains to Nigeria as well as individual participants involved in UN missions. These financial benefits contribute to the socio-economic welfare of soldiers and sometimes, Nigeria’s military. As such, reimbursements that accrue from Nigeria’s participation in UN peacekeeping have been a source of income for soldiers and the state. For example, reimbursement for use of major equipment and provision for “self-sustainment” for the initial two battalions deployed in UNAMSIL from 27 December 1999 to 26 January 2000 amounted to US $798,063.13.[7] In UNAMSIL, the UN troops allowance paid to the TCC was US$1,349 per troop per month.[8] Of that, Nigeria pays a flat rate of $600.00 to officers and soldiers while retaining for its national treasury US$740 per soldier.

It is when participating in AU- or ECOWAS-led peace operations that Nigeria loses money due to the financial challenge of these organizations. For example, Nigeria spent over US$10 billion on ECOMOG’s missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the 1990s without receiving any compensation. More concerning is the fact Nigeria had to provide extensive monetary support to ECOMOG’s operations when other participating countries threatened to pull-out due to lack of funds. As a result, the financial implication of peace operations has made UN-led operations more appealing despite the importance and centrality of Africa to Nigeria’s foreign policy. Unsurprisingly, therefore, a large contingent of Nigerian and other West African troops under ECOMOG in Sierra Leone were converted to form the UNAMSIL peacekeepers. The ECOWAS Missions in Liberia (ECOMIL) and Côte d’Ivoire (ECOMICI) also transitioned to UN operations UNMIL and UNOCI respectively.

Institutional rationales: Nigeria’s contribution to UN peacekeeping is also informed by the non-pecuniary benefits involved. For instance, peacekeeping has become an avenue for training and a platform for members of the Nigerian Armed Forces to gain practical experiences. The challenges of modern peace operations provide opportunities for more practical experiences of soldering, including the chance to test the familiarity of Nigerian troops with modern weapons. Joint and combined training has also been achieved in the various missions. These have afforded Nigerian troops the chance to mix with other armed forces, thereby encouraging training and learning from their organization, tactics and methods of operation. Collaborative and peacekeeping related capacity-building and training programs that Nigerian troops have benefitted from include the US African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) and African Contingency Operation Training and Assistance (ACOTA), France’s Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping capabilities programme (RECAMP), and Canada’s Military Training Assistance Programme (MTAP). Given Nigeria’s resource constraints, these training programs have enabled its soldiers to improve their skills and knowledge to reach advanced international military and policing standards. This has impacted positively on their professional expertise and capabilities and enhanced their operational performance.

Part 4:  Barriers to Contributing

Alternative political or strategic priorities: The need to protect Nigeria’s territory limits its ability to contribute troops to UN missions. The challenge has become noticeable in recent times given the deterioration of the security situation due to challenges such as the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, and the ongoing militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The security challenges faced by Nigeria have resulted in a reprioritization of troop deployments. An increasing number of troops are being recalled from peace operations, including Mali, and redeployed to restive regions within the country.

Alternative institutional preferences for crises management: Nigeria sees itself as responsible to Africa as a continent and devotes most of its peacekeeping policies towards African countries. Nigeria has been bearing the bulk of ECOMOG operations both in monetary and human costs. Given the effect of these operations on the country’s finances, Nigeria now favours an arrangement in which the financial cost of deploying its troops for peace operations will be leveraged either by the UN or other external actors.

Difficult domestic politics: Nigeria’s participation in peace operations is not impacted by its domestic public opinion. This is because public opinion plays a very limited, if any, role in the decision to deploy peacekeepers. More importantly, the country’s National Assembly is actively involved in the decision-making process as it is constitutionally mandated to approve any deployment of Nigerian troops outside the shores of the country. On this matter, there seem to be a very good understanding between the executive and legislative arms of government.

Financial costs: Finance is not a major concern in UN peacekeeping missions because Nigeria is reimbursed for costs incurred. It is, however, a major challenge in regional and sub-regional peace operations. To date, Nigeria has spent over US$10 billion in OAU/AU and ECOWAS-led peace operations without any form of financial compensation or reimbursement.

Resistance in the military: This is not a barrier because the Nigerian Armed Forces has been a strong supporter of UN peacekeeping. In fact, participation in UN peacekeeping forms part of the military’s internal rewards system in in terms of personnel promotion.

Legal obstacles: There are no legal obstacles to deployment: Nigeria’s participation in UN peacekeeping is backed both by international law and supported by the country’s 1999 Constitution, as well as needing approval by members of the national parliament.

Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

Although Nigeria has been among the top five contributors to UN peacekeeping operations, the prevailing domestic security challenges faced by Nigeria, if not quickly addressed, might restrict its participation in future missions. The Boko Haram insurgency has grown from a strictly domestic affair, to an issue of global concern. Due to domestic security issues, the country has been spending about 20% of its national budget on defense and security matters.

Beyond the internal security challenges, there are practical issues such as differences in training and doctrine, as well as language barriers that affect Nigerian troops. Each country has training doctrines for its personnel and this affects operational tactics in the field. For instance, there is a difference in the operational doctrine of Anglophone oriented troops and their Francophone counterparts. In addition, communication is difficult between them due to the language barrier. Nigerian peacekeepers had to work with interpreters in order to communicate in countries of deployment where English language is not the official language; and also with peacekeepers from non-English speaking countries. This was evident in the recent deployments in Darfur (UNAMID) and also in Mali (AFISMA). As a result, the Nigerian Armed Forces now encourage its officers and soldiers to learn other languages especially UN working languages – Arabic, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents

Peacekeeping issues have mostly been confined to the military establishment, with little police involvement. There is little or no public scrutiny. Therefore, there are no serious public debates on the subject.

Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats

Nigeria needs to modernize its military due to its limited capabilities in strategic airlift/sealift, as well as old equipment such as weapons, vehicles, and communication gadgets required to effectively participate in UN peacekeeping. In order to overcome this limitation, the Nigerian Federal Government has undertaken the initiatives needed to modernize. There is a conscious effort to replace old equipment with modern items. In 2014, the defense allocation of over US$5 billion represents 20% of Nigeria’s national budget. However, over 80% of the defense budget is still spent on recurrent expenditure. A sizeable portion of the entire budget is also lost to corruption.

The only current caveat that might impact on Nigeria’s contribution to UN peacekeeping would be the full operationalization of the African Standby Force (ASF), scheduled to be completed in 2015. Nigeria will have to supply a significant number of troops to the 6,500-strong ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF). Nigeria has pledged to build up and provide resources required to enhance the strength and capability of ESF.

Part 8: Further Reading

Adebajo, A., “Nigeria,” in A.J. Bellamy & P.D. Williams (eds.), Providing Peacekeepers: The Politics, Challenges, and Future of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributions (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Ahmed, M.S., Nigeria’s Participation in Peacekeeping Operations (Peace Operations Training Institute, 2013).

Agwu, F.A., World Peace through World Law: The Dilemma of the United Nations Security Council (Ibadan University Press, 2007).

Dokubo, C., “Nigeria’s International peacekeeping and Peace Building efforts in Africa (1960-2005)” in A.A. Bola (ed.), Nigeria and the United Nations Security Council (Vantage Publishers, Lagos, 2005).

Hamman, S. & Omojuwa, K., “The Role of Nigeria in peacekeeping operations from 1960 to 2013,” Mediterranean Journal of Social Science, 4:16 (2013).

Oni S.K. (ed.), The Nigerian Army ECOMOG Operations: Liberia and Sierra Leone (Spectrum Books, Kaduna, 2002).

Yakubu, A.Y., Nigerian Foreign policy: A Basic Text (Al- Amin Publishers, Kaduna, 2011).


[1] Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from The Military Balance 2014 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2014).

[2] The 2014 figure is taken from

[3] Armed Forces spending is a county’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces, using figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2014.

[4] See Adebajo, “Nigeria” in Bellamy and Williams (eds.), Providing Peacekeepers.

[5] See, accessed 25 January 2015.

[6] These are 1) promotion and protection of the national interest; 2) promotion of African integration and support for African unity; 3) promotion of international cooperation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations; 4) respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication; and 5) promotion of a just world order.

[7] Ahmed, M.S., Nigeria’s Participation in Peacekeeping Operations (Peace Operations Training Institute, 2013).

[8] Ibid.


  1. Well it’s a very good analysis, about the Nigerian army peace keeping efforts. But I would want to ask for Nigerian troops roles it played in peace enforcement and peace building. Hope u write back.

  2. This is a good article. I am presently Researching on AU and peacekeeping. Please can you send me some materials J

    • Interesting. I’m researching on the Role of Nigeria in Peace keeping operations in Sudan. Please more materials


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