The primary function of the Nigerian military as per the constitution of the country as well as global best practice is to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and protect the country from foreign threats. In carrying out this mandate, the Nigerian military has done exceptionally well. Nigeria’s territory since independence has not been lost by military action of a foreign or domestic aggressor. In the recent case where Boko Haram claimed parts of Nigerian territory as part of its caliphate, the military has since reclaimed the territory.

However, other security operations in the country including internal security, policing activities and border security are the constitutional responsibilities of other security agencies, including the police, DSS, Nigerian Customs and others. This is also the norm in most countries worldwide. This is not the case in Nigeria. The military is involved in internal security operations in the country, overstretching it significantly.

We curated the internal security activities the Nigerian military is involved in. We also categorized these activities using the following methodology.

Category Description
None No military deployment in the last 6 months
Police Activity Military deployed to deal with organised crime which does not result is significant numbers of Nigerian lives lost. Crime restricted to property loss and a few Nigerian lives. Ordinarily should be handled by Police
Low Intensity Conflict Military deployed against a non state actor which actively takes Nigerian lives or destroys government and private property. However, does not involve a fight to secure territory
Counter Insurgency Military deployed and in ongoing battle to reclaim Nigerian territory or pacify reclaimed territory

Nigeria has a military strength of 162,000 with 130,000 as Active Frontline Personnel from an available manpower of 72,400,000 of which 40,710,000 for a total population of 181,562,056. This brings Nigeria’s military to civilian ratio to 9 for every 10,000. For context, the top 5 countries in military to civilian ration are as follows





North Korea

441 to 10,000



258 to 10,000



253 to 10,000



202 to 10,000



195 to 10,000


9 to 10,000

This shows that for its population, the numerical strength of the Nigerian military is low.

Military activity in the states

The Nigerian military is involved in security operations in 30 of the 36 states in the country and the FCT, severely overstretching our armed forces.

This is indicative of two things:

The first is perhaps the most obvious – the military involvement in security of almost every state in the country speaks to the sorry state of our policing and a failure of intelligence services. Police reforms are overdue and the APC government must now make good its promise to devolve policing to the local level. Intelligence needs to be more surgical in its execution so that the security issues that require force to correct are rather prevented or arrested before they escalate. This is perhaps the most important step to relieving the military from the severe burden it currently bears in internal security.

The second speaks to the internal cohesion of the country. Military force should not be required to keep law and order in 81% of our territory. While it will be a long stretch to say that Nigeria is in a state of war, it is nevertheless of great concern that our military is active in so many capacities within the country. It calls for introspection and again makes the case for having the conversation the social contract that binds the Nigerian nation together. Urgent structural changes need to be made before the fissures in our society get exacerbated by the economic recession that we are in and its attendant consequences. This is especially crucial in order to forestall frequent interactions between Nigerian civilians and military personnel which often devolve into excessive force and bloodshed.


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We believe that Nigeria urgently needs to do the following:

  • Review military deployments across the country to get to the root cause of each issue the military is dealing with and determine if other solutions can be pursued.
  • Improve the equipment of the military so modern technology can be used to make up for the low military to civilian ratio, and in effect reduce the burden on military personnel.
  • Improve on the effectiveness of intelligence gathering to prevent issues from reaching a point that will lead to internal military deployments.
  • Drive police reforms, and immediately begin the process to initiate state and local policing as well accelerating the current recruitment and training process of more hands for the police force.
  • Improve effectiveness within the law, of agencies such as the DSS.
  • Open up conversations to renegotiate the Nigerian state so that it becomes more inclusive, not just on a tribal or ethnic level, but on an elite to the rest of the masses level.
  • Work hard to turn around the recession that the economy is in, as economic hardship usually precipitates security disturbances and challenges.