In 1897, the need to have a more effective military force to counter French incursions into Northern Nigeria led to the secondment of Col. F. D. Lugard with a team of other officers to Nigeria to raise two battalions. Lugard did a good job in the brief time between 1897 and December 1898.
At the end of this conflict with the French, the British government reorganised the forces in Nigeria and this reorganisation ended In 1900. At the same time, the charter granted to the Royal Niger Company was revoked. Consequently, two battallions were established in Northern Nigeria compris ing the original battalions established by Lugard and the fragment of the Royal Niger Constabulary Quartered in the south Another Scomoanv battalion was formed in the Lagos colony.
With the amalgamation of the Lagos colony and protectorate with the Southern protectorate in 1906, the battalion and the Southern Nigerian regi ment were also amalgamated to form two distinct battalions i.e.
1. Battalion with Calabar as Head quarters
2. Battalion with Lagos as Headquarters.
In 1897, all constabulary forces in British West African territories were fused together by Lugard to form the West African Frontier Force, The amalga mation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 led to the fusion of both regiments to form a single Nigeria Regiment in the WAFF. Thus, Nigeria Regiment was then divided into four battalions with 1 and 2 in the north while 3 and 4 were in the south and the whole force came under one unified command. In 1940, WAFF was conferred with the royal charter to become the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF). This was in recognition of the gallant performance of Nigerian soldiers in the two world wars.
It is pertinent to note that during Worid War 1, of the 30,000 soldiers raised for the war effort in the West African area, 13,980 were 'from Nigeria. Again, in World War II, 121,652 Nigerian soldiers were raised and used in such places as Sierra Leone, Italian Somali land as well as the Middle East, Assam and Burma. The gallantry of these soldiers helped to project the image of the country positively.
Despite the excellent gallantry and discipline displayed by Nigerian soldiers during these cam paigns, not a single one was commissioned as an officer. The first Nigerian officer was commissioned in 1948. In 1953, the Regular Officers' Special Training School was established in Teshie, Ghana, as a centre for recruiting and preparing all RWAFF officer cadets for a six months training, prior to their full commission training in any of the training institutions in Britain. More enlistments into the Nigeria Regiment were conducted in three centres located in Zaria, Enugu and lbadan.
Those enlisted were sent to Nigerian Regimental Training Centre (NRTC), Zaria. In 1954, the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria was established as a Boys' Company, where secondary school education and military training were given to young Nigerian boys.
The Nigeria Regiment of the RWAFF was renamed the Nigerian Military Force (NMF) on 7th June, 1956, following the disbandment of the military forces in the four British dependencies. Each force became independent of the others but remained subject to the orders of the British Army Council in London. The manpower holding of the NMF atthistime was 250 officers and 6,400 Other Ranks out of which were 61 Nigerian officers. The NMF also comprised five Battalions of British and Nigerian soldiers located at Ibadan, Abeokuta and Enugu as well as Kaduna with two battalions in addition to an Engineer Squadron and an Artillery battery. With the visit of the Queen in 1956, the NMF was renamed Queen's Own Nigerian Regiment (QONR). By 1st June, 1958, the British Army Council in London relinquished control of the army to the Nigerian government and by 1960, it became known as Royal Nigerian Army (RNA). By 1963, when Nigeria became a Republic, the RNA became the Nigerian Army.
On the eve of the first coup in January 1966, the Nigerian Army was still a small army with only five battalions located at Enugu, Ibadan, Kaduna, Ikeja and Kano. By 1966, Two reconnaissance squadrons had been formed, located at Kaduna and Abeokuta. The total strength of the Army by this time had risen to between 7,000 and 10,000 with 225 British Officers and 80 British NCOS, and the army was still being commaned by & British general.