The Nigerian Navy

The Nigerian Navy is one of the three branches of the Nigerian Armed Forces, less known than the Airforce and the Army.
Prior to its establishment, the British Royal Navy solely provided naval service over the waterways and coastal areas in Nigeria. However, the creation of  several quasi entities and pressures on the ruling government subsequently led to a full-fledged Nigerian Navy in 1956. One of such entities was the Nigerian Marine created from the forging of the Lagos Marine and Southern Nigerian Marine after 1914 amalgamation of northern and southern Nigerian.

The Nigerian Marine had no full authority but was responsible for ports and harbors administration, operations of ferry services and several small crafts in various creeks and inland waterways. Despite the limited functions, the Nigerian Marine participated in  military operations in WWI against the German military in Cameroon. However in 1955, the colonial government dismantled the Nigerian Marine in an attempt to improve effectiveness and created three maritime entities – Nigerian Ports Authority, tasked with administering all ports related functions and ensuring safe navigation; the Inland Waterways Department, in charge of operations of ferries, all creeks and inland waterways; and the Nigerian Naval Force, which housed the British Royal Navy Reserves Officers and service personnel from the disbanded Nigerian Marine.

The restructuring displeased the Naval Force officers who put pressure on the colonial government to establish a real Nigerian Navy. Consequently the colonial government ordered the establishment of the Nigerian Naval entity with the sessional paper No. 6 of 1956; a policy statement that charged the newly naval force with manpower training of and setting up necessary infrastructure. In 1958, an ordinance included the newly established Naval Force into the Naval Disciplinary Act which decreed same legal expectation and disciplinary procedures as the British Royal Navy. In 1959, the Nigerian Naval Force formally became the Royal Nigerian Navy with the permission of Queen Elizabeth and in 1963, after Nigerian gained its independence from Britain, the name was changed to the Nigerian Navy.

Roles and Duties

Once Nigeria became a republic, the 1958 ordinance was repealed and a new Navy Act of 1964 extended the constitutional tasks of the Nigerian Navy to include naval and maritime defense of the country as its main responsibility as well as coast guard duties, customs law enforcement, hydrographic surveys and training naval manpower.

The Nigerian Navy played a pivotal role during the civil war by securing the waterways preventing of any form of shipment of arms and ammunition into eastern Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Navy’s website, the Navy recorded several successes during the civil war which include, the Bonny landing of July 1967; Delta Port amphibious operations to recapture the ports of Warri, Koko and Sapele; the November 1967 amphibious landing to liberate Calabar and recapture mainland Cross River State. In addition to the major operations conducted during the civil war, the Nigerian Navy provided logistics support, casualty evacuations and troop reinforcements to the other branches of the Nigeria Armed Forces.                                           

Presently, the Nigerian Navy continues to perform duties ascribed in the 1964 Act, in addition to new tasks assigned in a recent 1999 Act, which includes the protection of the oil and gas industry (offshore exploration) from piracy and oil theft. The government has and continues to intensify efforts against the Niger-Delta Militant group who partly contribute to the problem of fuel scarcity in the country. The Navy has now intensified efforts in monitoring vessels transported in, out and within the country through several ‘choke point control,’ thereby enabling full interrogation of vessel resulting in an increased capture and arrest of militants. Since 2015, the Navy has prevented 16 piracy attempts, destroyed 221 illegal refineries, 34 barges and 167 wooden and Cotonou boats and have arrested over 40 vessels.

Recently, the Navy has been tasked to supplement an ongoing military operation (code-named Operation Lafia Dole) against the Northern Terrorist Group- Boko Haram. The navy operates along Lake Chad to apprehend fleeing terrorists via waterways or interceding vessels for transporting terrorists, arms and ammunitions.


According to the House of Representative committee on Armed Forces, the Nigerian Navy is in need of sophisticated equipment to effectively perform its  role in defeating insurgency in the Niger Delta and the North. A recent article written by Emmanuel Oladesu of the Nation Online news on the recent 60th anniversary of the Navy, detailed the challenges facing the Nigeria Navy to include, “inadequate platforms, degraded operational support infrastructure, inadequate research and development, low national industrial capacity, inadequate facilities for operational training, insufficient maritime domain awareness infrastructure and gap in personnel welfare.” An in-depth description can be found @ http://thenationonlineng.net/nigerian-navy-time-like

Become a Naval Officer

Prospective Naval Officers must have the following:

  • A minimum of 5 credits in the national examination (WASSCE/GCE/NECO/NABTEB).
  • Be between the ages of 18 – 22 years.
    • Ages 24-26 years for nurses and individuals with OND, NCE and Motor Transport Department certificates.
  • Single and of Nigerian origin by birth.
  • Height of 1.70 metres for Male and 1.67 metres for Female.

Once selected from the initial screening, applicants will be required to take an aptitude.

For more information, consult their website www.navy.mil.ng