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 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. 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.
Credit: Providing for peacekeeping