Nigeria Military Equipment 2021

Nigeria is currently the largest importer of military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa. It is almost certain this is in response to the Nigerian governments ongoing battle with Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). To a lesser degree, it is also about piracy, militants in the Niger Delta, and banditry in the Northwest.

Key Judgements

KJ-1. It is almost certain Nigeria’s status as the largest importer of military equipment in Africa is because of the fight against the terrorist groups Boko Haram and ISWAP.

KJ-2. It is likely China will be the largest foreign exporter of military equipment to Nigeria between 2020 and 2024.

KJ-3. It is almost certain that Nigeria’s ongoing military modernization is in reaction to their continuing battle against BH.

Nigeria Military Equipment: A Background

According to the Associated Press, 6.55% is the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of Nigeria’s military expenditures. Likewise, the Nigerian defence budget share of its capital expenditure had a significant increase between 2015 (9.8%) and 2019 (26.6%). As of 2019, 0.5% of Nigeria’s GDP goes towards military expenditures, ranking it 149th in the world. In 2020, 16.8% of the Nigerian total budget is for security.

Nigeria Military Equipment and security budget allocation
2020 Nigerian Security Budget
Ministry of Defence2,300,000,000
Ministry of Police Affairs1,050,000,000
Military Operations197,400,000
Ministry of Interior700,000,000
Office of the National Security Adviser378,000,000

Nigeria Defence Industry

Nigeria has its own domestic defence industry, called the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON). DICON’s mission is “to catalyze the efforts of all directorates and units. It also works to streamline the interest of other stakeholders for maximum output towards National Defence and Enterprise”. DICON intends to accomplish that by increasing the domestic production of Nigerian military equipment. To so they get guidance from the German manufacturing firm Fritz Werner and the Soviet Union. Technical partnerships with Poly Technologies in China and the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ) also provide support. 

Nigerian soldiers taking part in the Flintlock 2020 joint exercise (credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Castellano)


In reference to the DICON website, domestic manufactured products include:

  • NR-1 7.62mm battle rifle (FN FAL variant)

  • OBJ-006 (Nigerian AK-47 variant)

  • PM-12S variant Submachine gun

  • Nigerian Pistol 1

  • Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher

  • 81mm Mortar tube, General Purpose Machine Gun

  • M36 hand grenade, DICON Mobile Solar Power Generator (DMSPG)

  • DICON Field Kitchen, and ammunition (7.62mm, 9mm)

In January 2021, DICON received a contract from the Nigerian Army for 52 Ezugwu Mine Resistance and Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. This DICON MRAP variant began manufacturing in September 2019 with help from the Nigerian Army’s Command Engineering Depot (CED).

Why Manufacture?

The choice to manufacture these specific weapons systems is likely because of their standard operational use within the Nigerian Army. The primary objective is to export them to international clients. Reporting has shown a desire for increased domestic manufacturing to lessen reliance on importing. The Nigerian Army has an arsenal of advanced hardware outside of the domestically manufactured ones, that supersedes BH’s and ISWAP’s offensive and defensive equipment capabilities (generic old-Soviet style suite). There are only a select few African nations that produce their own weapons for exporting, and Nigeria’s defence industry makes up a large percentage of total African sales.   

Foreign Trade

it is likely China will be the largest foreign exporter of military equipment to Nigeria between 2020 and 2024. Nigeria and the China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (Norinco) fulfilled a recent contract. The contract was worth $152 million USD and included VT-4 main battle tanks, ST1 light tanks, SH-5 self-propelled 105mm howitzers, Typhoon MRAPs, Spartan armored personnel carriers, armored guard booths, Buffalo vehicles, inshore patrol craft, Epenal boats, STAN Patrol Vessels, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and more. China offloaded the equipment into Nigeria on the 8th of April 2020. There have been none recent reported arms deals of this size between a Western nation and Nigeria, especially with the West’s distrust in the Nigerian government and their constant violations of human rights.     

Nigeria & China

China and Nigeria have had relations going back to 1971, and in a different context than the other African nations who have cultivated diplomacy and trade with Beijing. According to the BBC, in 2014 Nigeria was the most pro-Chinese nation in the world. They have eroded those traditionally warm relations since then, with hints of discontentment between the Nigerian government and China. China sees Nigeria as a strategic location, both geographically and economically, in its large market.

Other foreign exporters of Nigerian military equipment include Russia, Europe, and the United States. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, other nations that weapons deals made to Nigeria between 2017 and 2019 included Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).    

Geopolitical & National Security Context

It is almost certain that Nigeria’s ongoing military modernization is in reaction to their continuing battle against BH. Despite the Nigerian government’s efforts; the nation remains the third worst ranked nation on the 2019 Global Terrorism Index in terms of proneness to terrorism with no significant improvement since 2017. Likewise, reporting has identified a disparity between the militaries funding and performance. This has garnered an even greater public distrust in the Nigerian military’s ability to curb BH activity. A recent combat deployment of Chinese VT4 tanks in a government anti-BH operation has shown usage of the modern equipment imported in the 2019 Norinco contract.           

It is likely that China will compete with Russia for the bulk of foreign military equipment imports in the future. Although China won the largest contract, Russia has exported arms to Nigeria in the past, and has been actively trying to gain influence across the continent. Both China and Russia are offering developing African nations unconditional support compared to the West. There is a realistic probability that the combination of one of the two nations supporting the Nigerian defence industry along with the expansion of DICON can cause a lesser degree of Western support in the future.    

Intelligence Cutoff Date: 20th March 2021 (UTC -7)

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