Following the initial high attained during the Nigerian Civil War, the Nigerian Armed Forces switched gear in its quest to acquire military hardware in the year 1975 which ended on a high note with the delivery in December 1975 of a squadron of MiG-21MF jet fighters for which orders had been placed by the ousted Federal Military Government of General Yakubu Gowon around 1973.
Ever since, the Nigerian Armed Forces have scarcely looked back as they press on in the quest to acquire modern military hardware for the nation. Between 1976 and 1979, the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo acquired the first-ever armoured tanks fielded by the Nigerian Army. This coincided with the movement of the 3 Armoured Division and its relocation from Port Harcourt to Jos in 1976. The 1 Infantry Division had earlier in 1972 also relocated from Enugu to Kaduna. The military regime of Obasanjo also acquired Soviet 122mm artillery guns and penned deals for a MEKO 360 frigate which was delivered in the 1980s under the Shagari regime’s watch, Hippo-class Landing Ships (Tank) and British Vosper Thornycroft corvettes.
As far as military hardware acquisition goes, the Shagari regime which held office between October 1979 and December 1983 holds the record. The Shagari regime splashed out 6 billion pounds sterling on military hardware between 1980 and 1982. This was expended on the acquisition of everything from French Combattante III and German Lurssen missile-armed Fast Attack Craft, Italian-made G222 military airlift planes and a squadron of Aermacchi MB-339 advanced trainer/light attack jets, Oto-Melara 105mm artillery guns and Palmaria 155mm self-propelled artillery systems.
From France, the Shagari regime penned deals and/or took delivery of Roland Surface to Air missile systems and Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) Puma helicopters. Also delivered were American-made C130-H30 Hercules (the stretch variant, that is) and anti-aircraft artillery guns. Contracts were signed and deliveries made of Swedish-made Bofors FH-77A 155mm artillery guns, Austrian-made Steyr 4K-7FA armoured personnel carriers, Swiss-made MOWAG Piranha armoured personnel carriers, British-made Vickers Mk.3 Eagle main battle tanks and Alvis Scorpion light tanks, squadrons of Franco-German Alpha jets and Franco-British Jaguar jets, German-made Fox armoured cars, Dornier Do-228 utility aircraft and Soviet-built MiG-21 jets, 122mm artillery guns and BM-21 122mm rocket artillery.
Deliveries on some the procurement deals penned by the inimitable President Shehu Shagari, a quiet and modest man, continued well into regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. Some of his successors penned new deals for repeat business on deliveries of Scorpion and Eagle tanks and self-propelled artillery, continuing into this decade.
The shortlived regime of General Buhari signed deals for additional deliveries of Scorpion light tanks and Vickers Eagle battle tanks and penned a deal for the delivery of Brazilian-made Engesa Cascavel heavy armoured fighting vehicles in an oil-for-armsbarter trade deal. The Buhari regime was soon swept aside by General Babangida.
The Federal Military Government of Nigeria under General Babangida signed deals for further deliveries of Palmaria self-propelled artillery, Alpha jets and Dornier Do-228 utility planes. It additionally signed fresh deals for the delivery of two squadrons(24 units) of L39 Albatross advanced trainer-light attack jets from Czechoslovakia, Romanian-made APR-21 122mm rocket artillery, Italian-built mine countermeasure vessels, British and French coastal patrol craft, Panhard Sagaie armoured fighting vehicles and VBL scout cars.
The Abacha regime came and went while the Abdulsalaam Abubakar regime had little time to leave its footprints.
In 1999, General Obasanjo again took the elm as democratically elected President and returned to meet an arsenal which had been blighted by sanctions and embargoes. He did very well in the event, acquiring fifteen Chengdu F7 jet fighter-bombers from China, Agusta AW 139 and A109 Power utility helicopters, Russian-built Mi-34, Mi-17, Mi-24V and Mi-35P choppers and gunships, T72 tanks, MT-LB armoured combat support vehicles, Ukrainian-made BTR-3 armoured personnel carriers, BTR-60 and BTR-70 armoured personnel carriers, Mowag Grizzly armoured personnel carriers, Turkish-built Otokar Cobra infantry fighting vehicles, French-made AMX battle tanks,Sea Eagle Offshore Patrol Craft, many dozens of gunboats and utility landing craft, logistics ships, Unmanned Surface Vehicles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and a comprehensive coastal radar systems.
The Obasanjo government also signed deals for additional deliveries of Panhard VBL scout cars, Oto-Melara 105mm artillery, Palmaria 155mm self-propelled artillery systems, T55 and Vickers Eagle battle tanks and Alvis Scorpion light tanks.
The Obasanjo regime was succeeded by the government of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007 and since then, it has paced orders for or taken delivery of a squadron of twelve Agusta A109LUH choppers, another squadron of twelve Eurocopter AS-550 Fennec attack helicopters, ATR-42MP Surveyor radar planes, five Eurocopter dual-purpose Puma radar helicopters, Shaldag Mk.II Fast Patrol Interceptor Craft, gunboats and combat catamarans and British-built Offshore Patrol Vessels.