How to Identify the Ranks of Nigerian Army Officers

A group of Nigerian Army Officers

Have you ever wanted knowing how to identify the ranks of Nigerian Army Officers, just by looking at their uniform? Then, this article is for you.

The Nigerian Army is the biggest and strongest part of the Nigerian armed forces. It’s like a big team, and the officers have different ranks that show how long – standing, experienced and important they are. These ranks are kind of like special badges that they wear mostly on the shoulders or chests.

Imagine you’re at an event and you see a group of officers on their uniforms. Do you know how to tell if they are high – ranking officers or not? And which is superior to the other? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll show you the rank insignias, names, positions they usually hold so that you can figure out an officer’s rank without needing to ask. It’s like learning a secret code that lets you understand who’s who in the Nigerian Army.

By the end of this, you’ll have the knowledge to spot a Nigerian Army Officer’s rank and understand its position in the league of other officers’ ranks.

So, let’s start this adventure of discovering how to identify the Ranks of Nigerian Army Officers!

How to Identify the Ranks of Nigerian Army Officers

Officer Cadet (Bonus)

This is not completely a rank in the Nigerian army. Instead, an officer cadet is a student undergoing military training to be commissioned into the Nigerian army usually at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna.

NDA officer cadets and their foreign counterparts
NDA officer cadets and their foreign counterparts

Yearly, the NDA admits fresh secondary school leavers as Regular Course (RC) cadets to undergo a five years academic and military training programme. Tertiary institutions’ graduates are also admitted as either Short Service Course (SSC) or Direct Short Service Course (DSSC) cadets.
Among these cadets, there further exist a ranking structure which is used to denotes one’s level of seniority and progress at the academy which proud itself as the pioneer military institution in West Africa.
Termer 1 cadets have a rank insignia of a horizontal bar and are the lowest among the cadets. This is followed by termer 2 cadets (2 bars), termer 3 cadets (3 bars), termer 4 cadets (4 bars) and termer 5 cadets (5 bars), who are the highest in the academy’s cadet hierarchy.

Termer 3 Cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy
Termer 3 cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna

Graduates of universities and polytechnics who are admitted into the Academy as DSSC or SSC cadets to undergo the not less than six months training of becoming a commissioned officer don’t usually form part of the ranking structure. Their unique rank insignia usually contains the acronym “NDA” and sometimes in addition to the name of the battalion they belong to in the academy.

NDA Direct Short Service Course Cadets
Direct Short Service Cadets of the NDA, Kaduna

1. Second Lieutenant

This is the lowest rank of a commissioned officer in the Nigerian army. Most officer cadets are commissioned as Second Lieutenants and are usually in charge of platoons at their various formations.
The rank insignia of a second lieutenant is a star. Its equivalents in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Acting Sub – Lieutenant, Pilot officer and Assistant Superintendent (ASP) respectively.

The rank Insignia of a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian army
The rank Insignia of a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian army
An officer of the rank of a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian army
A Nigerian army officer with the rank of a Second Lieutenant

2. Lieutenant

Most regular course (RC) commissioned officers automatically become Lieutenants after serving six (6) months in the Nigerian army. It is the second lowest rank of a commissioned officer in the service.
You can identify a Lieutenant with a rank insignia containing two (2) stars. They usually serve as officers commanding (OCs) various companies of a battalion. They may also hold battalion command appointments such as adjutants.

The rank insignia of a Lieutenant in the Nigerian army
The rank insignia of a Lieutenant in the Nigerian army

The equivalents of this rank in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Sub – Lieutenant, Flying officer and Deputy Superintendent (DSP) respectively.

A Lieutenant in the Nigerian army
A Nigerian army officer ceremoniously dressed with the rank of a Lieutenant

3. Captain

A Captain is the third lowest rank among the commissioned officers of the Nigerian army. To become one, an officer must meet certain requirements such as evidence of attending young officers’ courses, being highly recommended or spoken of by one’s superior or commanding officer and most importantly, passing the army promotional examinations for Lieutenants seeking to be Captains. Such examination tests whether an officer is still fit for service with the Nigerian army and will usually include papers on map reading, geopolitics (Nigerian history and politics), drills, marksmanship, army policy and doctrines, military history etc.
The insignia of a Captain contains three stars. They usually hold appointments at the battalion headquarters as operation officers and sometimes, as seconds in command (2iCs).

The rank insignia of a Captain in the Nigerian army
The rank insignia of a Captain in the Nigerian army

You can find the equivalent of this rank in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police as Lieutenant, Flight Lieutenant and Superintendent (SP) respectively.

A Nigerian army officer adorned with the rank of a Captain
A Nigerian army officer adorned with the rank of a Captain

4. Major

The rank above a Captain in seniority is that of a Major and is the beginning of being a senior staff in the Nigerian army. You can identify one whenever you see a military officer whose insignia contains just an Eagle.

The rank insignia of a Major in the Nigerian army
The rank insignia of a Major in the Nigerian army

To attain this rank, an officer must meet certain requirements such as evidence of attending military and leadership courses, being highly recommended or spoken of by one’s superior or commanding officer and most importantly, passing the army promotional examinations for Captains seeking to be Majors.

A Nigerian army Major at a public event
A Nigerian army Major at a public event

Just like Captains, majors usually hold appointments at the battalion headquarters or offices as seconds in command (2iCs). In rare cases, they serve as commanding officers (COs) of battalions or act in that capacity.
This rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant Commander, Squadron Leader and Chief Superintendent (CSP) in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police respectively.

5. Lieutenant Colonels

They are senior officers and usually command battalions. To attain this rank, one do not have to write promotional examinations rather is attained based on existing vacancies, federal character demands and recommendations.
You can identify a Lieutenant Colonel with a rank insignia containing an Eagle and a star below it. This rank is equivalent to a Commander, Wing Commander and Assistant Commissioner (ACP) in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police respectively.

The rank insignia of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian army
The rank insignia of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian army
A Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian army
A Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian army

6. Colonel

Next above Lieutenant Colonels are Colonels. Attaining this rank and others above it qualifies an officer to wear the army’s collar tab popularly called “red-neck” in the Nigerian army.
Becoming a Colonel will depend on factors such as existing vacancies for the rank in the Nigerian army, one’s records, federal character demands, courses attended and display of gallantry and bravery.

The rank insignia of a Colonel in the Nigerian army
The rank insignia of a Colonel in the Nigerian army

The rank insignia of a Colonel includes an Eagle and two vertically positioned stars. They usually hold administrative appointments such as chiefs of staff at brigade formations. Their equivalents in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Navy Captain, Group Captain and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP).

A Nigerian army Colonel well sitted with his "red-neck" collar tab
A Nigerian army Colonel well sitted with his “red-neck” collar tab

7. Brigadier General

Just above Colonels are Brigadier Generals, who usually head and command various brigade formations of the Nigeria army. They are also referred to as “one-star” Generals.

The rank Insignia of a Nigerian army's Brigadier General
The Insignia of a Nigerian army officer of the rank, Brigadier General

You can identify one with an insignia containing an Eagle and three stars positioned below the Eagle triangularly.
The equivalents of this rank in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Commodore, Air Commodore and Commissioner of Police (CP) respectively.

A Nigerian army officer adorned with the rank of a Brigadier General
A Nigerian army officer adorned with the rank of a Brigadier General

8. Major General

This is the fourth highest rank in the Nigerian army. A Major General will usually command a division of the Nigerian army or head critical departments and corps such as operations, infantry, armoury, education, signal, logistic, army policies and doctrines at the headquarters, Nigerian army, Abuja.
They are also referred to as “two-star” Generals.
Attaining this rank strictly depends on existing vacancies, federal character demands, courses attended, educational qualifications acquired, recommendations and being within military and service age.
The rank of a Major General contains an Eagle and below it, a baton that crosses a sword. Its equivalents in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Rear Admiral, Air Vice Marshal and Assistant Inspector General (AIG) respectively.

Nigerian army rank Insignia for a Major General
Nigerian army rank Insignia for a Major General
A Nigerian army Major General
A Nigerian army Major General

9. Lieutenant General

This is the third highest rank in the Nigerian army. An officer holding this rank is often called a “three-star” General.
Traditionally, only Chiefs of Army Staff (COAS) attain this rank. This means, attaining the rank of a Lieutenant General largely depends on being appointed as the Chief of Army Staff by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A Lieutenant General’s rank insignia contains an Eagle and below it, a star before a baton that crosses a sword.
Theoretically, the equivalents of this rank in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police are Vice Admiral, Air Marshal and Deputy Inspector General (DIG) respectively.

A Lieutenant General Rank Insignia for officers in the Nigerian army
A Lieutenant General Rank Insignia for officers in the Nigerian army
Lieutenant General Tukur Y. Buratai (Rtd.), a former COAS
Lieutenant General Tukur Y. Buratai (Rtd.), a former COAS

10. General

This is the second highest rank in the Nigerian army and highest rank that officers of the Nigerian army have been able to attain. An officer holding this rank is often called a “four-star” General.
Just like a Lieutenant General, only officers of the Nigerian army who rise to become Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS) can be decorated with this rank. This means, attaining the rank of a General depends on being appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
You are looking at a general if his rank insignia contains an Eagle and below it, two vertically positioned stars before a baton that crosses a sword. This rank is theoretically equivalent to an Admiral, Air Chief Marshal and Inspector General (IG) in the Nigerian Navy, Air force and Police respectively.

The Nigerian army rank Insignia for a General
The Nigerian army rank Insignia for a General
General Lucky Irabor (Rtd.), a former CDS
General Lucky Irabor (Rtd.), a former CDS

11. Field Marshal

This is the highest rank in the Nigerian army. Till date, no commissioned officer of the Nigerian army have been able to attain this rank.
Nevertheless, this rank is worn occasionally by the President of Nigeria at military events to signify his office as the Commander in Chief of the Armed forces. Its insignia contains an Eagle and below it, a baton that crosses a sword with vertically curved wreaths on both side.

Nigerian army's Field Marshal Rank Insignia
Nigerian army’s Field Marshal Rank Insignia
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's Ex - President adorned with the rank of a Field Marshal
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s Ex – President adorned with the rank of a Field Marshal

Its equivalents in the Nigerian Navy and Air force are Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Nigerian Air force. It has no equivalent in the Nigerian Police.

In conclusion, I sincerely hope reading this posts has enlighten you on how you can identify the ranks of Nigerian army officers beginning from a Second Lieutenant to a Field Marshal. Please, drop your comments on what you think about the ranks of the Nigerian army and suggestions on improving this post.