14th October 2016


Many modern armed forces across the world, including the Nigerian Armed Forces, have, out of administrative necessity, adopted the combined Chief of Staff command structure. This kind of command structure ensures that such armed forces which are mostly tri-service in nature, namely, land forces (army), sea forces (navy) and the air force, are centrally administered in terms of uniformity of code of conduct and the inevitability of joint operations in the prosecution of wars.

It is instructive to note here that the need for Joint Headquarters or Defence Headquarters for Armed Forces arose during the Second World War when Allied Forces established a combined Chief of Staff command structure. This functioned as the agency that worked out the strategies for the day-to-day conduct of the war. The effectiveness of this kind of command and control structure, over time, became the operational model for most armed forces of today.

The core objectives of establishing this command structure are basically the same although there might be variants in either nomenclature or mode of selecting the headship. For instance, the Unites States of America established the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the same objective during the Second World War period; India has the Chief of Staff Committee structure comprising the service chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force with the most senior amongst them serving as the chairman. Pakistan on the other hand operates the Joint Headquarters structure with the Chief of Defence Staff at the apex of the command.

Nigeria has over the years been operating a variant of the Pakistani and American Defence Headqurters structure with remarkable success.


The 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vested the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces the power to appoint Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to superintend over the Nigerian Armed Forces via  Defence Headquarters which was to be established in 1980. Lt Gen Alani Akinrinade, CFR, was the first Chief of Defence staff; he was appointed 15 April 1980 and he left office on 01 October 1981. In 1984, under the leadership of Gen DY Bello as the Chief of Defence Staff, the nomenclature of Defence Headquarters was changed to Joint Headquarters (JHQ). This was further modified in 1985 with the creation of the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff. In 1990, the nomenclature was once again changed to Defence Headquarters (DHQ) with the same functions and designation of the appointee reverted to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).


 Even though the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria that created the office of the CDS was not very clear about the powers of the CDS but taking into consideration the core mission of the Nigerian Armed Forces of Nigeria which is to have fully trained, manned, equipped, organized and well led forces that are capable of successfully fulfilling their strategic purposes, in the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its national objectives, the office of the Chief of Defence Staff  therefore exists essentially to coordinate and supervise the 3 Services in order to meet this overall objective. By the provisions of the National Defence Policy 2006, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and in Particular, the Office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is the focal point of military decision making process. 

The lead story of this edition of your soar-away quarterly news companion will focus on the organizational structure, activities and functions of the Defence Headquarters. We desire to avail our esteem readers the workings at the DHQ, its Departments, Directorates and the tri-service institutions under its management and supervision. Enjoy.

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