The need for a Joint Headquarters or Defence Headquarters for the Armed Forces arose during the Second World War when Allied Forces established a combined Chiefs of Staff command structure. This functioned as the agency that worked out the strategies for the day-to-day conduct of the war. It would be noted that the Americans had earlier established the Joint Armed Forces before it was change to Joint Chief of Staff, a position being held by a Four-Star-General to oversee the three services. Consequently, many countries have continuously adopted same or similar concepts. For instance, 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 its chairman. Pakistan on the other hand operates the Joint Headquarters structure with the Chief of Defence Staff at the apex of command.

Nigeria has over the years been operating a variant of the Pakistani and American Defence Headquarters structure with success. The 1979 constitution vested in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the power to appoint among others, a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Thus, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was established to enable the CDS carry out his duties. However, the nomenclature of DHQ was changed in 1985 to Joint Headquarters (JHQ) this was further modified in October 1985 with the creation of the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff. In 1990, the nomenclature once more changed to DHQ with same functions and designation of the appointee reverted to CDS.

The DHQ is responsible for deployment, sustenance and recovery of forces deployed externally or within the country. A Four-Star-General whose appointment shall come from any of the three Services shall be appointed as CDS. He is the principal military adviser to the government and the professional head of the Armed Forces. The Defence Policy gave the Service Chiefs power over their respective Services. The office of the CDS shall be the focal point of military decision making process.

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