Wednesday 24 September 2014


The Military Reserve Force in National Security


Speaking in Ilorin, Kwara State, at the opening of a 21-day training on linking women and youths for sustainable Green Development and Income Generation through Agric. Business, Sarh Jibril, the Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values, called on retired military officers in the country to assist in the fight against insurgency. According to Jibril, “retired Generals and other military officers cannot afford to remain in their comfort zone while the Boko Haram fighters gain more grounds, overrunning towns and communities”. A call born out of patriotism and love for ones country you will agree with me. But, where on earth do retired Generals and Military Officers wake up one morning, dress up in military uniform and move to the battlefield?


It is not out of place to state that the RESERVE FORCES OF NIGERIA BILL, 2004 which replaces the Ex-Regular Reserve Forces and Volunteers CAPs 294 and 288 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, was intended to establish a standard reserve forces for the country, define its organization and roles and regulate its activities and membership. The said Bill stated that “There shall be established and maintained by the Armed Forces an Armed Forces Reserve (in this Act referred to as "the Reserve") which shall consist of such number of officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, ratings and aircraftmen who are transferred to it on completion of their period of service in the Armed Forces and in such other services as the President may prescribe.”


Section 3 of the Bill disclosed that “The President may make regulations governing the pay, duties and methods of recall of members of the Reserve and any other matters pertaining to the Reserve as seems to him necessary”. While Section 25 deals with recall of officers from retirement; it states expressively that, “An officer who has retired or was permitted to resign may be recalled at any time during the currency of any term of reserve service in accordance with regulations made under this Act, and on the recall, shall be liable to serve until he is released or discharged”.


Concerning regulations as to reservists and pensioners Section 269 clearly said, “The President may make regulations with respect to the government and discipline of reservists and pensioners and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, regulations may provide for-

(a) the calling out for training of reservists and pensioners;

(b) the calling out of reservists and pensioners to aid the civil power and on permanent service;

(c) the pay of reservists when on the reserve and for the pay of reservists and pensioners when called out under this Part of this Act;

(d) requiring reservists and pensioners to report themselves, from time to time, and to obtain the permission of the competent Service Chief, or of such other officer authorized by regulations, before leaving Nigeria; and

(e) any matter which is required by this Part of this Act to be prescribed.


But, ten years after its passage, the nation has nothing to show for it. It is unfortunate that a country as big, populous, rich and blessed as Nigeria has no reserve force. 


The Military as Instrument of National Power

The military is an instrument of national power. A Reserve Force is an integral part of a nation’s defense capability. A nation without a well-defined and active reserve force constituted along several dimensions, including force structuring, mobilization, planning, and operational evaluation within the total-force system is like a man without a saving. The effectiveness of the Nigerian military establishment must be anchored on the military doing what it is designed to do, and, doing it well. This includes having sufficient numbers of individuals appropriately trained and adequately equipped to respond in a timely way to a likely threat to our national interests. The problems created by the emergence of Boko Haram and the possibility that other similar insurgency groups may spring up in the future is enough for the establishment of a total-force through necessary legislation which must defined what is sufficient, adequate, timely and likely for the overall interest of Nigeria. 


The Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria and threat to the national economy arising from oil theft in the Niger Delta coupled with other military operations in and outside the country is already having its tolls on the military with the former Chief of Army Staff, Major General Onyeabo Azubike Ihejirika complaining of over stretching the military. The military requires mobilization on a scale beyond the numbers of the regular army. Besides, the reliance on volunteer youths which the Nigeria Press in their usual way nick-named “Civilian JTF” is a bad precedent capable of generating more problems than the one we intend to use them to solve.

The dangers of grooming the youths in the art and act of violence cannot be overemphasized. The military manpower constraints manifested in the use of youths in military operations in the north, raising the questions of envisioned debriefing and demobilization of such volunteers. A band of youths raised by the chaos strategists in government in preparatory for elections rigging using the instruments of violence and thuggry is not what we need now.


Nigerian Legion

On the other hand, the Nigerian Legion cannot be said to constitute the Nigerian’s reserve force; a central body for land reserve, naval reserve and air reserve personnel.  Far from it, the Nigerian Legion’s enabling legislation and its structural deformity makes it unfit as a reserve force constituency. It also lacks mobilization, deployment and employment capability. Above all, the Nigerian Legion has been infiltrated by quacks, impersonators and fakers who parade as genuine, thus needing total cleansing and reorganization in keeping with the changing times. 


What is Military Reserve Force?

A Military Reserve Force is a military organization composed of citizens of a country who combine a military role or career with a civilian career. They are not normally kept under arms and their main role is to be available to fight when a nation mobilizes for total war or to defend against invasion. Reserve forces are generally not considered part of a permanent standing body of armed forces. The existence of reserve forces allows a nation to reduce its peacetime military expenditures while maintaining a force prepared for war. It is analogous to the historical model of military recruitment before the era of standing armies.


In countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Spain, members of the reserve forces are civilians who maintain military skills by training, typically one weekend a month. They may do so as individuals or as members of standing reserve regiments, a good example is the Territorial Army of the United Kingdom. In some cases a militia could constitute part of a military reserve forces, such as the United States National Guard.


In countries like Colombia, Finland, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Israel, service in the reserves is compulsory for a number of years after one has completed their national service. One can rightly say here without fear of contradiction that the salient aim of Decree No.24 of 22 May, 1973 in establishing the NYSC Scheme was to prepare a formidable military reserve force for the country. But, over the years, this vision was lost to politics and corruption.

A military reserve force is different from a reserve formation, sometimes called a military reserve, which is a group of military personnel or units not committed to a battle by their commander so that they are available to address unforeseen situations, bolster defenses, or exploit opportunities. That why, the Nigerian Legion Corps of Commissionaires cannot be said to be a military reserve force.


Historical Perspectives

Throughout the eighteenth century, some nations' military systems included practices and institutions that functioned effectively as a reserve force, even if they were not specifically designated as such. For example, the half-pay system in the British Army during the eighteenth century provided the British state with a force of trained, experienced officers not on active duty during peacetime but available for call-up during wartime. The Militia Act of 1757 effectively gave Britain at least somewhat of an institutional structure for a reserve force. Although contemporaries debated the effectiveness of the British militia, its embodiment, mobilization during several conflicts did increase Britain's strategic options by freeing up regular forces for overseas theaters.


Historically reservists first played a significant role in Europe after the Prussian defeat in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. On 9 July 1807 in the Treaties of Tilsit, Napoleon I forced Prussia to drastically reduce its military strength, in addition to ceding large amounts of territory. The Prussian army could no longer be stronger than 42,000 men.


The Krumper system, introduced to the Prussian Army by the military reformer Gerhard von Scharnhorst, arranged for giving recruits a short period of training, which in the event of war could be considerably expanded. With this, the reduction of the army's strength did not have the desired effect, and in the following wars Prussia was able to draw up a large number of trained soldiers. The system was retained by the Imperial German Army into the First World War. By the time of the Second Reich reservists were already being given so-called war arrangements following the completion of their military service, which contained exact instructions relating to the conduct of reservists in time of war.


Sources of Military Reserves

In some countries, for example the United States, reservists are often former military members who reached the end of their enlistment or resigned their commission. Indeed, service in the reserves for a number of years after leaving active service is required in the enlistment contracts and commissioning orders of many nations.

Reservists can also be civilians who undertake basic and specialized training in parallel with regular forces while retaining their civilian roles. They can be deployed independently or their personnel may make up shortages in regular units. The Territorial Army of the United Kingdom is one example of such a reserve force.

With universal conscription, most of the male population may be reservists. In Finland, all men belong to the reserve until 60 years of age, and 80% of each age cohort are drafted and receive at least six months of military training. Ten percent of conscripts are trained as reserve officers. Reservists and reserve officers are occasionally called up for refresher exercises, but receive no monthly salary or position.

South Korean males who finish their national service in the armed forces or in the national police are automatically placed on the reserve roster, and are obligated to attend a few days of annual military training for seven years.


Use of Military Reserves

Reserves are used and employed in several ways including:

a.      Replace Combat Losses

In wartime reservists may be used to provide replacements for combat losses to in-action units and formations, thus allowing these to remain battle-worthy longer.

b.      Augment Regular Army

They can also be used to form new units and formations to augment the regular army.

c.       Supportive Services

Reservists can as well undertake tasks such as garrison duty, manning air defence, internal security and guarding of important points such as supply depots, prisoner of war camps, communications nodes, air and sea bases and other vital areas, thus freeing up regular troops for the front. A combination of these can be used.

d.      Internal Security

In peacetime, reservists can be utilized in internal security duties and disaster relief, sparing reliance on the regular military forces, and in many countries where military roles outside of warfare are restricted, reservists are specifically exempted from these restrictions.


Military Reserve Officers

The term "Reserve Officer" has two different meanings. In the U.S., it refers mostly to retired officers of the standing army that are still eligible for military duty. In countries with universal conscription, it refers to conscripts that receive extra training to qualify for officer duty in the event of war, but in peacetime concentrate on their civilian career and receive no pay or position from the military. For example, 10% of Finnish conscripts attain a reserve officer rank after completion of one year of service.


Advantages of Military Reserve Forces

1.      Improved Manpower Supply

One of the primary advantages in having military reserve forces is that they increase the available manpower by many fold in a short period of time, unlike the months it would take to train new recruits or conscripts, since reservist are already trained.

2.      Experienced Combatants

Reservists are often experienced combat veterans who can increase not only the quantity, but the overall quality of the forces.

3.      Reduced Costs

Having a large reservist pool can allow a government to avoid the costs, both political and financial, of requiring new recruits or conscripts. The reservists are usually more economically effective than regular troops, as they are only called up when they are most needed. On the other hand, preparations made to institute a call up (which are obvious to adversaries) can be used as a display of determination.

4.      Diverse Skills and Expertise

Reservists are also many times trained professionals in the civilian side. The skills attained in many professions are also many times useful in the military side.

5.      Cheap to Train

Furthermore, in many countries reserves have also very capable people who would not consider career in the military. They take voluntary training as their hobby, and are therefore very cheap to train.



6.      Motivation and Rapport with Civilians

People considering reservist activity as their hobby tend to be very motivated unlike many professionals. In peacekeeping, the skills of reservists have been shown to be valuable, because they can be employed for reconstruction of infrastructure, and so tend to have better relations with the civilian population than pure career soldiers.


Disadvantages of Military Reserves

1.      Human-Equipment Incompatibility

Reservists are usually provided with second line equipment, which is no longer used by the regulars, or is an older version of that in current service.

2.      Lack of Experience in Handling Model Weapons

Reservists will also have little experience with the newer weapon systems.

3.      Poor Motivation

Reservists in the sense of retired services personnel are sometimes considered to be less motivated than regular troops. Meanwhile reservists in the sense of civilians who combine a military career with a civilian one, as in the United Kingdom's Territorial Army (TA), experience demands on time not experienced by regular troops, and which affects their availability and duration of service.

4.      High Cost of Training, Compensations, Call up and Remobilization

Conducting of exercises involving reservists is expensive, requiring compensation for lost wages, and it is difficult to call up, and then demobilize reservists again and again, which means that a nation that has called up reservists may be reluctant to stand them down again until the conflict is resolved. This is particularly true in the case of reservists in the sense of retired personnel, less true in the case of a standing force.


In the prelude to World War I, the reluctance of the various antagonists to demobilize reserves once called up, due to the difficulty of remobilization has been held up as one of the causes why the diplomatic phase escalated so quickly to war.



It must be pointed out here that our conceived larger force, if we eventually recruit more able bodied men and women into the armed forces as is being planned, will not be large enough to execute the emerging defense strategy in the face of rising security challenges across the country.

One of the promises of democracy is freedom from the burden of maintaining large standing armed forces. Modern day reserve components serve as an integral part of the defense system, prepared to participate in the earliest phases of any crisis as discussed below.  Therefore, before the lessons of the ongoing crisis are forgotten let us consider a standard reserve force for the country. That is, constituency for readiness!


  1. Nigeria is a den of madness and corruption. It is when we are in trouble that we remember we should have done things earlier. Before Boko Haram, the Nigerian army and Air Force were in states of operational incapability. It was the advent of Boko Haram that saw us purchase T-72's, MRAPs, several APC's, Beryl carbines, AK's with scopes and other 21st century weapons. It even led to the creation of the Army aviation corps.

    I remember reading somewhere that babangida passed a law to create the National Guards in 1990 but it was cancelled by Abacha. NYSC too, as you rightly stated, was created as the military reserve but now, almost all NYSC members have been turned to teachers, which alone has a very negative effect on the teaching profession.

    Ihejirika said the military would set up a reserve force in 2013 and today, three - almost four - years later, no show.

    I pray Cameroon, France and Chad don't start throwing bombs on our heads before we start reasoning properly.

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