Nigerian troops will perform better if they understand local languages – Army

The Chief of Administration (Army), Maj.-Gen. Okpe Ali, says the understanding of the major indigenous languages by the troops of the Nigerian Army will enhance their operations.

Mr Ali said this during the inauguration of the Indigenous Languages Course 12/2023 organised by the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, NARC, on Thursday in Abuja.

He said the conduct of the previous 11 courses recorded tremendous success and informed the need to continue with the programme.


He said the 12th batch was being conducted for officers and soldiers of 2 Division, 81 Division and Army Headquarters’ departments and units within Abuja.

According to him, the aim of conducting the ILC is to ensure that army personnel are proficient in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.

“As you are all aware, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multilingual society with the largest number of indigenous languages in the West African Sub-Region as well as the most populous nation on the African continent.

“Thus, our ethnic heterogeneity coupled with large population are drivers of conflicts posing serious challenges in the management of internal security as seen in the high and volatile level of ethno-religious conflicts and increase in the number of violent non-state actors and groups across the country.

“The threats posed by these groups and in fuelling conflicts have necessitated the deployment of troops in almost all the 36 states of the federation for internal security operations in aid of civil authorities.

“Thus, the importance and need for army personnel to understand the local languages, particularly in the areas where they operate will build trust and confidence in troops by the locals,” he said.

He added that the 2016 Order of Battle and its subsequent implementation had led to the establishment of new formations and units across the country where most of the residents spoke only their indigenous languages.

“This situation requires that all Nigerian army officers and soldiers have the basic knowledge of the three major languages that are widely spoken within the Nigerian operational environment.

“This will among others promote esprit-de-corps among personnel; afford troops the ability to effectively communicate with the locals and most importantly assist in gathering intelligence which is necessary for the execution of assigned tasks,” he said.

Mr Ali said the 21st Century operational environment had changed with the emergence of the human domain of operation, which, according to him, comprises humans as physical beings, thoughts of the mind, action and what they create.

He said the military’s objective in the human domain was the ability to influence targeted individuals and groups better than the adversary.

Languages, according to him, are seen as the best mirrors of the human mind, which in turn determine action and events.

“Consequently, a key requirement for success in the human domain operation is the ability to communicate with the local population which hinges on mastery of indigenous languages within the operating environment,” he said.

The Director General of NARC, retired Maj.-Gen. Garba Wahab, said understanding of local languages by troops was essential to achieving success in the ongoing internal security operations across the country.

Mr Wahab said the deployment of the military in nearly all the states of the federation had made it imperative for the army personnel to be able to communicate in local languages rather than English.

According to him, there are some words we find very difficult to translate, so when you understand each other, it is easier to deal with locals and people from particular areas and speak their language.

“They feel this is one of us and that is the essence.

“I believe that if you can speak my language I can understand you, and misunderstanding is reduced to a great extent,” he said.

Mr Wahab said the centre was planning to expand the course to other local languages other than the three major Nigerian languages.


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