The history of hydrography in Nigeria is inseparably linked to colonial maritime interest. Prior to independence, the role of hydrographic surveying in Nigeria’s waters was an exclusive preserve of the Admiralty. Following the establishment of the Nigerian Naval Force (NNF) in 1956, the first Naval Legislation passed by the House of Representatives, as the Nigerian Naval Ordinance on 1 August 1956, charged the NNF with the responsibility of conducting ‘Hydrographic survey to the extent that the Government of the Federation may require’ among others. After independence in 1960, the Act of Parliament of 1964 charged the NN with the responsibility of hydrographic surveying and charting of Nigeria’s waters among other responsibilities. This led to the establishment of the NNHD in the early 70s with the ultimate goal of meeting the statutory role of hydrographic surveying and charting of Nigeria’s waters.
The NNHD is organized into the Hydrographic Office, Hydrographic School and the survey fleet. The Hydrographic Office, headed by the Hydrographer, is in charge of the NNHD and responsible to the Chief of the Naval Staff, through the Chief of Training and Operations on all matters pertaining to defence and civil hydrography in Nigeria. He exercises professional control of the Hydrographic school and the survey vessels for training of personnel and the conduct of surveys respectively.
The NNHO derives its functions from the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of the Nation, which vested the responsibility of charting and coordination of all national hydrographic survey in Nigeria to the NN. This responsibility was amplified by the Nigerian Navy Order 16 of 1988 (NNO 16/88) to include the following:
- Hydrographic and oceanographic surveying matters for national and defence requirements.