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Nigeria: Civil and State Ensigns

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
Keywords: nigeria | civil ensign | state ensign |
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The law "Flags of Nigerian Ships" (1968) (Act No. 29 issued 14 May 1968) denotes three special ensigns for use in Nigeria; blue, red and white and their specific bearers for the ensigns. The blue ensign has the national flag of Nigeria in the canton of a blue field. This ensign is used by government non-military ships.  

The red ensign is confirmed with section b of the 1968 Act. The question whether this is also a merchant flag besides being a civil ensign is dealt with by the 1968 law which states this ensign is "for ships other than those owned by any of the Governments of
Nigeria, the flag shall have a red ground with the national flag filling the top left-hand corner and quarter of the hoist, and be known as the red ensign, and unless regulations made under this Act otherwise prescribe, a ship affected by this subsection shall display
the ensign appropriate to be worn by it."

So it is not explicit here it is used for merchant ships, but merchant ships are allowed to use this ensign. The "Merchant Shipping Act of 2007" also states:

"12. Penalty for carrying improper colour
(1) If there are hoisted on board-
(a) any Nigerian ship any colours or pendant usually worn by ships of the naval forces of Nigeria or the distinctive national colours of any country except the national colours as the ship is, for the time being, allowed to wear in accordance with any written law or any other lawful authority".

This means that merchant ships cannot use the white ensign, yet this does not list the appropriate ensign to be used. The 2007 law for merchant ships only state "appropriate colours" needs to be worn by ships.

The last ensign covered is the white ensign carried by the Nigerian Navy. The 1968 Act confirms the ensign as being based on the British Royal Navy-pattern with the Nigeria flag at the canton as a stand-in until "the Minister of Defence may prescribe the flag to be worn by vessels of the Nigerian Navy or of the Naval Reserve".
Zachary Harden, 04 Mar 2018

Civil (Red) ensign

image by Željko Heimer, 04 July 1996

The Nigerian civil ensign has a red field with the national flag in canton. Whitney Smith (1975) in Flags Through the Ages and Across the World [smi75b] does not mention it and states that both civil and merchant vessels use the Nigerian national flag.
Željko Heimer, 04 July 1996

Jan Zrzavy reports that on the Swedish flag chart Flaggkarta (Lantmäteriet - Kartförlaget, 1995) [s9e95] the civil ensign is shown as red with the national flag in the canton. This is also shown on charts produced by the Dutch flag manufacturer, Shipmate.
Ole Andersen, 14 May 1998

State (Blue) ensign

image by Zachary Harden, 04 Mar 2018

Jan Zrzavy reports that Flaggkarta (Lantmäteriet - Kartförlaget, 1995) [s9e95] shows the state ensign as having a blue field with the Nigerian national flag in the canton.
Ole Andersen, 14 May 1998