The NDA was established in January 1964 as a reformation of the British run Royal Military Forces Training College (RMFTC), which had been renamed the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) on independence. The military institution trains the officer corps of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force. The initial class was only 62 cadets, and trainers were mostly officers in the Indian Army. The NDA grew to an all Nigerian training staff only in 1978.
In 1981 itself began training bilateral training of foreign militaries. In 1985 the academy commenced offering undergraduate programmes to Military Officers In Training and now also currently offers post graduate studies both for Msc and Ph.D for both military and civilian students alike. The central mission remains the five year cadet officer training “Regular Combatant Course”, although from 2002, a four-year military programme is also offered. As of 2008, its total cadet class is around 1500.