Policy & History

The United States established diplomatic relations with Nigeria in 1960, following Nigeria’s independence from the United Kingdom. From 1966-1999 Nigeria experienced a series of military coups, excluding the short-lived second republic between 1979-1983. The 30-month long civil war, which ended in January 1970, resulted in 1-3 million casualties. Following the 1999 inauguration of a civilian president, the U.S.-Nigerian relationship began to improve, as did cooperation on foreign policy goals such as regional peacekeeping.

Nigeria is the largest economy and most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of more than 170 million and an estimated gross domestic product of 510 billion USD in 2013. Nigeria’s economic growth has been largely fueled by oil revenues. Despite persistent structural weaknesses such as a deficient transportation infrastructure, the Nigerian economy grew briskly over the past decade. The growth rate slowed in 2014 and 2015, owing in large part to the fall in oil prices. The gains from economic growth have been uneven, as more than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. During March and April of 2015, for the first time in the country’s history, an opposition party won the presidency and control of the National Assembly in generally clean and transparent presidential, legislative, and state-level elections. Although the country conducted successful elections in 2015, it faces formidable challenges in consolidating democratic order, including terrorist activities, sectarian conflicts, and public mistrust of the government. Nigeria has yet to develop effective measures to address corruption, poverty, and ineffective social service systems, and mitigate the violence.

Since 2010, under the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC), a forum for focused, high-level discussions, the two countries have met regularly. These meetings have focused on key areas of mutual interest, including good governance, transparency, and integrity; energy and investment; regional security; the Niger Delta; and agriculture and food security. In July 2015, President Obama hosted President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria in the Oval Office to express U.S. commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria’s new government (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/07/21/president-obama-s-meeting-nigerian-president-muhammadu-buhari). President Obama made clear that the United States is prepared to increase support for a holistic effort by the Government of Nigeria to counter Boko Haram; one that protects human rights and brings together security and development tools to defeat Boko Haram and eliminate the factors that fuel extremism. President Obama and President Buhari also discussed what it will take to strengthen Nigeria’s economy, including a comprehensive approach to tackling corruption and reforming Nigeria’s energy sector. On March 30, 2016, the United States-Nigeria BNC met again in Washington, D.C. to advance our overall relationship and spur joint action on key issues. As outlined in the BNC Joint Communique, the three areas of focus were security cooperation, economic growth and development, and governance and democracy.

U.S. Assistance to Nigeria

The United States seeks to help improve the economic stability, security, and well-being of Nigerians by strengthening democratic institutions, improving transparency and accountability, and professionalizing security forces. U.S. assistance also aims to reinforce local and national systems; build institutional capacity in the provision of health and education services; and support improvements in agricultural productivity, job expansion in the rural sector, and increased supplies of clean energy. A partnership among the U.S., the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and international organizations to focus on improved governance, non-oil economic growth, and human development ensures closer coordination of donor activities, more effective support, and greater impact for ordinary citizens.