President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Washington on Monday is viewed by the U.S. administration as a chance to set the seal on improving ties since he won the 2015 March election.
U.S. cooperation with Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, had virtually grounded to a halt over issues including his refusal to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.
“President Barack Obama has long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important strategic country in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The question is would there be an opportunity to deepen our engagement and that opportunity is now’’, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, said.
Improving ties with Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, comes as U.S. relations have cooled with two other traditional Africa powers, Egypt and South Africa.
U.S. officials have said they were willing to send military trainers to help Nigeria counter a six-year old northern insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist movement.
Since Buhari’s election, Washington has committed $5 million in new support for a multi-national task force set up to fight the group.
“This is in addition to $34 million it is providing to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.
“Buhari’s move on July 13 to fire military chiefs appointed by Jonathan clears the way for more military cooperation,” U.S. officials say.