The United States is ready to assist the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in tracking down billions of dollars in stolen assets and also increase military assistance in the fight against insurgency.
Buhari’s visit to Washington is being viewed by the US administration as a chance to set the seal on improving ties between both countries, according to Reuters.
The relationship between Nigeria and America headed for the rocks under former president, Goodluck Jonathan, as the US believed Jonathan refused 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,” Tony Blinken,US deputy secretary of state, told Reuters.
“The question is would there be an opportunity to deepen our engagement and that opportunity is now.”
US officials have also said they are willing to send military trainers to help Nigeria crush Boko Haram.
“We’ve made clear there are additional things that can be done especially now that there is a new military leadership in place,” a senior US official said.
Another senior official said Washington was urging Buhari to step up regional cooperation against the militants and to provide more aid to afflicted communities to reduce the group’s recruiting power.
“Here too he is looking to deepen collaboration and one of the things he is focused on is asset recovery,” the official said. “He is hopeful we can help them recover some of that.”
In 2014, the United States took control of more than $480 million siphoned away by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates into banks around the world.
Washington has broad powers to track suspicious funds and enforce sanctions against individuals.
Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state, said Washington should not let security issues overshadow the need for closer trade and investment ties.
“Nigeria is the most important country in Africa,” said Carson, currently an adviser to the US institute of peace.
“Now more than ever, the relationship with Nigeria should not rest essentially on a security and military-to-military relationship.”
Lauren Ploch Blanchard, an Africa specialist with the non-partisan congressional research services, said the US challenge was to work with Buhari while giving him time to address the country’s vast problems.
“How Buhari will handle the campaign against Boko Haram is still unknown”, Blanchard said.