The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has stated that up to 50% of the heroin coming into the United States passes through Nigeria.
Concern over progress towards democracy -- that Nigeria is backsliding towards military dictatorship, and human rights violations.
In specific terms, the strategic importance of Nigeria from U.S. perspectives lies in the country's economic, political and military power (which) has provided some anchor of stability for the region. If the Nigerian state degenerates, so will regional stability.
U.S. Relationship with Nigeria Vital for West Africa and Valuable for Both Countries
"A strong Nigeria is critical for a strong Africa and a strong Africa is vital for global peace, not only in the area of conflict resolution as Africa has 70 per cent of conflicts in the world. We are fighting poverty, under development and trying to bring human and physical infrastructure up to 21st century standards. A strong Africa without a strong Nigeria is not possible. And this is central to our foreign policy."
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, 23 March 2009 (Ikokwu)
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at the same meeting responded that:
"the deepening of democratic principles are critical to the survival of Nigeria, a country that is the strongest U.S. ally in Africa. In that regard the willingness of the U.S. To collaborate with Nigeria on several fronts, particularly in the area of capacity building" (Ikokwu).
However, Transparency International (TI), in its recent release of the Corruption Perception Index report for 2009, points out that Nigeria has now slipped from 112th to 130th of the most corrupt nations out of 180 that it surveys. What this tells the U.S. is that, despite its words, Nigeria is becoming more corrupt, not less. And it also says that, despite any efforts by the Nigerian administrations to correct itself, they are not succeeding, so far.
The impact of that is that their leadership position in West Africa can slip with each succeeding problem. And it certainly does not stabilize either the country or the other countries of West Africa that may tend to follow its leadership.
As Maduekwe pointed out to Clinton at their meeting, the re-establishment of the bi-national commission between Nigeria and the U.S. -- set up in 2000 but abandoned by President George W. Bush -- would go a long way toward creating an avenue along which many of the troubling issues could be addressed between the two countries.
There is no question that the main interest of the U.S. In Nigeria is its sweet, crude oil which we have mentioned previously. However, through its improving diplomatic relations with Nigeria, and its enrichment of that country through those purchases, it has allowed Nigeria to retain its leadership position in West Africa. And that leadership position advances U.S. interests in the area as well. When Nigeria led a peacekeeping mission as part of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), it certainly assisted in stabilizing Liberia and Sierra Leone -- long-time U.S. allies. This mission not only stabilized the West African region, it persuaded then U.S. Secretary of State to claim that Nigeria was a "very valuable partner for the U.S. In promoting, peace, democracy, and the rule of law throughout West Africa" (Aka, p. 249).
After the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the Nigerian government strongly supported President Bush's counter-terrorism policies and loudly condemned the attack and supported military action. In West Africa, Nigeria has had a strong part in bringing together an anti-terrorist consensus among those states.
Currently, there are well over one million Nigerians living in the United States, and more surprisingly, over 25,000 Americans who live and work in Nigeria. President Yar'Adua visited President Bush in the White House in 2007, and Secretary of State Clinton visited Nigeria in August of 2009. The point of this history is that all of this brings credibility to Nigeria's leadership role in Africa and the region of West Africa, while furthering the U.S. goals in those countries and continent. Currently the United States and Nigeria have several joint priorities:
1. U.S. assistance continues to provide equipment and training for Nigerian peacekeeping forces, which are deployed to peacekeeping missions throughout the continent.
2. U.S. funding advances the rule of law by strengthening the capacity and transparency of the justice system and building judicial independence at the federal level.
3. Helping Nigeria address the fundamental health and education needs of its citizens directly impacts governance, stability, and economic growth.
4. Funding will build trade and investment capacity and improve the enabling environment for agriculture and microfinance (Bureau of African Affairs).
Aka, P.C. "The Dividend of Democracy: Analyzing U.S. Support for Nigerian Democratization." Boston College. 3 December 2009 .
Ayam, J. "The Development of Nigeria-U.S. Relations." 2008. brittanica.com. 2 December 2009 .
Bureau of African Affairs. "Background Note: Nigeria." September 2009. U.S. Department of State. 1 December 2009 .
Campbell, J. "Richer Relationship the Result of Nigeria's Democratic Transformation (Interview)." 25 February 2005. allafrica.com. 1 December 2009 .
Ikokwu, C. "Nigeria: U.S. - How Democracy Can Advance." 24 March 2009. allafrica.com. 2 December 2009 .
Moose, G.E. "Assessment of U.S.-Nigeria relations (speech)." 31 July 1995. findarticles.com. 1 December 2009 .