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Nigeria’s Buhari to talk terrorism, trade with Obama

Muhammadu Buhari

Abuja:  Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari is due to meet Barack Obama next week in Washington, where they are set to discuss the fight against terrorism and boost damaged bilateral relations.

Facing an uptick in violence from the jihadist group Boko Haram, Buhari – who came to power in late May – is expected to push for US help to tackle the insurgency and also improve trade, particularly in oil.

Top of the agenda “will be measures to strengthen and intensify bilateral and international cooperation against terrorism in Nigeria and west Africa”, a statement from the Nigerian presidency said.

Relations between the two countries dipped late last year, under the regime of former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, after Abuja considered US aid to fight Boko Haram insufficient.

The west African nation decided to halt a US training programme for an army battalion which would have developed into a unit to take on the militants.

The US State Department reacted swiftly, assuring that it would do what was needed to assist Nigeria.

But it also expressed concern over respect for human rights and protection of civilians during military operations.

Jiti Ogunye, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, said he expected Buhari’s US visit to bring a “salutary rapprochement” between the two countries.

“Relations between Nigeria and US, which had not been too rosy before, should be reset by the visit. We expect a new tone in bilateral relations both in form and in content,” he said.

“Nigeria has a mono-economy that is dependent largely on oil. It needs to fire the interest of America to resume oil importation from Nigeria.”

US imports from Nigeria, mostly crude oil and other petroleum products, rose from more than 24 billion USD in 2005 to over 38 billion in 2008, but dropped sharply to less than four billion last year owing to America’s shale energy revolution.

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