President Muhammadu Buhari

Why Nigeria Matters to the US

This week the blog is going to take a look at a different type of article, an opinion piece from The Hill about the U.S.-Nigeria relationship. The article “Problem or Partner? Why Nigeria matters to the U.S.,” was published on February 18, 2017, and was written by two employees at the organization Search for Common Ground. The Hill typically follows U.S. news as it relates to happenings on Capitol Hill, specifically committee work and news relevant to certain policies such as defense, finance and national security.

The article begins by discussing how important the U.S.-Nigeria relationship is to both states, specifically because of economic and political ties (the article notes that Nigeria is the world’s fourth largest democracy, and that it runs a trade surplus over $5.5 billion worth of U.S.-originated goods annually). During a phone call between President Trump and Nigerian President Buhari (see his Twitter account here), both leaders stressed the need for partnership over security, governance and regional leadership, especially because of the strong social, religious, economic and ethnic ties that leave Nigeria prone to fragmentation.

The article continues by critiquing Nigerian government policies as being reactive “rather than proactive in addressing vulnerability and violence.” It then begins discussing the conflict in the Niger Delta, citing agitations such as “resource control, development and environmental maintenance” as being the main drivers behind the current conflict in the Delta. The article argues that militant attacks on oil infrastructure and gas facilities cost the Delta region more than 1 million barrels a day during 2016, when production was down from 2.2 million to 1 million per day.

Later on the article claims “militancy in the Niger Delta gives rise to criminality and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, where attacks on vessels and abduction of crew members disrupt interconnected shipping supply networks.” In addition to the on-going conflict in the Niger Delta and the terrorist group Boko Haram operating in northern Nigeria, the article cites food insecurity, lack of foreign exchange and inflation as other potential triggers for future social unrest and protests.

What does this all mean for the U.S.-Nigeria relationship? According to the article, the U.S. should view Nigeria as an opportunity to invest in regional security and stability, despite Nigeria’s internal crises. Due to its political and economic influence, Nigeria acts as a sort of “trendsetter” in West Africa, and thus it is important for the U.S. to continue to foster holistic and proactive policies in Nigeria, as these have the potential to cross borders and positively impact other states in the region.

Abby Pioch is the primary blogger for Remembering Biafra. She is a senior in the Elliott School studying International Affairs concentrating in international development with a second major in French Language, Literature and Culture and a minor in Political Science. She is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Sorority and currently tutors ESL students at the Washington English Center.