Assessment of the relationship between Nigeria and USA 2010-2019


Assessment of the relationship between Nigeria and USA 2010-2019


Background to the Study

The Nigeria-United States relations are bilateral relations between Nigeria and the United States. The United States established close relations with Nigeria in 1960 when she got her independence from the British. Although the Nigeria-USA relationship has been strained due to various military coups in the Second Republic from 1979-1983.The history of Nigeria‟s foreign policy towards United States since 1960 has constantly been changing, though the principles guiding her foreign relations remain the same. Strategic event are largely responsible for the unstable external relationship between the two countries. Since Nigeria‟s foreign policy is deeply rooted in Africa with emphasis on political and economic cooperation, peaceful dispute resolution, and global nonalignment, Nigerian leaders also have their attention fixed on the successful implementation of these principles which sometimes come in conflict with the US foreign goals.

At independence Nigeria began to conduct foreign relations under the political leadership of her prime minister, the late Alhaji (Sir) AbubakarTafawaBalewa. His administration emphasized Africa to be centre-piece of Nigeria‟s foreign policy. His own foreign relation was pro-Western particular with Britain, Nigeria‟s erstwhile colonial master. With the bloody military coup of January 15, 1966, the late Major-General J.T. AguisiIronsi came to power only to be killed in a counter coup staged six months later. This development brought the retired General Yakubu Gowon to power (Abegunrin, 2001: 12-20). Although General Yakubu Gowon‟s adopted a pro- western approach In Nigeria‟s foreign relations. He entered into agreements with Britain, United States and other European Countries. A bloodless military coup lead to the hijacking of the General Yakubu Gowon‟s government and this lead to the emergence of late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed and the retired General (now Chief) Olusegun Obasanjo who was his second in command and Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters. This regime innovated new ideas and dynamism In the country‟sforeign affairs. The regime prepared to counter the imperial moves of the western powers especially the United States who had emerged as a major power broker in Africa particularly in Angola (Robert, 1991: 57). This was also the era of the cold war where the USA and the Soviet Union were competing for military supremacy and searching for satellite countries who would support them in their bid to permanently polarize the world into Capitalist and Communist Blocs under the US and Soviet Union respectively (Robert, 1991: 67). The Muhammed\Obasanjo regime pursued confrontational diplomatic in its resolve to emancipate African countries that were still under the tyranny of colonial masters. The government also had conflict with the US in its bid to eradicate neo-colonialism, racism and apartheid on the African continent particularly colonies in Southern Africa (Davies, 1978: 15).

With all these involvements in international politics, Nigeria became a regional power and centre of influence, particularly in Africa, making her to adopt confrontational foreign policy posture towards the US. This combined with a viable economy until the mid-1980s; Nigeria was a toast of many states seeking either its influence or support on global issues or financial assistance (Ate, 1987: 93). However, after the June 12, 1993, Nigerian presidential election was annulled, and in light of human rights abuses and the failure to embark on a meaningful democratic transition, the United States imposed numerous sanctions on Nigeria. These sanctions included the imposition of Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to refuse entry into the United States of senior government officials and others who formulated, implemented, or benefited from policies impeding Nigeria‟s transition to democracy; suspension of all military assistance; and a ban on the sale and repair of military goods and refinery services to Nigeria. The U.S. Ambassador was recalled for consultations for four months after the execution of the Ogoni Nine on November 10, 1995.

After a period of increasingly strained relations, the death of General Abacha in June 1998 and his replacement by General Abubakar opened a new phase of improved bilateral relations. As the transition to democracy progressed, the removal of visa restrictions, increased high-level visits of U.S. officials, discussions of future assistance, and the granting of a Vital National Interest Certification on counter-narcotics, effective in March 1999, paved the way for re-establishment of closer ties between the United States and Nigeria, as a key partner in the region and the continent (Adebajo and Mustapha, 2008: 80-120).

When the new democratically elected government in Nigeria took power in 1999, the United States (US) pictured a bright future with a strategic country in the African sub-region. They envisioned a strong partnership in political, economic and security realms. The growing influence of Islam in northern Nigeria has also been a cause of concern to some policymakers in Washington, particularly in light of America‟s war on terrorism. Diplomatic relations between the two countries appeared to be threatened over the failed attempt by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day (December 25, 2009) which led to the inclusion of Nigeria on US terrorism watch list and subsequently, making the Nigerian Senate to give the United States authorities a seven-day ultimatum to remove Nigeria from their watch list (Tell Magazine, 2012). Despite challenges that marred Nigeria-US relationship in 2010, the bilateral relationship continued to improve, and cooperation on many important foreign policy goals, such as economic collaborations and regional peacekeeping has been good.

The Nigerian government has lent strong diplomatic support to the U.S. Government counter- terrorism efforts in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Government of Nigeria, in its official statements, has both condemned the terrorist attacks as well as supported military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Between 2007 and 2012, Nigeria has played a leading role in forging an anti-terrorism consensus among states in Sub-Saharan Africa (Tell Magazine, 2012). The United States seeks to help improve the economic stability, security, and well-being of Nigerians by strengthening democratic institutions, improving transparency and accountability, and professionalizing security forces. U.S. assistance also aims to reinforce local and national systems; build institutional capacity in the provision of health and education services; and support improvements in agricultural productivity, job expansion in the  rural sector, and increased supplies of clean energy. The United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, with U.S. foreign direct investment concentrated largely in the petroleum/mining and wholesale trade sectors. U.S. exports to Nigeria include wheat, vehicles, machinery, oil, and plastic. Nigeria is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). U.S. imports from Nigeria include cocoa, rubber, returns, antiques and food waste. The United States and Nigeria have signed a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement.

It is the general aim of this thesis to explore the strategic importance of Nigeria as a crucial ally of the US and the needed synergies between the two nations to ensure regional and international stability.


Over the years there have been various views from the public on the impact of the United State of America in Nigeria. Is their motive just to exploit our natural resources and give us peanut, this has been from various scholars and Nigerian citizens? The relationship between these two countries has been up and down. Bilateral relations between Nigeria and the US from 1999 to 2012 had a dual character: acrimony and friendship. From 1999 to 2003, there was a friendly relationship between the two countries, ; between 2003 and 2004 it degenerated into a full scale diplomatic tussle where Nigeria regarded the action of the US government on Iraq invasion as inappropriate; between 2005 and 2009, diplomatic relations was cordial with the increase in economic activities; between 2009 and 2010, their relations was sour as a result of Nigeria‟s inclusion on the terror list by the US government; and between 2011 and 2012, their relations became stable and entered a new phase of strategic partnerships in the fight against terrorism. The steps taken by these two countries to stabilize their relations during these periods call for careful study.


  1. What are the patterns of the Nigeria-USA relations since 1999-2020?
  2. How does domestic and global terrorism affect Nigeria-USA relations?
  3. What role has democracy played in the Nigeria-USA relations since 1999-2020?
  4. Are there any impacts of the United States of America on Nigeria since 1999-2020?