U.S. Relations With Nigeria

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
September 26, 2016

More information about Nigeria is available on the Nigeria Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States established diplomatic relations with Nigeria in 1960, following Nigeria’s independence from the United Kingdom. From 1966-1999 Nigeria experienced a series of military coups, excluding the short-lived second republic between 1979-1983. The 30-month long civil war, which ended in January 1970, resulted in 1-3 million casualties. Following the 1999 inauguration of a civilian president, the U.S.-Nigerian relationship began to improve, as did cooperation on foreign policy goals such as regional peacekeeping.

Nigeria is the largest economy and most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of more than 170 million and an estimated gross domestic product of 510 billion USD in 2013. Nigeria's economic growth has been largely fueled by oil revenues. Despite persistent structural weaknesses such as a deficient transportation infrastructure, the Nigerian economy grew briskly over the past decade. The growth rate slowed in 2014 and 2015, owing in large part to the fall in oil prices. The gains from economic growth have been uneven, as more than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. During March and April of 2015, for the first time in the country’s history, an opposition party won the presidency and control of the National Assembly in generally clean and transparent presidential, legislative, and state-level elections. Although the country conducted successful elections in 2015, it faces formidable challenges in consolidating democratic order, including terrorist activities, sectarian conflicts, and public mistrust of the government. Nigeria has yet to develop effective measures to address corruption, poverty, and ineffective social service systems, and mitigate the violence.

Since 2010, under the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC), a forum for focused, high-level discussions, the two countries have met regularly. These meetings have focused on key areas of mutual interest, including good governance, transparency, and integrity; energy and investment; regional security; the Niger Delta; and agriculture and food security. In July 2015, President Obama hosted President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria in the Oval Office to express U.S. commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria’s new government (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/07/21/president-obama-s-meeting-nigerian-president-muhammadu-buhari). President Obama made clear that the United States is prepared to increase support for a holistic effort by the Government of Nigeria to counter Boko Haram; one that protects human rights and brings together security and development tools to defeat Boko Haram and eliminate the factors that fuel extremism. President Obama and President Buhari also discussed what it will take to strengthen Nigeria’s economy, including a comprehensive approach to tackling corruption and reforming Nigeria’s energy sector. On March 30, 2016, the United States-Nigeria BNC met again in Washington, D.C. to advance our overall relationship and spur joint action on key issues. As outlined in the BNC Joint Communique, the three areas of focus were security cooperation, economic growth and development, and governance and democracy.

U.S. Assistance to Nigeria

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. A partnership among the U.S., the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and international organizations to focus on improved governance, non-oil economic growth, and human development ensures closer coordination of donor activities, more effective support, and greater impact for ordinary citizens.

Bilateral Economic Relations

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. In January 2016, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Nigeria to kick-off a fact-finding mission with senior U.S. business executives who comprise President Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. The Council’s visit underscored the broad U.S. commitment by both government and the private sector to advance economic engagement with Nigeria. The BNC meeting of March 30, 2016 noted the U.S. and Nigerian Governments’ pledge to work together to ensure maximum utilization of current programs to promote trade and investment, including AGOA and the bilateral trade and investment framework agreement.

Nigeria's Membership in International Organizations

Nigeria and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Nigeria also is an observer to the Organization of American States.

Bilateral Representation

The position of U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria is currently vacant; the Charge d’Affaires is Martin Brennan. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Nigeria maintains an embassy in the United States at 3519 International Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008, (tel: 202-986-8400).

More information about Nigeria is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Nigeria Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Nigeria Page
U.S. Embassy: Nigeria
USAID Nigeria Page
History of U.S. Relations With Nigeria
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel and Business Information