The United States on Monday announced the launch of a US-Nigerian Binational Commission to bolster bilateral ties on energy, regional security, good governance and a range of other issues.
The new “strategic partnership” makes Nigeria the first African nationto be afforded such a status under the Barack Obama administration.
It also provides a forum for talks on creating greater transparency and improving the Nigeria’s accountability and fiscal responsibility, thereby helping the African country fulfill its potential as a regional leader, US officials said.
Along with South Africa, Nigeria is one of “two key, critical countries on the continent,” said Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state forAfrican Affairs and a former US ambassador to several African nations, as he unveiled the accord, which goes into effect on Tuesday.
The announcement comes ahead of a planned visit to Washington next week by Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan who comes to Washington to attend an international nuclear security summit, also is to take part in potential bilateral meetings with other world leaders — including a possible one-on-one with Obama.
Obama will host leaders from around the world from April 12-13 for nuclear security summit to discuss the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism, and steps that can be taken to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.
Carson said Monday that at the heart of the US-Nigeria accord is an emphasis on good “governance, transparency and integrity.”
He said the goal is to help Nigeria attain its full potential including in the critically important area of energy, the African country’s greatest export.
It also will help provide stability in the volatile Niger River delta area where militant attacks have severely hampered oil production.
And greater economic and political could help the United States also thwart a potential outpost of Islamic militancy. Nigeria is the home country of alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate explosives during a US flight in December.
Nigeria, which holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, imports 90 percent of its energy, despite producing 2.3 million barrels of crude per day.
“We can help provide some answers and solution to some of Nigeria’s power generation deficiencies,” he said.
The State Department said bilateral US-Nigerian trade was valued at more than 42 billion dollars in 2008.
Nigeria is the United States’ largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks in large part to its petroleum industry. Nigerian oil comprises eight percent of US imports, while about half of the oil produced in Nigeria goes to the United States.