Nigeria is undoubtedly the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa. Its importance is built around its size. It is, in fact, the largest country in terms of population, its energy resources – it is the largest producer of petroleum and gas in sub-Saharan Africa – its trade relationship with the United States. It is a country that has the largest single U.S. investment in the continent. And the trade relations because of the large amount of oil that flows into the United States. Nigeria typically ranks as number four and number five in terms of oil supply to the American market.
The U.S. has had a very good relationship with Nigeria over a number of years and appreciates greatly its contribution to returning stability to both Sierra Leone and Liberia. It also – its contribution in providing peacekeepers to a number of peacekeeping operations around Africa. The U.S. wants to strengthen and deepen its relationship with Nigeria. Despite our close relationship, Nigeria faces a number of major challenges: conflict in the delta, which has gone on for over a decade; tensions that frequently flare up between Muslims and Christians in the northern part of the country where some 75 million Muslims live, making it the second largest Muslim population in Africa and the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa. It also faces challenges with respect to corruption. It has been described by a number of organizations as one of the most corrupt states in Africa. And we all know what corruption can do to public confidence, to the confidence of citizens in their government, and also to destroying the budget and the fabric of governmental operations.