U.S. Relations With Nigeria

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
February 21, 2017

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 and1983. 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 180 million and an estimated gross domestic product of 510 billion USD in 2013. Although Nigeria's economy has become more diversified, crude oil sales have continued to be the main source of export earnings and government revenues. Despite persistent structural weaknesses such as a deficient transportation infrastructure, the Nigerian economy grew briskly for the decade ending in 2013. The growth rate slowed in 2014 and 2015, owing in large part to the fall in oil prices, and in 2016 Nigeria experienced its first recession in over two decades. The gains from economic growth have been uneven; 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. Notwithstanding important steps forward on consolidating democracy, the country continues to face the formidable challenges of terrorist attacks, sectarian conflicts, and public mistrust of the government. Nigeria has yet to develop effective measures to address corruption, poverty, and ineffective social service systems.

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, the United States 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. T United States was prepared to increase support for a holistic effort by the Government of Nigeria to counter Boko Haram; one that protected human rights and brings together security and development tools to defeat Boko Haram and eliminated the factors that fuel extremism. The U.S. and Nigeria also discussed what it would 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, health, and well-being of Nigerians by strengthening democratic institutions, improving transparency and accountability, promoting good governance, 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 United States, 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, kerosene, lubricating oils, jet fuel, civilian aircraft, and plastics. Nigeria is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). U.S. imports from Nigeria include crude oil, cocoa, cashew nuts, and animal feed. The United States and Nigeria have a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. In January 2016, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Nigeria on a fact-finding mission with senior U.S. business executives who comprised the 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 identified three areas of focus: security cooperation, economic growth and development, and governance and democracy.

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 U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria is W. Stuart Symington; 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
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 Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel Information