On 30 April 2017 Muhamadu Buhari became the first African president to meet US president Donald Trump at the White House and various issues were tackled in their meeting. Matters of focus were security and economic issues.
For almost a decade, Nigeria has been fighting protracted battles with the insurgency group Boko Haram that has wreaked havoc in the North-East region of Nigeria. Boko Haram has committed some of the worst atrocities when it comes to human rights in Africa. The group was behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 as well as the abduction of more than 100 from Dapchi in February 2018.
Nigeria has one of the largest economies, and the Buhari administration has been trying to maintain this status with all the energy they can muster. China is the top investor in Nigeria, and that fact always gets America's attention. US-Nigerian security cooperation was strained under former US President Barack Obama.
The meeting between Buhari and Trump provided some incisive insights into the issue of security co-operation. As they opened discussions in the Oval Office, Trump said it was important to meet face-to-face, “especially on terrorism and terrorism-related” issues.
“We have a very big trade deal we’re working on for military equipment, helicopters and the like,” Trump added.
The menace of Boko Haram has caused several and countless headaches for Buhari's administration. Buhari has been looking for assistance to ward off the threat posed by the extremist and militant group.
But put the Boko Haram issue aside for a minute. There is also another problem threatening the security of Nigeria: The killing of Christians. Besides committing himself to battling the problem of Boko Haram, Trump also expressed concern over the killing of Christians in Nigeria.
“We’ve had serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed,” Trump said, an apparent reference to the attack on April 24 on a church in central Nigeria, where 18 people, including two priests, were murdered. “We’re going to work on that problem and working on that problem very, very hard,” Trump said.
Now, we move on to the equipment needed for bolstering the security of Nigeria. Buhari wants to seal a deal to buy a dozen A-29 Super Tucano turboprop light attack aircraft for use in the fight against Boko Haram, a deal worth a reported $496 million.
As alluded before, security co-operation under the Obama administration. In January 2017, then-president Barack Obama froze the deal after Nigeria’s air force bombed a refugee camp, killing more than 100 people, on a mission against Boko Haram.
Some have viewed Trump’s receiving Buhari at the White House just after visits by France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel is a positive signal. “The fact that the president of Africa’s most populous country is visiting Washington at all may be more important to strengthening the US-Africa relationship than any discussion of policy during the trip,” said John Campbell, a former US ambassador in Abuja who is now at the Council of Foreign Relations.
There were a lot more deals discussed. Some will be facing scrutiny inside Nigeria with claims of Buhari purchasing some of the equipment illegally. Business deals are on the cards, and it is yet to be seen how fruitful this visit will be for Nigeria in terms of Nigeria's security and economic interests.