Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday will meet his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama to improve relations between the two nations, and coordinate their response to the growing threat posed to Africa's largest economy by militant groups like Boko Haram.
The meeting comes shortly after deadly suicide bombings on Friday killed at least 15 people during Muslim prayers, underscoring the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has killed over 13,000 people and driven over 1.5 million from their homes through its insurgency in the country's northeast. Officials from Washington and Lagos have both indicated that the Nigeria-U.S. relationship will be an important one as several African nations struggle to contain a surge in Islamist violence.
"This feels to us like Nigeria is at an important moment in which there can be real reforms across the board," Grant Harris, senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters last week, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The discussion is also expected to touch upon Nigeria's economy, which has suffered under the ongoing militant threat, as well as declining oil prices and rampant government corruption, AP reported.
Buhari was elected late May on a wave of popular support after promising to crack down on Boko Haram and restore order to the troubled nation. The administration of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was criticized at home and abroad for perceived failures in dealing with security issues, especially after it failed to locate over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
The incident sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two nations, but Buhari has taken a more conciliatory tone. The former military strongman has pledged to respect democratic ideals. Obama is expected to pressure Buhari over Nigeria's human rights record, including its law criminalizing same-sex marriage.
"We're looking forward to what we can do with a president who has staked out an agenda that we think is the right agenda at the right time," Harris said, according to AP.