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States in actual fact cannot exists in isolation, hence, once a state has been granted the full status of statehood by the colonial authorities it has the legal right to engage in relations both bilaterally and multilaterally on the international scene. With the country‘s independence, such state can now be declared a sovereign state. Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on October 1, 1960 and as such acquired the right to conduct its external relations with the rest of the world. But the reality of Nigeria‘s independence was that it was a poor state and there arose a need to create an avenue for relations with other countries of the world, both in Europe, Asia and North America such as the United States of America. The history of Nigeria and United States of America‘s formal relations is recent, but in consideration of the slave trade period, the relations have been estimated to have started as way back as the 18th century. Nigeria was a major supplier of slaves to the European countries especially Britain, which further traded some of these slaves to the United States. The trade in slaves led to the first informal contact between the two countries.

History has it that the coastal region of modern day Nigeria was referred to as the Slave Coast. Nonetheless formal relations between the two countries started after Nigeria‘s independence in 1960. According to one of the speeches given by the first Prime Minister Lt Alhaji Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa at Nigeria‘s independence, Nigeria needs to acquaint it self with the rest of the world to improve the country‘s overall status. The relations between Nigeria and the United States of America officially started when the President of United States of America, President Eisenhower was represented by Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York


at Nigeria's independence ceremonies on October 1, 1960. That visit marked the beginning of diplomatic relations (Ayam, 2008). The first diplomatic envoy of the United States in Nigeria was on September 23, 1960 and since then relations between the two countries have continued to blossom especially in the economic sphere. Relations between Nigeria and the United States have historically been marked by cooperation, a degree of affinity and setbacks.

In the decades after independence, Nigerian governments defined a pragmatic stance in continental and global affairs. In the 1960s and 1970s, Nigeria maintained cordial diplomatic and economic relations with the United States, while maintaining non- alignment stance during the Cold War. The political relations between the two countries have had some setbacks especially during the Nigeria‘s military era. It is important to note that US is the champion of democracy in the world and has continued to raise its voice against authoritarian rules in the world. The United States had at various times during the years of military dictatorship in Nigeria spoken out against tyranny and oppression and has consistently supported every effort at democratization (Nwokolo, 2011). For example, seven years after the Nigerian independence, the country was thrown into a situation of Civil War. In the process of the War, the Nigerian government sought external assistance. Britain supplied a huge amount of weaponry to the Nigerian government because of its desire to preserve the country it created. United States on the other hand declared neutrality to the war. According to U.S. Secretary Of State Dean Rusk, America was not in a position to take actions as Nigeria is an area under British influence. The Federal Government turned to the Soviet Union for military assistance during this period, as it was abandoned by the West. This lead to a huge strain in their political relations as Nigeria felt betrayed by the United States.

However, economic relations continued to blossom, major American oil firms and other companies were rapidly expanding their activities in the country, and Nigeria saw United States


as a model for its economic development. General Babangida‘s commitment to democratization, and his cooperation with multilateral financial institutions on economic reform, helped to keep relations on a cooperative footing for much of his tenure.

During the Abacha regime there were issues of political instability and assassinations of important members of the society which copulated into sanctions from United States and other countries of the world. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth, and the United States joined several other countries in extending sanctions on travel, aid, and (non energy) trade. Despite an increasingly confrontational political relationship, however, major American oil firms continued to operate normally, even expanding investments in areas such as energy sector. Relations between Nigeria and the United States normalized quickly after Abacha‘s death. His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, relaxed political restrictions, freed political prisoners, and elaborated a scheme for transition to Civil Rule. The United States opened dialogue with General Abubakar. Elections were later held in February 1999 and Olusegun Obasanjo came into power, and was inaugurated on May 29. In addition to regularizing diplomatic relations, the United States lifted visa restrictions on Nigerian officials, rescinded limits on aid and trade, and ended the embargo on military cooperation. It is important to state that Nigeria has been one of the most important trading partners of the US in Africa. Being the most populous country in Africa, and endowed with natural resources such as oil ensured U.S.A.‘s attraction to the country, in addition to its democratization process.

As a result of Nigeria‘s return to civilian rule foreign assistance from the United States grew rapidly, from less than US$7 million in 1998 to US$109 million by 2001. This represented a sudden increase in virtually all areas, notably democracy and governance, economic policy reform, health, education, and infrastructure. With the support of the United States, Nigeria was


able to resume borrowing from the World Bank, and the government concluded a new arrangement with the IMF in August 2000. The USAID was extended to Nigeria to assist Nigeria in various areas of need. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports programs in strengthening economic management and coordination, encourages private sector development and economic reform, improves agricultural technology, marketing, small-scale and macro enterprise development and helps reap the benefits of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). African Development Opportunity Act which was signed into law on the 18th of May 2000 was established to offer incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets (U.S. Department of State, 2013). 41 countries including Nigeria enjoy the benefit of AGOA.

It was created for the purpose of assisting the economies of Sub- Saharan Africa and to improve relations between the United States and the African region (AGOA, 2015). In addition to economic benefits, health assistance focusing on HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and immunization, education, transportation and energy infrastructure, are United States priorities for bilateral assistance (Ojiako, 2010). The United States obviously has an interest in cooperating with sympathetic leaders in large, troubled democracies, and there is no necessary contradiction between these high politics and broader interactions between nations. Yet the United States has too often banked on particular leaders in crisis-ridden states. An important challenge for American policy toward poorly performing states is to identify elite groups, elements of civil society, and leading public institutions that can serve as agents of stabilization and reform, and to build a diverse array of linkages with these sectors. Nigeria presents significant opportunities in this area, as there is a history of involvement by American nongovernmental organizations,


business groups, universities, and an array of government institutions that can serve as a basis for diversified engagement.


The economic relationship between Nigeria and United States of America has reached new heights in recent times. Extant literature claim that the relationship bodes well for both countries. For example, Robert (1991) claimed that although political relationship during the period of 1975 was bad, economic relations continued to flourish. This economic relations has constituted a mega change in both countries‘ political economy and has opened up new phases in their relations. Ayam (2008) claimed that regardless of the political discord that Nigeria and United States were going through, there were still cordial economic relations. This is because, America‘s high level of development, technology and wealth, remain a source of assistance to Nigeria. In similar vein, the United States has benefited from friendly relations with Nigeria, that is, it has benefitted from its natural resources and its large population. Other scholars like Lewis (2006), Ayam (2008) and Abegunrin (2001) and so on have looked at the nature of the relationship at a particular point of history and they have argued that the relationship is more in favour of United States than Nigeria. Omotere (2013) talked mainly about relationship between Nigeria and United States during Muhamadu/Obasanjo regime. Lewis (2000) analyzed economic relations between these two countries during the Nigerian Military era. The main reason for relations is because states cannot on their own achieve their national interest.

This study will however be examining the economic relations between Nigeria and United States from the 1960 to 2014.



The aim of this project is to assess the economic relations between Nigeria and the United States. The specific objectives of the study are

·         To identify the major areas of economic relations between the two countries

·         To assess the nature and pattern of U.S. and Nigeria‘s economic relations

·         To examine the impact of this relationship on Nigeria‘s economic development


Ø  What are the areas of economic relations between US and Nigeria?

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