President Barack Obama is hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari for a meeting Monday at the White House with the threat posed by Boko Haram militants expected to top the agenda.
The two leaders, along with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, will also likely discuss proposed political and economic reforms in Nigeria aimed at ending widespread corruption.
The four-day trip is Buhari's first to Washington since being elected in March and taking office in May in a rare peaceful transition of power in Nigeria.
Buhari will also have breakfast with Biden on Monday and later meet with West African diplomats, World Bank executives, and members of the U.S. Congress. He is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with Nigerians on Tuesday.
Obama's meeting with Buhari is expected to also cover Nigeria's economy, which has suffered under the decline in oil prices, additional security issues and government corruption.
U.S. relations with Nigeria soured over failures by the government and military, including the inability to locate more than 200 schoolgirls, most of them Christian, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the northern town of Chibok in April 2014. The abduction led to international condemnation and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls” that reached as far as the White House.
Then-President Goodluck Jonathan was angered by the U.S. refusal to sell his government helicopter gunships and retaliated by halting a U.S. military training program.
Relations are now expected to improve under Buhari, a 72-year-old former military dictator who has pledged allegiance to democracy and promised to address U.S. concerns.
The fact that Buhari is arriving in Washington so soon after taking office in late May is a sign of the importance the U.S. places on relations with Nigeria, the White House said. Obama extended the invitation immediately after Buhari was declared the winner of the March election.
“This feels to us like Nigeria is at an important moment in which there can be real reforms across the board,” Grant Harris, the senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters last week. “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.”
The White House said the visit emphasizes U.S. "commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria's new government" and supporting its people.
Nigeria's new leader has been criticized for being slow to form a Cabinet. He has yet to name any ministers.
Last week, Buhari fired the entire top echelon of the military, which he has accused of corruption that prevents what once was Africa's mightiest armed force from curbing the Islamist insurgency based in Nigeria's northeast. The insurgency has killed more than 13,000 people and driven another 1.5 million from their homes.
Some material for this report came from the Associated Press.