US to help Nigeria trace stolen assets

WASHINGTON • The United States will offer to help Nigeria's new leader track down billions of dollars in stolen assets and increase US military assistance to fight Islamic militants, US officials said, as Washington seeks to "reset" ties with Africa's biggest economy.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to Washington, starting today, is viewed by the US administration as a chance to set the seal on improving ties since he won a March election hailed as Nigeria's first democratic power transition in decades. US cooperation

with Mr Buhari's predecessor, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, had ground to a halt over issues including his refusal to investigate human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.

US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said: "President (Barack Obama) has long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important strategic country in sub-Saharan Africa. "

US officials have said they are willing to send military trainers to help Nigeria counter a six-year-old northern insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist movement.

Since Mr Buhari's election, Washington has committed US$5 million (S$6.8 million) in new support for a multinational task force set up to fight the group. This is in addition to at least US$34 million it is providing to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.

Mr Buhari's move on July 13 to fire military chiefs appointed by Mr Jonathan clears the way for more military cooperation, US officials said.

Mr Buhari has said his priorities included strengthening Nigeria's economy, hit by the fall in oil prices, boosting investment and tackling corruption.

Last year, US took control of more than US$480 million siphoned away by ex-Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates into banks around the world.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'US to help Nigeria trace stolen assets'. Print Edition | Subscribe