President Muhammadu Buhari has received the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken at the State House in Abuja.
Blinken arrived at the presidential complex in a motorcade on Thursday and is expected to have a meeting with Buhari in his office.
The Nigerian leader and the US top diplomat are also expected to discuss security issues facing Nigeria, especially terrorism in the northern region.
Blinken will, after the meeting, head to Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo’s office to sign some agreements between the US and Nigeria and also hold a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, before leaving the State House.
The US diplomat is on a three-nation tour of Africa and had first visited Kenya where he called for African-driven solutions to the continent’s crises, including the spiralling war in Ethiopia — where Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo has been leading mediation.
With 20 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population and its largest economy, Nigeria is critical for any continent-wide strategy and successive US administrations have courted Nigerian leaders since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999.
But US views of Nigeria, already marred by years of violence and rampant corruption, hardened last year after security forces unleashed deadly violence during massive protests against police brutality.
Biden, in an unusually forceful statement as a candidate, voiced solidarity with the protesters and urged President Muhammadu Buhari — whom Blinken will meet Thursday — to rein in security forces.
Senator Bob Menendez, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a hearing with Blinken called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria.
Congressional objections have held up the sale of 12 US Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria amid calls to probe whether the military is doing enough to prevent civilian deaths as it battles the two-decade Boko Haram jihadist insurgency.
But Nigeria recently started receiving a separate shipment of Super Tucano warplanes after former president Donald Trump gave the green light to the sale that had been held up by the previous administration of Barack Obama following Nigeria’s accidental strike on a refugee camp that killed more than 100 people.