The Washington Diplomat quotes Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham on the strains in the US-Nigeria relationship and how that’s affecting the fight against Boko Haram:

That’s a stretch, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. 

“I am not so sure I would go so far as to say that the relationship is ‘back to normal’ after recent contretemps, but getting it to that state ought to be a priority both for whatever Nigerian government emerges from the upcoming elections and for the United States,” he told The Diplomat. “There are too many shared interests, especially on the security and stability issues, for it to be otherwise.” 

Pham said that with Boko Haram’s increasingly vicious attacks, “we cannot afford for the Nigerians to fail any more than they can afford to be at odds with us. Cooler heads on both sides ought to recognize this reality.” 

Without naming names, the scholar says there’s plenty of blame on both sides for last year’s “spat” — and that it’s ironic that it took a virtual cessation in U.S. purchases of Nigerian petroleum (Nigeria was until recently the fourth-largest source of imported oil) for Washington to realize that the country’s importance goes beyond hydrocarbons. 

“Some Nigerian officials do not help their cause by denying the obvious or making statements that defy credibility, as has been the case on a number of occasions in recent months when things weren’t going well,” he said. “On the other hand, some on the U.S. side seem to use corruption or human rights concerns as easy ‘outs’ from having to deal with a situation that calls for more, not less, engagement.” 

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