Nigeria is considered a key country in Africa because of its size and political and economic role in the region. The U.S. government considers its relationship with the country to be among the most important on the continent. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, largest oil producer, and most populous country, with almost 180 million people, roughly divided between Muslims and Christians. Its Muslim population is among the largest in the world, and has likely overtaken Egypt’s as the largest on the continent. Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, is among the world’s largest cities. The country, which currently holds a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, also ranks as a top troop contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Despite significant promise, Nigeria faces serious social, economic, and security challenges. Nigerian politics have been scarred by ethnic, geographic, and religious conflict, and corruption and misrule have undermined the state’s authority and legitimacy. Years of social unrest, criminality, and corruption in the oil-rich Niger Delta have hindered oil production, delayed the southern region’s economic development, and contributed to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Perceived neglect and economic marginalization also fuel resentment in the predominately Muslim north. The violent extremist group Boko Haram has grown increasingly active in the northeast, and the government has struggled to respond to the growing threat. U.S. officials have expressed concern about Boko Haram’s impact on the north and related threats to national stability; its threat to neighboring countries; and its ties with other extremist groups, notably the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, to which Boko Haram recently pledged allegiance. The recruitment of Nigerians by other transnational terrorist groups has also been a concern. The State Department designated Boko Haram and a splinter faction, Ansaru, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) in November 2013.
Date of Report: April 3, 2015
Order Number: IF10174
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