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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Makes First U.S. Visit


The new leader of Africa's economic powerhouse, Nigeria, met with President Obama in the Oval Office today. Muhammadu Buhari was elected president in March in what was seen as Nigeria's first peaceful transition of power. Today's visit was an opportunity for the two countries to patch up a relationship which had soured. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: President Obama extended an invitation to Muhammadu Buhari to visit the White House shortly after he was declared the winner in Nigeria's presidential election, and the 72-year-old Buhari is saying all the words Washington wants to hear about building up Nigeria's economy and cooperation on security. President Obama praised Buhari for taking on Boko Haram, the Islamist group responsible for widespread killings in Nigeria and the kidnapping last year of more than 200 schoolgirls.


BARACK OBAMA: He's very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that's taken place there and the atrocities that they've carried out, and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremism of all sorts inside of his country.

NORTHAM: Obama also applauded Buhari for being willing to clean up his government.


OBAMA: And he has a very clear agenda with the respect to rooting out the corruption that too often has held back the economic growth and prosperity of this country.

NORTHAM: This isn't the first time that Buhari has led Nigeria. In the mid-1980s, he seized power in a military coup. But this time around, he was installed as president in a democratic election. Buhari thanked the U.S. for helping make sure the elections were free and credible.


MUHAMMADU BUHARI: We're extremely happy that the United States had made it absolutely clear, even before the election, that they are prepared to help Nigeria in this aspect.

NORTHAM: Buhari will spend the next few days meeting with bankers and members of Congress. He meets with fellow Nigerians at a town hall meeting Tuesday. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.