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Trump to host Nigeria’s leader at the White House

President Trump is hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Washington.
President Trump is hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Washington.Sunday Alamba/Associated Press/File 2015

LAGOS, Nigeria — After more than a year in office, President Trump for the first time is hosting an African president at the White House.

The meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday comes after an uncomfortable start to the Trump administration’s approach to the world’s second most populous continent.

Security and economic issues top the agenda for the bilateral meeting and working lunch. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with almost 200 million people, is the largest economy on the continent and the leading crude oil exporter. Buhari was one of the first two African leaders Trump called after he took power, along with South Africa’s president.

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Nigeria is also one of Africa’s most troubled when it comes to extremism. Extremist group Boko Haram launched a violent insurgency in the northeast nine years ago with the aim of creating an Islamic state, and tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Mass abductions of schoolgirls brought Boko Haram international notoriety and one faction has declared allegiance to the Islamic State.

Boko Haram is now active in neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad and poses one of the most severe security threats to Africa’s vast Sahel region.

With Nigeria nowhere close to fully defeating Boko Haram despite government claims of having ‘‘crushed’’ the extremists, Buhari is expected to seek further US military assistance.

Already the Trump administration has made a $600 million deal to supply military planes and security equipment, one that was stalled under the Obama administration because of allegations that Nigeria’s military has been involved in human rights including rape and extrajudicial killings.

‘‘Absent clear evidence of a systematically abusive regime, moral preening is of little utility in dealing with situations like this,’’ J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said in a blog post on Thursday, saying Buhari’s administration has taken a ‘‘much more decisive approach’’ to Boko Haram.

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Buhari, facing elections early next year, is under pressure to deliver on promises to defeat Boko Haram that helped him win office in 2015 in a rare democratic transfer of power in Nigeria.

In addition to seeking greater security collaboration, Buhari and Trump also will ‘‘discuss ways to enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and to advance shared priorities, such as promoting economic growth,’’ said Femi Adesina, the Nigerian presidential spokesman.

Nigerian newspapers report that a team of government officials that traveled to the United States ahead of Buhari have signed an agreement to provide four companies led by General Electric the opportunity to invest an estimated $2 billion to modernize key railways in Nigeria.

China, the top investor in Nigeria, already is deep into similar infrastructure work in the country.

Officials in Buhari’s delegation also will try to strike a deal with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing for a new state-owned airline project.