"The U.S. government considers its relationship with Nigeria, Africa's largest producer of oil and its second largest economy, to be among the most important on the continent. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, with more than 170 million people, roughly divided between Muslims and Christians. U.S. diplomatic relations with Nigeria, which is regularly among the top six suppliers of U.S. oil imports, have improved since the country made the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999, and Nigeria is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The country is an influential actor in African politics, having mediated disputes in several African countries and ranking among the top five troop contributors to U.N. peacekeeping missions. Nigeria is a country of significant promise, but it also faces serious social, economic, and security challenges that have the potential to threaten the stability of both the state and the region, and to affect global oil prices. The country has faced intermittent political turmoil and economic crises since independence. Political life has been scarred by conflict along ethnic, geographic, and religious lines, and corruption and misrule have undermined the authority and legitimacy of the state. Despite its extensive oil and natural gas resources, Nigeria's human development indicators are among the world's lowest, and a majority of the population suffers from extreme poverty. Years of social unrest, criminality, and corruption in the oil-producing Niger Delta have hindered oil production and impeded the southern region's economic development. Perceived neglect and economic marginalization have also fueled resentment in the predominately Muslim north. Thousands have been killed in periodic ethno-religious clashes in the past decade."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33964