Wearing a traditional light brown Muslim gown, and holding a Quran, Mr. Buhari promised to uphold Nigeria’s Constitution.
“I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody,” he said in his inaugural address, highlighting his anticorruption theme.
Mr. Buhari also promised to persevere until “Boko Haram is completely subdued.”
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, faces several economic problems, which have been aggravated by corruption and poor security.
Concern over Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect that has been mounting deadly attacks against government and civilian targets for years, grew after its April 2014 abduction nearly 300 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok.
That abduction led to a widely publicized “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, which was aimed at raising international concern about the kidnapping and which Michelle Obama supported in a White House radio address. Some of the girls escaped, but most have not returned home.Since then, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, the terrorist group that has proclaimed a caliphate in much of Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram is not believed to be an integral part of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, although the militants have helped Boko Haram create its video propaganda.
Despite concern about Boko Haram, the United States’ efforts to expand military cooperation with Nigeria diminished during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, who was defeated in the March election.
American officials expressed frustration with human rights abuses and corruption in the ranks of Nigeria’s military, and Mr. Jonathan’s government complained that the United States was intervening in its internal affairs.
As tensions grew, the number of American drone flights that the administration arranged to help search for the kidnapped girls dwindled, as did the number of American intelligence and security advisers sent to help Nigerian forces.
Secretary of State John Kerry, center, arriving in Abuja on Friday to attend the inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria. CreditPool photo by Susan Walsh
The strains were apparent in November, when the head of the United States Special Operations forces in Africa was barred from visiting a base where a new Nigerian battalion was being trained to help fight Boko Haram. In January, Pentagon officials made clear that they preferred to work with security officials in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger in taking on Boko Haram.
The election of Mr. Buhari, a former general who has vowed to make fighting Boko Haram a priority, has created a new opportunity to increase military assistance.
“There was a strain in our relationship, particularly with the army on military cooperation, and we have every indication that we’ll be able to start a new chapter,” the State Department official said.
In a sign that the United States was hoping to strengthen military ties, Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the head of the United States Africa Command, was among the small American delegation here.
In addition to discussing military support, Mr. Kerry was expected to underscore the need to rehabilitate the young women who have been raped, and often impregnated, by Boko Haram fighters. Mr. Buhari said during his inaugural speech that he was committed to “streamlining” such programs.
Any Nigerian units that the United States would train as part of new program with Mr. Buhari would need to be vetted to ensure that they were not linked to human rights abuses, which is a condition of providing assistance under congressionally mandated restrictions — the “Leahy laws” named after Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat.
Aides to Mr. Buhari have already indicated they are prepared to cooperate in this area, the State Department official said.
In addition to helping with intelligence and providing advice on how to manage military logistics, which is a challenge for the Nigerian military, the official said the United States might provide training in other areas, including administration.
“We don’t want to be too prescriptive,” the official said, adding that the United States wanted to hear what “Buhari and his top military team needs.”
Boko Haram has been on the retreat in recent weeks, but continues to strike with bombings and massacres in villages, including those suspected of cooperating with Nigerian forces.
Mr. Kerry’s visit was not a long one. He met with Mr. Buhari for about 15 minutes at Eagle Square after the ceremony, and was then on his way to Geneva for a meeting on Saturday with his Iranian counterpart on the nuclear talks.
Source: NY Times