The United States is stepping up its involvement in the Nigeria to counter growing violence in the Niger Delta.

Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, told a conference sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the US had a number of joint training and equipment programs aimed at helping Nigeria’s military counter the growing violence that threatens US oil interests in the region.

Over 1 million barrels a day is now exported to the U.S. market. Nigeria now accounts for 8 percent of total U.S. oil imports.

To counter the violence, Whelan said the Defense Department proposed a regional maritime awareness capabilities program for the Nigerian navy worth $16 million “to help the Nigerians establish greater situational awareness in the delta and try and address some of the bunkering [large-scale oil stealing] problems that contribute to the violence because it provides money to buy arms.”

In addition, she said, “We have offered to provide training and assistance in small-arms, light weapons identification so they can better understand and track the illegal weapons coming into the delta.”