Muhammadu Buhari speaks to the media in Abuja after being given paperwork to confirm his election victory in Nigeria, on April 1, 2015. Photo: Sunday Alamba

Washington - United States President Barack Obama spoke to Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari and outgoing leader Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, praising both for their role in the country's first democratic transfer of power.

Obama spoke to the men separately to “commend them for their leadership during Nigeria's election”, the White House said.

Obama's administration has lavished praise on Buhari and Jonathan following an election in Africa's most populous country and its largest economy.

Buhari's victory and Jonathan's quick concession has helped write a new chapter in the country's often turbulent history.

Nigeria has suffered six military coups since independence from Britain in 1960 and has seen 16 years of unbroken civilian rule by Jonathan's party.

“This historic step for Nigeria and Africa,” said Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

“President Jonathan has acted as a true statesman, putting Nigeria first at a truly historic moment.”

Nigeria boasts vast natural resources and Africa's largest consumer base, but has been plagued by poverty, poor governance and a bloody insurgency by Boko Haram.

The election has raised hopes that the country may be ready to poised to turn the corner.

AFP