Buhari President to check budget "ministry by ministry" before signing

"I have to look at the bill that has been passed ... ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission."

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a news conference after meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Abuja, Nigeria March 2, 2016 play Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a news conference after meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Abuja, Nigeria March 2, 2016 (REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari will check the 2016 budget bill passed last week "ministry by ministry" before signing it, he said on Thursday, signaling further delays before the legislation takes effect.

The budget for Africa's top oil producer has been held up for months as Buhari had to withdraw his original bill, which set spending at a record $30 billion, in January, due to an unrealistic oil price assumption and flaws in the draft.

Lawmakers approved an amended bill last week that Buhari has yet to sign as parliament has so far only sent highlights of the new document to his office, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced it with what they wanted," Buhari said, according to a statement from his office.

"I have to look at the bill that has been passed ... ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission."

On Thursday, the information minister said there was no rift between the executive and legislature on details of the budget. A day earlier, a senior lawmaker said parliament might need another week to work out details of the budget.

Buhari hopes the bill will revive the economy but officials have left open how it would be funded. The government has said it might sell Eurobonds or sign a loan deal with China and the World Bank but no deal has emerged.

Oil revenues, which make up about 70 percent of Nigeria's income, have slumped, hammering the naira currency, halting development projects and leaving budget funding uncertain.

Nigeria has been trying to restart outdated refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna to end its dependency on costly fuel imports for around 80 percent of its energy needs.

Three of its four state-owned refineries were closed for five months in 2015 due to maintenance issues and vandalism.

On Thursday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

(NNPC) said it was committed to boosting refining capacity as it opened the technical bid for the location of new refineries within the nation's existing refineries.

Anibo Kragha, NNPC chief operating officer for refineries, said the open bidding exercise demonstrated the determination of the government and state oil company to increase the country's refining capacity from 445,000 barrels per day to 650,000.

"The aim is to leverage on the existing facilities to fast track the take-off of the refineries as soon as possible," he said. NNPC said nine companies submitted bids.

 

($1 = 198.8000 naira)

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