By Felix Onuah
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian lawmakers aim to pass the 2017 budget by the end of March, the president of the upper house of parliament said on Tuesday, following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The budget lays out plans to pull Africa’s largest economy out of its first recession for 25 years, largely prompted by low global prices for the oil it produces and by attacks on energy facilities in the OPEC member’s Niger Delta oil hub last year.
Buhari, a 74-year-old former military ruler who has faced rising disenchantment over his handling of Nigeria’s economy, presented his record 7.298 trillion naira ($23.21 billion) budget to lawmakers in December.
“This month is our deadline to finish work on the budget and return it to the executive,” Senate President Bukola Saraki said after the meeting with Buhari and the head of parliament’s lower house. “We are working very hard to ensure we meet that deadline.”
The budget must be agreed by lawmakers before the president can sign it into law.
The 2016 budget became law in May last year after being delayed by several weeks of wrangling between the government and the Senate.
Saraki said he had also briefed Buhari at their meeting on the activities of parliament during the president’s lengthy absence due to illness.
Buhari resumed his presidential duties on Monday after spending seven weeks in Britain on medical leave for an undisclosed ailment.
Saraki said the issues discussed with Buhari had included “stability in the Niger Delta” and the $1 billion Eurobond issued by Nigeria last month.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo drove policy implementation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, during Buhari’s absence.
($1 = 314.5000 naira)
(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Gareth Jones)