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Botched budget 'embarrassing', says Nigeria's Buhari

25 February 2016, 06:34

Lagos - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday his botched 2016 budget was "embarrassing" after criticism it was littered with costly errors and opened the door to graft.

Buhari in December announced a record six-trillion-naira ($30-billion, 27 billion-euro) budget promising to triple investment and stimulate growth in Africa's largest economy.

But last week he sacked the director-general of the budget office when civic groups pointed out costly repetitions and extravagant requests in the financial plan.

"It is very embarrassing and disappointing," Buhari said in a statement from Saudi Arabia, where he is visiting Saudi King Salman to discuss oil price stability.

"We will not allow those who did it to go unpunished."

Also read: President Buhari's 2016 Budget speech

Buhari is betting his blockbuster budget will cushion Nigeria against the global oil price crash that is draining the country's public purse and hammering its currency.

But the budget controversy has highlighted fears Buhari does not have a sufficient grasp of economic policy and has undermined his anti-graft message.

The errors include the same purchases for vehicles, computers and furniture being registered 24 times, totalling 46.5 billion naira.

"It's ridiculous that a government strong on anti-corruption measures would release a budget that is full of mistakes," said Anna Rosenberg, a sub-Saharan analyst at Frontier Strategy Group.

To cope with falling oil prices, the budget mess needed to be quickly cleaned up and passed, she told AFP.

"If you have all that new spending in the economy you could help a lot of local businesses, not all but some of them, that's why it needs to go forward," she said.

Further delays and mistakes would spook investors already chastened by Buhari's unorthodox policies designed to prevent the naira's collapse.



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