Nigerian lawmakers on Thursday approved record spending for the 2016 fiscal year in a massive budget, despite low oil prices wreaking havoc on Africa’s largest economy. President Muhammadu Buhari first presented the biggest-ever $30 billion budget in December, but he had to revise it a month later after a further drop in energy prices, according to Reuters.
The overall spending plan is 6.06 trillion Nigerian naira (about $30 billion), down from the 6.08 trillion naira (about $30.1 billion) budget Buhari presented in December. The new budget is centered on an oil price benchmark of $38 per barrel and a production level of 2.2 million barrels per day, which is Nigeria’s current output. It aims to invest in roads and the power supply, and diversify Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy by tripling capital spending compared with the 2015 budget.
But it remains unclear how Africa’s top oil producer will find the money for the massive spending plan, as oil prices still struggle to recover from rock-bottom figures. Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell below $40 a barrel on Thursday, Reuters reported. Oil prices dipped to a record low of $26 per barrel in February.
The 2016 national budget has been a point of controversy since media reports revealed earlier this year that allocated funds were allegedly absent in a revised version. In late January, the Nigerian Medical Association, a professional group of more than 35,000 registered Nigerian doctors and physicians, lamented that more than $301 million of consolidated revenue guaranteed by the National Health Act to fund basic health programs was missing from the proposed budget, according to Nigerian newspaper Daily Post.
Buhari later revealed that unathorized revisions had completely changed the document from the one he initially presented to Nigeria's parliament in December. The Nigerian leader removed 184 government officials earlier this month over their alleged roles in “padding” the 2016 spending plan by inflating expenses or decreasing a project's expected revenue rather than using the true estimates. Buhari immediately reassigned the suspected perpetrators to other posts unrelated to budget duties. The scandal has been “very embarrassing and disappointing,” said Buhari, who has made fighting corruption a top priority since taking office in May last year. The budget approved Thursday is supposedly an updated, authorized version.