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REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINE Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari returns from a medical trip in London at the Nigeria Airforce Base in Kaduna, Nigeria March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVE(reuters_tickers)
By Felix Onuah
ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday he will need more rest and medical tests, leaving his deputy Yemi Osinbajo to run the country's affairs, after coming home following nearly two months of medical leave in Britain.
In his first comments since arriving back from London in the morning, the 74-year former general told officials he was feeling "much better" but wanted to rest over the weekend.
The decision to let Vice President Osinbajo run the administration is likely to reassure investors as he is seen as business-friendly, stamping his authority on economic policy in Africa's top oil producer during Buhari's absence.
Dressed in a kaftan and Muslim prayer cap, Buhari walked stiffly but unaided from his plane after it landed at an air force base in the northern city of Kaduna as the airport in the capital Abuja is closed for runway repairs.
After greeting a handful of provincial and military officials, he boarded a helicopter to Abuja for meetings with Osinbajo and his top military commanders, greeting a long line of officials waiting for him.
Buhari did not disclose his sickness.
"I couldn't recall when last I had a blood transfusion," he said at the presidential villa.
"I deliberately came back towards the weekend so that the Vice President will continue and I will continue to rest," Buhari added. "All I need is to do further followups within some weeks."
Buhari has travelled to Britain several times to consult doctors since getting elected two years ago.
Officials have refused to disclose details of his condition, saying only that he had undergone routine tests. This fuelled speculation that his health is much worse than officials like to admit.
In images released by his office on Thursday, Buhari looked painfully thin but was smiling as he greeted Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in London. These were the first official pictures in three weeks.
Buhari, who first came to power in a military coup in 1983, is a northern Muslim while Osinbajo is a lawyer from Nigeria's predominantly Christian south, a political arrangement that reflects Nigeria's broad geographic and religious divisions.
Reflecting his popularity in the north, policemen were wielding guns to keep at bay hundreds of cheering people running towards the runway to greet him as Buhari's plane landed in Kaduna, a video published by the ruling APC party showed.
He left Abuja on Jan. 19 for 10 days of treatment in Britain but extended his stay on the advice of doctors.
Before his departure Buhari made a point of conferring acting presidential powers on Osinbajo, seeking to allay concerns of a void at the helm.
Osinbajo played a prominent and active role in Buhari's absence, chairing cabinet meetings and finishing work on an economic reform plan needed to secure a World Bank loan to help plug a deficit caused by low oil revenues.
He also travelled several times to the Niger Delta oil hub to calm tensions with militants attacking oil facilities and the commercial capital Lagos - two regions Buhari had largely ignored.
The central bank also devalued the naira for retail customers, suggesting a wider devaluation of the currency may be in the offing despite Buhari's entrenched opposition to such a move.
The transparency over the temporary handover to Osinbajo stands in marked contrast to the secrecy and confusion that surrounded the illness of President Umaru Yar'Adua, who died in 2010 after a long period of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
(Additional reporting by Garba Mohammed and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ed Osmond)