Padding: Controversies Linger, As Ningi Insist N3.7trn Not Tied To Any Project In 2024 Budget

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Despite disownment by the Northern Senators Forum who dissociated itself from allegations of budget padding made by its Chairman, Senator Abdul Ningi in an interview he granted to the BBC Hausa Service, the Senator on Monday insisted that a sum of N3.7 trillion in the 2024 budget was not tied to any project.

On Monday, there was a heated argument between Ningi, the Chairman, Northern Senators Forum (NSF) and former Deputy Senate leader, and other Senators under the NSF over his claim that N3. 7 trillion was not linked to any project in the 2024 budget.

Senator Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central) had, in a BBC interview (Hausa Service) on Saturday, alleged that the budget passed by the National Assembly for the 2024 fiscal year is N25 trillion, while the one being implemented by the Presidency is N28.7 trillion.

The Presidency had on Sunday replied the claim, mentioning that the National Assembly was responsible for jerking up the budget.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, Senator Ningi maintained his stand, in what he disclosed at the BBC interview, that N3.7 trillion was not traced to any project in the 2024 budget.

He said was not afraid of suspension by the Senate as he was prepared to carry his cross.

According to Ningi, if he is suspended at the end of the day, he would see it as an honour against the backdrop that he believes in one God.

He said power is transient, explaining that he spoke for himself and not on behalf of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF), where he is chairman.

Ningi said that there was no time during the interview that he said the Federal Government was operating two budgets. He added that he only said that N25 trillion was traced to projects, but that N3.7 trillion was not traced to any project.

Ningi said: “I said we have established beyond reasonable doubt that N25 trillion so far has nexus in the budget. That means that there is money, there is project, and then there is location.

“But we are yet to ascertain the N3 trillion of that budget. We have established the N3 trillion of that budget, we have not established its location and the place.

“However, I said going forward, the budget evaluation is ongoing. And I said lastly, the intention of the northern senators, as regards budgetary allocation, was to meet the Senate President with our findings and subsequently meet President Bola Tinubu.

“I have never acted as a regional person. And I have never spoken as a regional person, but I’m proud to say I’m a very proud northerner.

“It wasn’t a budget matter, but a budget issue came. I believe in one God, and I believe power is transient. I believe what we are doing is temporary. I’m not scared of whatever you here, I am not scared of any issue like suspension.

“If because I said what I would say, then I will be suspended, so be it. It will be an honour.”

Meanwhile, Senators under the aegis of the Northern Senators Forum, (NSF) in a statement by Senators Iyal Abbas (Adamawa), Ibrahim Bomoi (Yobe), Abdullahi Yar’ Adua and four others on behalf of the forum, dissociated themselves from the claims made by Ningi, who is the Forum’s Chairman.

The statement read: “We, the undersigned on behalf of the Senators from the 19 Northern States and the FCT, under the aegis of Northern Senators Forum (NSF), hereby state that Senator Ahmed Abdul Ningi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, Bauchi Central), who also happens to be the chairman of our forum, was on his own in the claims he made on the BBC Hausa Service on the 2024 budget.

“As such, the view he expressed was his personal opinion, sentiment and unfortunately skewed, incorrect and misleading.

“There was never a time where we held a meeting and mandated Senator Ningi to address the press on the said matter.

“The budget was presented to the National Assembly during a joint session of the two chambers – Senate and House of Representatives – by President Bola Tinubu on November 29, 2023, in line with the requirement of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Both chambers of the National Assembly diligently and meticulously debated, processed and passed the proposal of the President. And satisfied with it, the President assented to it.

“It is clear that Mr President presented a budget of N27.5 trillion to the National Assembly and the Assembly passed a budget of N28.7 trillion based on the need to make increases or decreases in the appropriations of the various MDAs, which is in tandem with the legislative powers of the National Assembly in order to address critical projects and services across various sectors.

“Therefore, the statement made by Senator Ningi that the 2024 budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr President was the sum of N25 trillion was not correct and that should not be taken as the position of the Northern Senators Forum.

“To the best of our knowledge, there was no budget padding whatsoever that was done to the 2024 budget.

“The assertion by Senator Ningi that certain things were done to the bill is his personal opinion. It is not the view of the generality of us, the Northern Senators.

“Hence, we strongly and collectively dissociate ourselves from his action which was grossly unparliamentary.

“That, we, the Northern Senators are solidly behind President Bola Tinubu and we will continue to support him to succeed in addressing the challenges facing our country.

“Nigeria, at this particular moment, does not need ethnic sentiments but collaborations of all to bring prosperity to our beloved country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We will continue to work with our brothers and sisters from the southern part of the country to move our country forward for the benefit of all and sundry.”

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