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Obi: Alleged Budget Padding of Grave Concern, Shameful, Breach of Public Trust

Obi

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, yesterday, expressed concern over the alleged padding of the 2024 budget with N3 trillion, it was shameful to read and a breach of public trust.

This also exacerbated the crisis of confidence in the Senate as Senator  Jimoh Ibrahim, asked the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to arrest and  prosecute the  Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF), Abdul Ningi, over allegations of budget padding against the executive.

However, describing the issue as a matter of grave concern, Obi called for a public explanation from both the senate and the presidency.

Ningi, representing Bauchi Central, had alleged that the National Assembly debated and passed N25 trillion as the 2024 budget instead of the N28.7 trillion being implemented by the Federal Government.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator, in an interview with BBC Hausa, last Friday, said the Northern lawmakers sought the service of a private auditor and discovered irregularities in the budget.

But, in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, faulted Ningi’s claim on the 2024 budget.

Onanuga stated that the Nigerian government allowed the National Assembly to increase the budget by N1.2 trillion in the spirit of democracy.

Reacting to the development in an X post, Obi called on the presidency and the National Assembly to explain the discrepancies in budget padding to the sum of N3 trillion.

The former governor of Anambra said the allegation was worrying because the amount involved represented over 10% of the national budget.

Obi also decried the lack of transparency and accountability in managing public funds, stressing that it breached Nigerians’ trust.

“I find it deeply disconcerting and a matter of grave concern and even shameful to read about the alleged N3 trillion discrepancy between the budget approved by the Nigerian Senate and the one being implemented by the presidency.

“One Senator claims there is a separate budget, allegedly containing the N3 trillion, that differs from what was passed by the National Assembly.

“This alleged discrepancy is especially worrying because it represents over 10% of our national budget (estimated at N29 trillion) and is more than the combined education (N1.54 trillion) and health (N1.38 trillion) official budgets.

“We also deserve full accountability of all our scarce resources placed in public trust. Therefore, we, the Nigerian people, demand a public explanation from both the National Assembly and the Presidency regarding the purpose and process of adding this alleged,” the Labour Party chieftain stated.

Tension in Senate, Ibrahim Asks IGP to Arrest, Prosecute Ningi

The crisis of confidence in the Senate deepened yesterday when Senator  Jimoh Ibrahim, asked the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to arrest and  prosecute Senator Abdul Ningi, over allegations of budget padding against President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

Ibrahim at a news conference in Abuja threatened to invoke necessary legislative procedure against Ningi if the IGP failed to arrest and prosecute him within seven days.

Ibrahim, a member of the Senate Appropriation Committee, who also chaired the Committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs, insisted that the presidency was not operating two budgets.

He said Ningi made false allegations and that his outburst were causing uncomfortable pains to the integrity of the entire members of the National Assembly.

He therefore called on the Inspector General of the Police, Kayode Egbetokun, “to charge Ningi for criminal information and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs, I have series of international conferences to attend this year, and my foreign colleagues will ask me why my country is operating two budgets.”

When told that Ningi had denied saying the Tinubu’s administration was implementing two budgets, Ibrahim insisted that the Bauchi Central Senator was being economical with the truth.

Some of Ningi’s colleagues in the NSF also issued a statement on Monday, disowning him.

But Ningi had earlier addressed journalists and maintained that his group actually discovered that projects worth N3.7trn in the 2024 Appropriation Act could not be tied to any project or their locations.

He explained that he did not grant the interview on behalf of the Northern Senators Forum but that he spoke in his personal capacity.

Ningi also expressed surprised that the presidency could issue a statement based on an issue it didn’t understand.

“First and foremost, I’m not representing the northern senators forum. The interview I had was in my capacity as a senator and as an opposition senator. It has no bearing at all on the northern senators position on any matter.

“Anything that you heard in my Hausa interview had to do with my personal perspective.

“Yesterday (Sunday) I was confronted by a very harsh press release from an individual whom I have followed personally as a journalist to close to 30 years.

“I have been following Bayo Onanuga’s writeup for close to 30 years and I have no doubt. Bayo Onanuga was one of my very best.

“I was really surprised, the Bayo I know could come out with a press release against my person without even understanding the subject matter. I never granted my interview in English. The Hausa version of the interview with me.

“Unfortunately those who carried the story to Bayo Onanuga did it with the sole aim of tarnishing my good name and Bayo went to the extent of calling me a liar.

“I’m not going  to join issues with him on the aspect of calling me a liar. Bayo Onanuga did not listen to my Hausa interview, Bayo did not get a good translation of our Hausa interview.”

Meanwhile, seven senators in a statement yesterday dissociated themselves from Senator Ningi’s padding allegation.

The statement was signed by Senators Aminu Iyal Abass (Adamawa) and Ibrahim Bomoi (Yobe state) for Northeast; Senators Abdulaziz Yar’Adua (Katsina) and Lawal Adamu Usman (Kaduna) for Northwest; and Senators Jibrin Isah (Kogi), Diket Plang (Plateau) and Saliu Mustapha (Kwara) for North Central zone.

The lawmakers said Ningi acted purely on his own when he granted an interview to the BBC Hausa Service on Saturday.

Part of their 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 Senatorial District, 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.”

Another northern senator,  Sunday Karimi, has told Ningi to express the fear of God and say the truth.

Karimi, gave the advice while responding to Senator Abdul Ningi’s press conference, where he  denied saying there were two budgets in operation but insisted that N3.7trillion in the 2024 budget was not tied to any item.

Karimi also said the Bauchi senator spoke on behalf of the Northern Senators Forum and not in his individual capacity.

“I advise Senator Ningi to at least fear God if he is not afraid of suspension. He spoke for the NSF and not for himself even though nobody authorised him in the NSF to lie against the Senate.” THISDAY

Source: Hardcore News 

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