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Presidency Slams Senator Over Budget Padding Claim

Three North’s senators kick
Bauchi Central Senator Abdul Ningi got hard knocks from the Presidency yesterday over his claim that Budget 2024 was padded with N3 trillion and screwed against the North.
The Presidency described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator’s claims as false, “too far-fetched and unbecoming of a leader of his status”.

A statement by Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu forwarded an evenly distributed budget, in which none of the six geo-political zones is marginalised.

Three senators – Steve Sunday Karimi (Kogi West), Titus Tartenger Zam (Benue Northwest) and Kaka Sheu (Borno Central) – also rejected Ningi’s claims, which they described as a ruse, unfounded, baseless and a figment of his imagination.

They dissociated themselves from it.

The senators are members of the Northern Senators’ Forum, under whose auspices Ningi allegedly spoke.

They warned against what they described as the antics of blackmailers bent on creating an atmosphere of crisis in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

Ningi alleged in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service at the weekend that the 2024 Budget being executed had been padded to the tune of N3 trillion and skewed against the interest of the North.

He alleged that the report of a consultant revealed the padding.

He added that the Northern Senators’ Forum, which he chairs, would confront Senate President Godswill Akpabio with its findings on the alleged ‘padding.’

At a meeting last week, some northern senators also accused the Senate President of inserting projects worth N4 trillion in the 2024 budget.

They alleged that the projects, which had no locations, were inserted into the budget, which they also claimed was lopsided against the North and some parts of the South.

The northern senators also accused Akpabio of railroading the senators to hurriedly pass the budget, adding that it favoured Akpabio and his cronies. 

The Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Solomon Adeola (Ogun West), said the Senate would take a position on the allegations tomorrow at plenary.

The statement by the Presidency said: “On the uncharitable claim that the 2024 budget was anti-North, we found such position as canvassed by Senator Ningi as too far-fetched and unbecoming of a leader of his status.

“President Tinubu is leading a government that is fair and equitable to every part and segment of Nigeria.

“In terms of funding, distribution of capital and priority projects, the 2024 Appropriation Act was not skewed against any section of the country.

“The North, as an integral part of the country, is well covered in all areas, from security to agriculture, healthcare to education, and other important infrastructure such as roads, rail, dams, power and irrigation projects to support all year-round agriculture.

“It is concerning that a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can employ such primordial antics to fuel divisive rhetoric at a time well-meaning Nigerians are joining hands with President Tinubu to raise the spirit of national cohesion, unity and inclusive politics.

“We want to use this opportunity to commend Senator Yemi Adaramodu, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, for setting the record straight.

“We also commend Senators Steve Sunday Karimi (Kogi), Titus Tartenger Zam (Benue) and Kaka Sheu (Borno) for their forthrightness and for coming out against the misrepresentation of facts by Senator Ningi.

“Following the false claims made by Senator Abdul Ningi, representing Bauchi Central, that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led Federal Government is operating two versions of the 2024 Budget, we consider it appropriate to inform Nigerians that there is no truth whatsoever in the allegation.

“Acting under the banner of Northern Senators’ Forum, Senator Ningi falsely claimed in an interview he granted BBC Hausa Service that the National Assembly debated and passed N25 trillion as 2024 budget and not the N28.7 trillion that is being implemented by the Federal Government.

“To begin with, President Tinubu on November 29, 2023 presented a budget of N27.5 Trillion to the joint session of the National Assembly made up of N9.92 Trillion recurrent expenditure, Debt Service N8.25 Trillion and Capital Expenditure N8.7 Trillion.

“This was widely reported. He did not present a budget of N25 trillion.”

It added: “Contrary to the strange view expressed by Senator Ningi, there was no way the Senate could have debated and passed a N25 trillion budget that was not presented to the National Assembly.

“We don’t expect a ranking Senator not to pay due attention to details before making wild claims.

“It is also important to let Nigerians know that the budget that President Tinubu signed into law on January 1, 2024, as passed by the National Assembly was N28.7 trillion.

“The National Assembly, in its wisdom, increased the amount proposed by the Executive by N1.2 Trillion.

“In the spirit of democracy, which allows give and take, President Tinubu didn’t withhold his assent to the Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly.

“We want to stress that if the budget figure was increased and made to be different from what the Executive proposed, it was the National Assembly that jacked it up in the exercise of its power of appropriation.

“President Tinubu is a firm believer in the rule of law and constitutional democracy.

“As an avowed democrat, he will not engage and indulge in any unconstitutional action or act in any manner that assaults the Constitution of Nigeria by operating any budget outside the one approved by the National Assembly, which he dutifully signed into law.

“We want to state categorically that the only 2024 budget that is being implemented is the N28.7 trillion budget passed by the National Assembly and signed by the President.

“Included in the budget are statutory transfers to the Judiciary, National Assembly, Tetfund and others.”

Karimi, Zam and Sheu said no room should be allowed for division and acrimony between senators from the North and South by those who may not want to accord priority to national unity and harmony.

In their statement on behalf of the Northern Senator’ Forum, Karimi (Kogi State), Zam (Benue) and Sheu (Borno State) said the forum cannot be used to blackmail the budget process, which was done in good faith.

Shedding light on what transpired at the Northern senators’ meeting, the trio recalled that it was only resolved that the report of the consultant engaged by the Northern Senators Forum be subjected to further scrutiny.

They said the resolution was based on the fact that the entire appropriation process was a combination of work from the executive, represented by the Minister of Budget and National Planning and other ministers, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation and the Senate Committee on Appropriation.

Dismissing the allegation of padding as a ruse, they said while the executive brought a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion, the Senate passed a budget of N28.77 trillion.

They queried: “The difference was N1.27 trillion, coming from all three arms of government. Where is the additional so-called padding of three trillion coming from?

“It was resolved that the Northern Senators’ consultant report be looked into by essential committees of the Senate and House of Representatives before jumping to a conclusion.”

Karimi, Zam and Sheu urged the Northern Senators Caucus leader Ningi to “rein in those who think a crisis-ridden Senate would better profit them.”

Noting that the North has provided leadership in Nigeria and enjoyed the support of other regions seamlessly, they said the representatives of the North should not appear to act as instruments of destabilisation now that power has shifted to the South.

In their view, the North can agitate for a fair share of the national pie but within the ambits of decency, decorum and dignity.

They added: “Senator Ningi has not given the correct information. He is yet to even give the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives a copy of what he claims to have discovered in the 2024 Appropriation Act before levelling allegations of budget padding against the President, the Senate President and the Senate.

“President Tinubu presented a budget estimate of over N27 trillion on 28th November to the National Assembly, which passed a budget of over N28 trillion, which became an Act of Parliament on 1st January 2024.

“Where did Sen Ningi get his Appropriation Act of N25 trillion? What about the extra requests that chairmen of appropriation committees of both chambers claimed came from the Executive after the submission of the initial over N27 trillion proposals by Mr President?

“So, how did Sen Ningi’s budget analyst get the N3 trillion budget padding allegations? Must we attempt to give a dog a bad name to hang it?

“Are APC members of the Northern Senators Forum that PDP Senator Ningi claims to lead oblivious of the anti-Tinubu/Akpabio undertones? The National Assembly should not be denigrated.”

Senate to take position tomorrow

Senator Adeola said the Senate will meet tomorrow to take a position on the allegations.

However, a source said the Senate is divided on the allegations, adding that the majority believes that Ningi’s claims smack of self-indictment.

At the weekend, some members of the Forum vowed to meet President Tinubu over the allegations.

Adeola said: “The Senate has its procedures and rules. Since the allegations did not come from an outsider, but a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate will meet and deliberate on them on Tuesday before briefing the press.”

A senator said Ningi has indicted himself by his claims.

He said: “Number one, what Ningi did was self-indictment. There’s this saying in Hausa that if the person speaking is a fool, the person listening will not be a fool.

“Yes, this budget, when they say it’s skewed, it is skewed to where? Who prepared the budget? All the committees did the budget.

“The Appropriation Committee’s mandate is to compile the budget. It did not say, to make sure that the North got an equal amount with the South. No. So, what are they talking about? It’s self-indictment. Who passed the budget?

“And then, who is the budget minister? Is he not from the North? Atiku Bagudu is from the North. It is not the Minister of Finance who is from Ogun that prepared the budget. He executes the budget. Who prepared the budget? Who gives each MDA a ceiling?

“Again, in the budget team, the Southerners are in the minority in both chambers. The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation is from Northwest and the buck stops there.

“Solomon Adeola is the chairman of the Appropriation Committee and he is from Southwest, but they did not prepare the budget.

“Now, they said they have a document and they employed a consultant and that the consultant said that the budget is skewed. And that the budget is N25 trillion.

“Now, who are you indicting? So, it means the National Assembly padded the budget with N3 trillion. Who added the N3 trillion?

Not only Ningi, the members of the caucus or senators from the north are more than the number of senators from the South. They are just trying to indict us.

“He said in his interview that the work is in progress, that it is an interim report. A meeting of the Northern Senators Forum was called and we met the Senate President.” NATION

Source: Hardcore News 

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