**There’s N3trn unallocated excess -Ningi

**It’s a false claim -Presidency

By Ime Silas

The Chairman; Northern Senators Forum, Sen. Abdul Ningi has insisted that the 2024 budget currently being implemented by the Presidency is different from that which was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. 

Sen. Ningi in one of his comments alleged that while the National Assembly approved the sum of twenty-five trillion Naira, the one being operated by the Presidency has a value of twenty-eight trillion and therefore having a ‘non-allocated’ three trillion Naira excess.

Ningi said on Saturday, 9th March, 2024 “For the first time in Nigerian history, today we are operating two different budgets. One budget approved by National Assembly signed by President Bola Tinubu and the  one implemented by presidency. The one approved by us is ₦25 trillion while the one operating by Federal Government is ₦28 trillion. 

Apparently we discovered ₦3 trillion was inserted into the budgets without locations. This is the highest budget padding happened in Nigerian history under Sen Akpabio watched.

We resolved as people’s representatives to see President Tinubu on this issue, with facts and figures, to ask him if he is aware with this embarrassment or not, then from there we will take action. Let Nigerians be patient with us. This is national issue, it effects all Nigerians irrespective of party, tribe or religion”.

Sen. Ningi’s allegation has since been debunked by the Senate’s leadership.

Karimi, Zam, Sheu Also  Disagree With Ningi On Alleged Budget Padding

Three senators – Steve Sunday Karimi, Titus Tartenger Zam and Kaka Sheu – yesterday said the allegation of budget padding against Senate President Godswill Akpabio by some senators was unfounded, baseless and a figment of imagination.

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.

Karimi, Zam and Sheu, speaking on behalf of the Northern Senators’ Forum, also 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, Karimi, who is from Kogi State, Zam from Benue State and Sheu from Borno State, on behalf of the Northern Senators’ Forum, said they can not be used to blackmail the budget process, which was done in good faith.

READ:  CORRUPTION... CORRUPTION...: Who really is Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo?

At a meeting last week,some northern senators 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.

However, sheding light on what transpired at the meeting, Karimi, Zam and Sheu said it was only resolved that the report of the consultant engaged by the Northern Senators Forum be subjected to further scrutiny, as the entire appropriation process was a combination of work, from the executive, actively represented by the minister of budget and national planning and other ministers, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation and the Senate Committees on Appropriation.

Dismissing the allegation of padding as a ruse, they said while the executive brought a budget proposal of 27.5 trillion, the Senate passed a budget of 28.77 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, Abdul 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, 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 ambit of decency, decorum and dignity.

They added: “Senator Ningi has not given a 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 estimates 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.

READ:  Covid-19: Akwa Ibom Governor relaxes lockdown; issues guidelines

“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 submission of the initial over N27 trillion proposals by Mr President?

“So, how did Sen Ningi’ s budget analyst get the N3trillion budget padding allegations? Must we attempt to give a dog a bad name to hang it? Are APC members of Northern Senators Forum that PDP Senator Ningi claims to lead oblivious of the anti-Tinubu/Akpabio undertones. The National Assembly should not be denigrated.”

…it’s a false claim -Presidency

On its part, the Presidency via a State House Press Statement dated March 10, 2024 and signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga dismissed Sen. Ningi’s assertions as ‘false claims’.

In the statement tagged ‘The Facts About 2024 Budget’, the Presidency said “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. 

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.

READ:  REVEALED! Why A’Ibom State Gov, Pastor Umo Eno Visited President Tinubu

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 exercise of its power of appropriation. 

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. 

“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.