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Presidency Refutes Budget Padding Allegations, Senate Meets Over Claims Tuesday

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The Presidency has denies all allegations of padding the 2024 budget by an additional N3tn.

This followed accusations by Senator Abdul Ningi of Bauchi Central (PDP) that the executive is implementing a budget other than the one approved on January 1, 2024.

This came as Senate said it would meet over the matter on Tuesday, using its internal mechanisms and control process.

Ningi, under the aegis of the Northern Senators’ Forum, had contended in a BBC Hausa Service interview that the Federal Government, led by President Bola Tinubu, was executing a budget significantly higher than what was passed by the NASS.

According to the lawmaker, a N25tn budget was debated and passed, not the N28.7tn that is currently being implemented.

“Apart from what the National Assembly did on the floor, there was another budget that was done underground which we didn’t know.

“The new things we have discovered in the budget were not known to us. We haven’t seen them in the budget that was debated and considered on the floor of the National Assembly.

“For example, it was said that there was a budget of N28tn but what was passed was N25 trillion. So there is N3tn on top. Where are they, where is it going? So, we need to know this. There are a lot of things,” said Ningi.

The lawmaker also revealed plans to meet President Bola Tinubu later this week saying, “We are coming up with a report and we will show the president himself and ask him if he is aware or not.”

He revealed that the forum had commissioned consultants to evaluate the 2024 budget to unearth how N3tn was surreptitiously included in the amount passed by lawmakers.

However, in a statement signed by the President’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, the Presidency described Ningi’s claims as “false” asserting that Tinubu had initially presented a N27.5tn budget to the National Assembly on November 29, 2023.

It said this budget included N9.92tn for recurrent expenditure, N8.25tn for debt service, and N8.7tn for capital expenditure, contrasting Ningi’s claims.

The Presidency emphasised that it was implausible for the Senate to have debated and passed a N25tn budget that was never presented.

“Contrary to the strange view expressed by Senator Ningi, there was no way the Senate could have debated and passed a N25tn 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 N28.7tn,” Onanuga insisted.

It argued that the National Assembly only exercised its appropriation powers, and increased the executive’s proposed budget by N1.2tn to N28.7tn, which President Tinubu subsequently signed into law on New Year’s Day.

Onanuga stated, “We want to state categorically that the only 2024 budget that is being implemented is the N28.7tn 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. He did not present a budget of N25tn.”

Addressing Senator Ningi’s assertion that the 2024 budget was anti-North, the Presidency dismissed it as “far-fetched” and “unbecoming” of a leader of his stature.”

It further 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 also expressed concern that a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could “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.”

Onanuga thanked the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, for “setting the record straight,” and commended Senators Steve Karimi (Kogi), Titus Zam (Benue) and Kaka Sheu (Borno) for “coming out against the misrepresentation of facts by Senator Ningi.”

Meanwhile, indications have emerged some senators may call for the suspension of the Bauchi senator over the claims, which some of them have described as unfounded.

According to different sources, the senators are angry with the lawmaker for allegedly making claims that could paint the Senate in a bad light.

Meanwhile, the Senate through its spokesperson, Yemi Adaramodu ( APC, Ekiti South) had in a chat with our correspondent refuted the claim on Saturday, stating that there was no padding whatsoever in the budget.

According to findings, some senators and members of the House of Representatives have been meeting since the interview surfaced online.

One of such meeting was held at the Senate wing of the National Assembly where some lawmakers including, members of the Executive of the Northern Senators Forum reportedly distanced themselves from Ningi’s statement.

One of the lawmakers specifically said the northern bloc of the Senate would address a Press Conference on Monday to clear its name from the allegations raised by the chairman of the forum.

Meanwhile, some senators who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity claimed that legislative steps were being set in place to sanction Ningi.

This could not be independently verified as of press time.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Solomon Adeola ( APC Ogun West ), on Sunday told journalists that his initial plan to address the issue of alleged budget padding had been withdrawn, explaining that the Senate would address the issue through internal legislative mechanisms.

Adeola who spoke to the journalists amid other Senators across the northern and southern axis, said since an allegation of budget padding was made by a serving Senator who participated in the consideration and passage of the budget, the best place to react was in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday.

Adeola said, “As you people can see, many Senators across the six geo-political zones are here with me to react to what a senator said at the weekend on alleged two versions of the 2024 budget but after realising that there are laid down procedures and processes to follow in dealing with such a matter involving an insider, we have decided, to shift the venue of reaction to the Senate Chamber on Tuesday, after which, journalists would be briefed adequately.”

Going by its relevant rules, the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, might be mandated to invite Ningi for questioning.

Efforts to get Ningi’s reaction were not successful as of press time. He didn’t answer calls and respond to texts and WhatsApp messages sent to his line on Sunday.

Tinubu had on Wednesday, November 39, 2023, presented a total of N27.5tn budget which he tagged “ Renewed Hope budget” to a joint section of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly however, on Saturday, December 30, 2023, passed a harmonized 2024 budget Appropriation Bill totaling N28.77tn for a third reading.

Credit: Punch

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