2024: Northern Senators allege N3trn budget padding, engage consultants for review

The Northern Senators Forum has resolved to meet President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over the alleged N3 trillion insertion in the 2024 budget.

The chairman of the forum, Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), disclosed this during an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Saturday.

He alleged that what the Senate debated and passed as budget for 2024 was N25 trillion and not the N28 trillion being implemented by Tinubu.

Ningi said the forum would probe the “added sum of N3 trillion” and other inclusions in the budget that were not known to the Senate.

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He also stated that there was another budget that was “done underground” which he said the lawmakers did not know.

He said the forum had engaged consultants, for the past three months, to review the budget and work on it line by line.

Ningi said the forum had seen in the budget, “the huge damage” done to the North and the entire country.

President Tinubu had presented N27.5 trillion budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly on November 29, 2023. The Senate had passed the N28,777,404,073,861 budget after increasing it by N1.2 trillion.

Ningi also alleged that the Senate was not aware of the N3 trillion which was he said added to N25 trillion.

He also said that the Northern Senators’ Forum would come up with a report and engage Senate President Godswill Akpabio and President Tinubu on the matter.

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Ningi said: “This is true. For the past three months, we have engaged consultants to review the budget for us. We have some experts that are working on it line by line.

“We have seen the huge damage that was done not only to the North but the entire country in that budget. We are supposed to sit with the Senate president to inform him about what we have observed.

“We want to show him what we have seen in the budget that is not acceptable. We will not accept them and we don’t want the country to continue spending money on those things.

“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 N28 trillion, but what was passed was N25 trillion. So, there is N3 trillion on top. Where are they? Where is it going? So, we need to know this. There are a lot of things. We are coming up with a report and we will show the president himself and ask him if he is aware or not. This is what we intended to do. We are to meet the president,” he said.

Ningi said the forum would also talk to Tinubu about the Mambilla Power Project, Ajaokuta Steel Company and the River Niger dredging.

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“We will talk to him about the Niger Republic. Recently, they said they would construct a dam, this is not good for us,” Ningi added.

He also said Tinubu’s administration was not living up to the expectations of the North.

He said, “The most painful thing is that northerners stood for him and did all they could to bring him to power, but unfortunately, there was no agreement between them and the president on what should be done to the North and the northerners.

“Especially taking into consideration the importance and significant projects that the North has been yearning and aspiring to get for a long time. For example, the Ajaokuta project, the Mambilla power project, the dredging of river Niger and other notable projects.

“What mostly disturbs my sleep is that we had a budget in 2013 and 2014 in which we earmarked billions of Naira, but it was neglected by President Goodluck Jonathan. When President Buhari came, we thought it was one of the projects he would hisse attention to, but unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for over eight years.”

No infractions–Senate spokesman

Reacting, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, in a chat with our correspondent last night, dismissed the allegations by Ningi.

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He said: “The National budget is a public document which expressly states the expected revenue and the expenditure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Senate, under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio, is not aware of any varied execution of the 2024 appropriation mandate, as approved.

“The budget presentation and approval processes were made in the public glare, while the presidential assent was also in a public ceremony. Any infractions would have been brought before the Senate, if any.

“The general public should be at rest assured that there is no budget padding anywhere and we are confident that the 2024 appropriation law shall be strictly executed under strict legislative oversight.”