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Senators Tackle Ningi Over Statement on N3.7trn Budget Padding

There was a heated verbal words among the Chairman Northern Senators Forum, NSF and former Deputy Senate leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, PDP, Bauchi Central and other Senators on Monday over alleged N3. 7 trillion Budget Padding in the Presidency.

Senator Ningi had in BBC Interview (Hausa Service) on Saturday, alleged that the budget passed by the National Assembly for 2024 fiscal year is N25trillion while the one being implemented by the Presidency is N28.7trillion.

Addressing Journalists in Abuja, Senator Ningi who said that he was not afraid of suspension by the Senate as he was prepared to carry his cross, said that he stood by what he said that N3.7 Trillion not traced to any project in the 2024 Budget, just as he said that during the Interview with the BBC, he spoke in Hausa and not English as he granted interview on the state of the nation.

According to Ningi, if he is suspended at the end of the day, he would see it as an honour against the backdrop that he believes in one God, and that power is transient, even as he said that  what we are doing is temporary and that he is not scared for whatever.

Ningi who explained that he spoke for himself and not on behalf of the  Northern Senator forum, NSF where he is chairman, said that there was no time during the interview that he said the federal government was  operating two budget, adding that he only said that N25 Trillion traced to  projects and N3.7 Trillion was  not traced to any project.

Ningi said, ” I said we have established beyond reasonable doubt about N25 trillion so far has nexus in the budget. That means that there is money, there is project and then there is location. But we are yet to ascertain N3 trillion of that budget. We have established the N3 trillion of that budget, we have not established its location and the place.

“But I said going forward, the budget evaluation is ongoing. And I said lastly, the intention of the northern senators as regards budgetary allocation was to meet the Senate President with our findings and subsequently meet president Bola Ahmed Tinubu with our findings.

“So if one is questioning our desire to relate with Bola Tinubu, how will I say that the findings of the Northern Senators forum will go to senate president and then to the president and commander in Chief. He tried in his post to narrow me down as a regional person. I have never acted as a regional person, I have never spoken as a regional person but I’m proud to say I’m a very proud northerner.

“It wasn’t a budget matter, but a budget issue came. I believe in one God, and I believe power is transient. I believe what we are doing is temporary. I’m not scared of whatever you hear, I am not scared of any issue like suspension. If because I said what I would say, then I will be suspended, so be it. It will be an honour.”

Ningi further said, “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 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 write-up for close to 30 years and I have no doubt. Bayo 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.

“First and foremost, I never granted my interview in English. The Hausa version of the interview with me. And unfortunately those who carried the story to Bayo did it with the sole aim of tarnishing my good name and Bayo went to the extent of calling me a liar. I am not going  to join issues with him on the aspect of calling me a liar.

“Bayo did not listen to my Hausa interview, Bayo did not get a good translation of our Hausa interview. At no time did I say Bola Ahmed Tinubu is implementing two budgets.

There was no time, at no time did I say Bola Tinubu was biased against the north. The Hausa version is there.

“At no time did I say Bola Ahmed Tinubu is implementing N25 trillion budget. I am here to attempt to summarise to you members of the national assembly press corps.

“What I said in my Hausa interview about a week today, I was speaking on the state of the nation and among other things I lamented how the north found itself at the receiving end.

“The first example I made and I said was my president from my own party, Goodluck Jonathan for his failure to dredge the river Niger. I also mentioned former President Buhari for his failure to do anything on Ajaokuta, to do anything on Mambilla, to do anything as small as the road from Abuja, Kano and Kaduna.

“And I came to President Tinubu and I said I don’t blame Tinubu for doing what he is doing because while he was campaigning, northern leaders particularly from his party have not extracted commitment that if he wins, what he will do for the north, that I said.  I also said in the course of our perusing the budget which Onanuga seem to have dwelt on.

“I am happy from the Press release they said I am a ranking senator. There is no way. What the President proposed to the senate are proposals’ what the senate passes is appropriation. There is no way I will talk about N25tr and N28tr. The President has no powers for appropriation. It is even a misnormal for the executive to tell the National Assembly members, we are bringing a budget and don’t touch it, it is a misnormal, The constitution is clear on who has the power for appropriation. I couldn’t have said what they have suggested. There is no way a President will implement budget that is not passed by the National Assembly.”

Immediately after Ningi spoke with Journalists,  Senator Jimoh Ibrahim,  APC, Ondo South took a tackled him, saying that the  President of Nigeria cannot operate two budgets as the Executive can only operate within the existence of the Appropriation Act of 2024, just as he said that Ningi made false information, it was unacceptable and  causing uncomfortable pains to their  integrity, that of their children and family.

Senator Ibrahim said that the Senate must in the next seven days mandate the Inspector General of Police, IgP, Kayode Egbetokun to as a matter of urgency arrest Ningi and charge him to court for criminal misinformation and conduct, saying that if the IGP fails to do that, he will ask for the Order of Mandamus to compel a public Officer to do that.

Senator Jimoh Ibrahim said, “The President of Nigeria cannot operate two budgets, they can only operate within the existence of the Appropriation Act of 2024.

“My distinguished brother, Senator Ningi made this false information and it is unacceptable, it is causing uncomfortable pains to our integrity, that of our children and family.

“I have decided that as a Senator representing the people of Ondo South, I will ask the Inspector General of Police, to as a matter of urgency, charge Ningi to court for criminal misinformation and conduct. He may likely go to court for a breach of this.

“If the Senate does not do that within the next 7 days, I will write a letter, I have started that, to the Inspector General of Police to investigate the circumstances leading to the approval of two appropriations in 2024, bring the culprit to book, and if the IGP will not do it, I will ask for the order of mandamus to compel a public officer to do that.

“My information for you today is that one, it is not true that we have two appropriations, two Senator Ningi must be charged to court for conduct likely going to be called breach of peace and criminal misinformation after thorough investigation.

“I am a member of the Appropriation committee and I am chairman of Inter-Parliamentary Worldwide, when I go to the next United Nations Convention, the first question I’ll be asked is how did you do two budgets and it will be difficult for me to begin to answer those questions. The rightful thing is to tender an apology to his colleagues.”

Also seven Northern senators disowned Senator Ningi, saying there was no wrongdoing in 2024 budget, just as they said that Ningi who is their chairman was on his own in the claims he made on the BBC Hausa Service on the 2024 budget, saying that the view he expressed was his personal opinion, sentiment and unfortunately skewed, incorrect and misleading.

The Senators are Aminu Iyal Abass, PDP, Adamawa Central; Ibrahim Bomoi, APC, Yobe South; Abdulaziz Yar’Adua, APC, Katsina Central; Lawal Adamu Usman, Kaduna Central; Jibrin Isah, APC, Kogi East; Diket Plang, APC, Plateau Central and Saliu Mustapha, APC, Kwara Central.

The 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 People’s 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. That there was never a time where we held a meeting and mandated Senator Ningi to address the press on the said matter.

“That the budget was presented to the National Assembly during a joint session of the two chambers – Senate and House of Representatives – by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on November 29, 2023, in line with the requirement of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That both chambers of the National Assembly diligently and meticulously debated, processed and passed the proposal of the President. And satisfied with it, the President assented to it.

” It is clear that Mr President presented a budget of N27. 5 trillion to the National Assembly and the Assembly passed a budget of N28.7 trillion based on the need to make increases or decreases in the appropriations of the various MDAs which is in tandem with the legislative powers of the National Assembly in order to address critical projects and services across various sectors. Therefore, the statement made by Senator Ningi that the 2024 budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr President was the sum of N25 trillion was not correct and that should not be taken as the position of the Northern Senators Forum.

“That to the best of our knowledge there was no budget padding, whatsoever that was done to the 2024 budget. The assertion by Senator Ningi that certain things were done to the bill is his personal opinion. It is not the view of the generality of us, the Northern Senators.

“Hence, we strongly and collectively dissociate ourselves from his action which was grossly unparliamentary.

“That, we, the Northern Senators are solidly behind President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and we will continue to support him to succeed in addressing the challenges facing our country. Nigeria, at this particular moment does not need ethnic sentiments but collaborations of all to bring prosperity to our beloved country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We will continue to work with our brothers and sisters from the southern part of the country to move our country forward for the benefit of all and sundry.”

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