Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Budget Padding Controversy: BudgIT confirms Ningi’s N3.7trn allegation

A civil society organisation (CSO) focused on the Nigerian budget and public data, BudgIT, has thrown its weight behind suspended Senator Abdul Ningi on a N3.7 trillion gap in the 2024 budget presented to the National Assembly.

The Director and co-founder of BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde, made this known in an interview with Channels Television on Wednesday.

Onigbinde stressed that Ningi was right if he posited that there was no detailed allocation for N3.7 trillion in the 2024 budget.

It could be recalled that Ningi, representing Bauchi Central senatorial district was suspended on Tuesday by the Senate, over the allegations that two versions of the 2024 budget were passed at the National Assembly.

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The Senator, who was also the Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF), alleged that the budget was padded by N3.7trn and that the North has been neglected under the administration of President Bola Tinubu.

On the floor of the Senate, the Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Ogun West) said the Red Chamber has inaugurated a template for the speedy consideration and passage of the 2024 Money Bill as he initiated the motion on breach of privilege by the Bauchi senator.

Senator Adeola had come under orders 9, 10, 41, and 51 to move a motion of privilege and issue of national importance against Ningi over his interview with the BBC Hausa.

Following Adeola’s motion on breach of privilege, a member of the Appropriation Committee in the Senate, Jimoh Ibrahim, first moved the motion for Ningi’s suspension for 12 months over allegations of criminal misinformation and breach of peace in the National Assembly.

Read Also:Senate explains alleged N3trn 2024 budget padding

But, some of the senators moved for the amendment of the suspension for three months for the embattled federal lawmaker, which the Senate ratified.

Speaking on the development, the BudgIT boss said there are “statutory elements” in the budget that do not have a comprehensive analysis..

Onigbinde said the allocations of the National Assembly, National Judicial Council (NJC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and others do not carry a detailed breakdown.

He added that the people have the right to know how the funds earmarked for the aforementioned agencies are being spent.

“Around N2 trillion of the budget presented by the president is the government-owned enterprises budget,” Onigbinde said.

“So, if Senator Ningi says there is a N25 trillion budget, yes, that is the MDA’s budget. It’s different from the government-owned enterprises budget which was now added.

“It is factual that he said that but it doesn’t mean that we are running two concurrent budgets.

“There is a different conversation that those projects should be detailed. TETFUND should not just get an allocation.

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“What are you spending the money on? INEC is collecting a huge chunk of funds but there is no public details about what the funds are used for. The same thing with NJC, even the national assembly.

“In the current budget, the national assembly gave a very broad summary of its allocations but there are no detailed allocations on a granular level that everybody can interrogate.

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“These are transparency issues and if you put all these together, that is around N3.5 trillion to N3.7 trillion. So, if that is what he (Ningi) wants to interrogate, there are components of the budget where there is no breakdown. That is very factual.

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“But the national assembly needs to push back. We need a breakdown. What is NJC spending money on? We give more money to the NJC and say take it arbitrarily. What are they spending that money on? There should be a detailed breakdown to the public. On that point, Senator Ningi is right but to look as if we are running parallel budgets, that is not right.”

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