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Budget padding: Presidency, Senators disagree with Ningi

The Presidency has described as false the claim by Sen. Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi Central) over the padding of the 2024 budget.

This is contained in a statement by Mr. Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, in Abuja.

Onanuga said that President Bola Tinubu presented a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion on Nov. 29, 2023, to the joint session of the National Assembly, which was made up of N9.92 trillion in recurrent expenditure, N8.25 trillion in debt service, and N8.7 trillion in capital expenditure.

“Acting under the banner of the Northern Senators’ Forum, Ningi falsely claimed in an interview that he granted BBC Hausa Service that the national assembly debated and passed N25 trillion as the 2024 budget and not the N28.7 trillion that is being implemented by the Federal Government.

“Contrary to the strange view expressed by 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,” Onanuga said.

At a meeting last week, some northern senators accused the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, 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.

Onanuga said the budget of N28.7 trillion signed into law by Tinubu in January was passed by the national assembly, adding that the legislature increased the amount proposed by the Executive by N1.2 trillion in exercise of its power of appropriation.

He said the claim by Ningi that the 2024 budget was anti-North was uncharitable, coming from a ranking lawmaker.

“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.

“President Tinubu is a firm believer in the rule of law and constitutional democracy. As an avowed democrat, he will not engage in or 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.”

Meanwhile, Senators Steve Karimi, Titus Zam, and Kaka Sheu have said the allegation of budget padding against Akpabio by some senators was unfounded, baseless, and a figment of imagination.

Dismissing the allegation 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.

“The difference was N1.27 trillion, coming from all three arms of government. Where is the additional, so-called padding of N3 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.”

The three senators said the forum only resolved that the report of the consultant engaged by the Northern Senators Forum be subjected to further scrutiny.

They said the 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.

“Senator Ningi has not given the correct information. He has yet to even give the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives a copy of what he claims to have been discovered in the 2024 Appropriation Act before levelling allegations of budget padding against the President, the Senate President, and the Senate.(NAN)

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