N3 Trillion Budget Padding Allegations Rock Nigerian A tumultuous scene unfolded in the Senate yesterday as Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe, representing Cross River North, raised allegations regarding the sharing formula of funds for constituency projects. He claimed that while senior senators received N500 million, others were allocated as low as N75 million.

    Budget Padding

    This controversy emerged amidst earlier allegations by Senator Abdul Ningi, Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, who accused the 2024 budget of being padded by N3 trillion. Tensions escalated during the ensuing debate on Ningi’s allegation, triggered by a motion from Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Ogun West), who asserted that his privileges as a senator had been infringed upon.

    Former senators George Sekibo and Shehu Sani swiftly voiced their dismay, labeling the incident on the Senate floor as embarrassing. They suggested that such matters should have been handled privately and then referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee to prevent the Senate from facing public embarrassment.

    N3 Trillion Budget Padding Allegations Rock Nigerian Senate

    During an interview with BBC’s Hausa service, Ningi asserted that the National Assembly had passed a budget of N25 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year, contrasting it with the N28.7 trillion being implemented by the Presidency.

    Originally, President Bola Tinubu had proposed a budget of N27.5 trillion, but the lawmakers inflated it by N1.2 trillion, leading to the final figure. This discrepancy led Ningi to claim that N3 trillion in the budget lacked proper allocation.

    Senator Adeola expressed frustration, stating that his participation in the budgeting process had been undermined. He highlighted that the unexpected increase breached his privilege as a participant in the budget preparation.

    Ningi defended himself by asserting that he possessed evidence to substantiate his claims of irregularities within the budget.

    However, the Senate session descended into chaos when Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe accused some “senior senators” of receiving N500 million for constituency projects, further adding to the turmoil surrounding the budgeting process.

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    “Let’s not hide our issues behind closed doors. If we’re going to address these matters, we’re all involved. Certain senators, these so-called ‘senior senators,’ received N500 million each. As a ranking senator, I didn’t receive such an amount. Did I make it a public spectacle? I only received N75 million,” Jarigbe stated.

    After prolonged deliberations spanning several hours, senators nationwide reached a consensus that Ningi had committed an error and consequently suspended him for a period of three months.

    During the interview, Senator Ningi remarked, “For the first time in Nigerian history, we are witnessing the operation of two distinct budgets. One budget was duly approved by the National Assembly and signed by President Bola Tinubu, while the other is being implemented by the presidency.”

    He continued, “The budget approved by us amounts to N25 trillion, whereas the one being executed by the Federal Government totals N28 trillion. We have identified an additional N3 trillion inserted into the budgets without proper allocations. This represents the most significant case of budget padding in Nigerian history under the oversight of Senator Akpabio.”

    “For instance, it’s been stated that there’s a budget of N28 trillion, but what was approved by the National Assembly was N25 trillion. So, there’s an extra N3 trillion. Where is it coming from, and where is it going? We need clarity on this matter. There are numerous concerns. We are compiling a report and intend to present it to President Tinubu, complete with facts and figures, to ascertain his awareness of this discrepancy.

    “We, as representatives, have decided to meet with President Tinubu regarding this issue, armed with evidence, to inquire whether he is cognizant of this discrepancy or not. Subsequently, we will take appropriate actions.

    “Let us implore Nigerians to exercise patience. This is a national issue that affects all Nigerians, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, or religion.”

    Tinubu and Akpabio convened at Aso Rock for a meeting

    Following the turbulence in the Senate, President Tinubu held a closed-door meeting with Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

    Although the specific agenda of the meeting was not disclosed at the time of reporting, it was reliably gathered that it pertained to the suspension of Ningi.

    After the meeting concluded, the President of the Senate declined to make any statements to journalists.

    Former senators expressed their dismay over the tumultuous events in the Senate, labeling them as embarrassing. George Thomson Sekibo, the former senator representing Rivers East senatorial district, remarked that the situation could have been handled more appropriately. He suggested that the matter should have been discussed in a closed session and referred to the committee on ethics and privileges for thorough investigation and fair hearings.

    Sekibo speculated that the events appeared premeditated. He also acknowledged the significance of the concerns raised by Senator Jaribe regarding funds allocated for constituency projects, emphasizing the need for leaders to prioritize improving the security and welfare of Nigerians across party lines.

    Echoing similar sentiments, Shehu Sani, the former senator representing Kaduna Central, expressed astonishment at the substantial amount mentioned by Senator Jaribe, particularly amidst the challenges faced by Nigerians. Sani highlighted the need for a reassessment of various aspects of governance in Nigeria, emphasizing that the welfare of the majority should always take precedence in the National Assembly’s deliberations.

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