…says budget presentation, approval processes done in public glare

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, has dismissed as baseless allegations made by the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) that the 2024 budget being implemented by President Bola Tinubu was padded to the tune of N3 trillion.

The NSF, through its Chairman, Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), had made the allegation during an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, saying the Forum has resolved to meet with President Tinubu and effectively iron out all areas of their concerns in relation to the Appropriation Act.

According to him, the Senate debated and passed as budget for 2024 the sum of N25 trillion and not the N28 trillion that President Tinubu is currently implementing

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

Ningi said the Forum is ready to probe the “added sum of N3 trillion” and other inclusions in the budget that were not known to the Senate, even as he expressed surprise that there was another budget “done underground” which the Senators did not know.

The lawmaker disclosed that the Forum had engaged consultants, for the past three months, to review the budget and work on it line by line, noting that “huge damage” has been done to the North and the entire country in the padded budget.

Further alleging that the Senate was unaware of the N3 trillion added to N25 trillion, Senator Ningi said the Forum would come up with a report and engage Senate President Godswill Akpabio and President Tinubu on all the contentious issues.

“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,” Ningi said.

“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.

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“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.

Also hinting that the Forum intends to raise issues around the Mambilla Power Project, Ajaokuta Steel Company and the River Niger dredging with President, Senator Ningi said the Forum would also talk about Niger Republic, which recently said they would construct a dam, adding, “this is not good for us”.

The lawmaker also accused the Tinubu-led administration of not living up to the expectations of the North, saying the most painful thing was that Northerners stood for Tinubu 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,” he said.

He further lamented the pathetic situation of things concerning these projects, noting that though there were budgets in 2013 and 2014 in which billions of naira was earmarked for the projects, but it was neglected by President Goodluck Jonathan.

“When President Buhari came, we thought it was one of the projects he would pay attention to, but unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for over eight years,” he said.

But responding, Senator Adaramodu said Ningi’s allegations does not hold water.

“The national budget is a public document which expressly states the expected revenue and the expenditure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Adaramodu said.

“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,” he said.

He urged the public to ignore the budget padding story with assurances that the Red Chamber would ensure the 2024 appropriation law is executed under strict legislative oversight.

“Any infractions would have been brought before the Senate, if any,” he said.