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N3.7TRN BUDGET PADDING: Group asks Senate to provide list of constituency projects

N3.7TRN BUDGET PADDING: Group asks Senate to provide list of constituency projects

A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has asked the Senate leadership to make available a Certified True Copy of the 2024 budget highlighting the projects attached to the N3.7trillion allegedly padded budget.

In a letter to Senate president Godswill Akpabio, the coalition said the demand was in line with Sections 1, 4, and 9 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

Similarly, the coalition asked for a Certified True Copy of constituency projects as benefitted by all senators in the 2024 Appropriation Act.

READ ALSO: Reinstate Ningi, suspend constituency projects, refer padding allegation to antigraft agencies, SERAP tells Nigerian Senate

A Bauchi lawmaker, Senator Abdul Ningi, raised the alarm that no projects could be traced to N3.7trillion of the N28trillion Budget, a development that got him sanctioned by the Senate following his insistence of standing by his words.

Dissatisfied with his position, the Senate handed him a three-month suspension after the Red Chamber clarified that the amount quoted was for agencies under the first-line charge.

…Reactions to Ningi’s suspension

Bauchi state governor, Abdulkadir Bala and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), among others, faulted the decision, saying the lawmaker was not fairly treated.

But another pressure group, the Arewa Initiative for the Defence and Promotion of Democracy (AIDPD), through its spokesman, Tasiu Haruna, faulted the claim.

READ ALSO: BudgIT says Senator Ningi was right on unallocated N3.7 trn in Nigeria’s 2024 budget

“In the last two weeks, we have followed the allegation by Senator Abdul Ningi of Bauchi Central on the 2024 budget and the uproar trailing it.

“As Nigerians and Northern leaders, we were miffed and worried over the allegation that the budget was padded and skewed in favour of the Southern part of the country to the tune of N3.7tr.

“On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, during the public and live investigative hearing of the Senate, we observed that Ningi, a ranking lawmaker, was acting a script,” the AIDPD had said.

CSOs demand transparency

And further to this, a coalition of CSOs asked the Senate to show some level of transparency by making the list of projects open.

Director of Communication and Strategy, Haruna Abdulsalam, who signed the letter on behalf of the coalition, threatened that in event of the Senate’s failure to make available the documents within seven days, they would be left with no option than to mobilise a protest for a change in the Senate leadership.

READ ALSO: Senator Ningi raises alarm over ‘underground budget’ passed by Nigeria’s National Assembly

The letter dated March 19, 2024, was titled: “Request for information on allegation of N3.7trillion budget padding and notification of planned mass protest to demand the resignation of the president and the deputy president of the senate.”

The CSOs underscored the gravity of the alleged budget padding to all Nigerians, particularly at the critical time of hunger and starvation and the future adverse effect on the economy as well as the direct consequences on the living standard of the general populace.

The CSOs said they established to “speak with one voice for the promotion of the rule of law and good governance, moral value, and social justice.”

“In an ideal democracy where rule of law, transparency, and accountability is the watchword of those that are privileged to lead, we believe that the allegation by Senator Abdul Ningi should have been referred to a relevant committee for investigation and all evidence and counter evidence deliberated upon and when all fact is exhausted, Nigerians will no doubt pick that which is true from it. But the turn of events suggests that there are questions to be answered by the leadership of the Senate.

“We hereby request the following document: A certified True Copy of the budget highlighting the projects attached to the #3 trillion in contention.

READ ALSO: Presidency counters Senator Ningi, denies ‘underground’ 2024 budget

“Certified True Copy of Constituency projects as benefited by all Senators in the budget.

“For clarity purposes, we wish to state that this information is needed for us to be able to take a position on the whole issue of this budget padding allegation.

“Our plan protest will be hinged on the inability of the Senate through the leadership to avail us with detailed and convincing documents with basic explanations to clarify the alleged anomalies in the budget. For the avoidance of doubt, it is the constitutional right of every citizen to;

“i. Request from government agencies and official details management and running of their offices as it affects the people (FOI ACT 2011).

“ii. Stage peaceful protest of any perceived anomalies as it relates to how the citizens are being led according to the United Nations Charter on Civil Society.

“iii. Every other constitutional means to press home demands on accountability and transparency in governance,” they said.

“If there is no response from your office within Seven days as enshrined in Section 4 of FOI Act, we will be left with no other option than to mobilise over 200 like mind Civil Society Organisations in the Coalition to go ahead with the protest of demanding a change of leadership of the Senate,” they further warned.

Faruk Khalil
Faruk Khalilhttps://nigeriansketch.com/
Khalil Faruk (Deputy Editor-in-Chief), has a Bachelors and Master's degree in Political Science and has worked as a reporter, features editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief respectively in a leading Nigerian daily. He has undergone trainings in journalism, photo journalism and online journalism within and outside Nigeria.

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