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Peter Obi tackles Senate as PDP and others back Ningi over budget padding allegation



Peter Gregory Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, has charged the Senate to provide clarity on the claim made by Senator Abdul Ningi that an extra N3.7 trillion was added to the 2024 budget.

This is as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bauchi governor, Bala Muhammad threw their weight behind Senator Abdul Ningi and called for the resignation of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.

Senator Abdul Ningi, the lawmaker representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, was handed a three-month suspension after his comment on the alleged extra N3.7 trillion hidden in the 2024 budget.

Ningi was suspended Tuesday by upper chamber of the National Assembly, and subsequently resigned his position as Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF).

Obi in a statement on Wednesday stated that the suspension of Ningi doesn’t resolve the significant issues related to the allegation.

Obi added that the alleged padding of N3 trillion in the 2024 budget demands a thorough explanation to enlighten Nigerians on the country’s fiscal management

He declared that every penny of Nigeria’s public funds must be dedicated to the public welfare, noting that the purported N3.7 trillion exceeds the combined national budget for health and education, which are the most vital elements of the human development index.

“The fuss over the alleged N3 trillion padded into the 2024 budget raised by a Senator still rages as the Senate’s reaction of suspending the whistle-blower has not addressed vital issues emanating from the allegation. The Senator is insisting on his allegation. Fresh allegations have also cropped up over indiscriminate and unbalanced allocation of constituency projects by the Senate leadership.

“A civic society group, Budgit, through their official, have also added their voice to agree with the Senator. They allege that there was no detailed project allocations for about N3.7 trillion in the 2024 Appropriation Act.

“The suspension of the senator involved by the senate has not addressed the issue. They still owe the Nigerian public a clear clarification over the various claims and counterclaims, including that of the executive arm, to be able to know exactly what is happening, and also disclose to the public, the exact amounts allocated for constituency projects for appropriate monitoring of implementation by the public,” he noted.

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Also, the PDP in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary Hon. Debo Ologunagba on Wednesday called for an independent investigation into the alleged insertion of N3.7 trillion into the 2024 budget for non-existent projects while also demanding that the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, step aside immediately to ensure a fair investigation.

Ologunagba said the Party also demands that Senator Akpabio immediately report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his pending case of alleged looting of N108 billion belonging to the people of Akwa Ibom State under his watch as Governor.

He said, “Furthermore, the Senate President should speak out on the reported N86 billion contract scam in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) during his tenure as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

“The PDP firmly condemns the suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi by the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership in the Senate without a detailed inquiry into the issue of budget padding, which he raised.

“The suspension of Senator Ningi is apparently a desperate move to suppress investigation, conceal and sweep the facts under the carpet.

“Moreover, the frustration of investigation by the APC Senate leadership further confirms PDP’s repeated alert that prominent APC officials in the National Assembly and a top official in the Presidency have been using ministers and other government functionaries to siphon budgeted funds from the national coffers.

“We ask, why did the APC leadership in the Senate not refer the matter to the appropriate Senate Standing Committee for an open investigation in line with the extant Rules of the Senate? What is the APC Senate leadership afraid of and what is it hiding from Nigerians?

“It is even more absurd that instead of recusing himself, the Senate President sat as a judge in the matter; a situation that has the capacity to bring the institution of the Senate to further public disrepute. This is especially as the issues at hand heavily border on alleged gross misconduct and criminal betrayal of public trust which are serious offenses under our laws.

“Nigerians can now see why the APC leadership in the National Assembly, especially in the Senate continues to condone the unbridled looting of public resources including funds meant for palliatives for poor and vulnerable citizens. This apparent inclination towards covering up sleaze in the polity is already pitching the institution of the Senate against Nigerians who are demanding for answers on the matter. Of course, the widely condemned suspension of Senator Ningi does not provide answers to the budget padding allegation.”

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The PDP Spokesperson further said, “It is indeed unfortunate and a huge smear on the image of the Senate, as the highest lawmaking and probity Institution in the country, that its Presiding Officer has found himself in a quagmire of alleged sleaze and betrayal of public trust.

“Our Party therefore stands with Senator Ningi for his courage in seeking probity and accountability in the polity. What Nigerians expect at this moment is for the Senate President to come clean by stepping aside, allowing for an independent investigation into the budget padding allegation as well as clearing his name at the EFCC over alleged looting of N108 billion and N86 billion under his watch as Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs respectively.”

Speaking during the State Executive Council meeting at the Government House, Bauchi, on Wednesday, Governor Bala Muhammed said he was with Ningi, as the face of opposition in the Senate.

“We will, as the opposition to the the federal government, say some of the things that should be done in our modest opinion, but it is not for us to disparage our country. Yesterday, I was very sad. The senate suspending one of our best from Bauchi for saying the truth, for standing up to be the beacon of truth.

“Equally I don’t know what we will do but we will discuss privately to see what we can do to support him because I support whatever he is doing. And that is the face of the opposition, especially if what he saying is the truth. I am not too quick to go to the media but, certainly, he has shown courage.”

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