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Drama as Presidency says NASS added N1.27tn to 2024 budget




By Stephen Asaba-ase

Following the alleged padding of the 2024 budget with N3tr by President Tinubu as claimed by the Northern Senators Forum, the presidency has also accused the national assembly of padding the budget with N1.27tn.

While reacting, the presidency stated, “On the uncharitable claim that the 2024 budget was anti-North, we found such position as canvassed by Senator Ningi as too far-fetched and unbecoming of a leader of his status.

“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.”

The presidency also expressed concern that a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could “employ such primordial antics to fuel divisive rhetoric at a time well-meaning Nigerians are joining hands with President Tinubu to raise the spirit of national cohesion, unity and inclusive politics.”

Onanuga appreciated the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, for “setting the record straight,” and commended Senators Steve Karimi (Kogi), Titus Zam (Benue) and Kaka Sheu (Borno) for “coming out to refute against the misrepresentation of facts by Senator Ningi.”

Meanwhile, indications had emerged some senators may call for the suspension of the Bauchi senator over the claims, which some of them had described as unfounded.

According to different sources, the senators are angry with the lawmaker for allegedly making claims that could paint the Senate in a bad light.

Meanwhile, the Senate through its spokesperson, Yemi Adaramodu ( APC, Ekiti South) had in a chat with our correspondent refuted the claim on Saturday, saying that there was no padding whatsoever in the budget.

According to a reliable source, some senators and members of the House of Representatives had been meeting since the interview spring up online.

One of such meeting was held at the Senate wing of the National Assembly where some lawmakers including, members of the Executive of the Northern Senators Forum reportedly distanced themselves from Ningi’s allegations.

One of the lawmakers specifically said the northern groups of the Senate would address a Press Conference on Monday to clear its name from the allegations raised by the chairman of the forum.

Meanwhile, some senators who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity claimed that legislative steps were being set in place to sanction Ningi.

Meantime, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Solomon Adeola ( APC Ogun West ), on Sunday told our correspondence that his first plan to address the issue of the alleged budget padding had been withdrawn, saying that the Senate would address the issue through internal legislative mechanisms.

Adeola who spoke to the journalists amid other Senators across the northern and southern axis, said since an allegation of budget padding was made by a serving Senator who participated in the consideration and passage of the budget, the best place to react was in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday.

Adeola said, “As you people can see, many Senators across the six geo-political zones are here with me to react to what the senator said during the weekend and alleged two versions of the 2024 budget and later realising that there are laid down procedures and processes to follow in dealing with such a matter involving an insider, we have decided, to shift the venue of reaction to the Senate Chamber on Tuesday, after which, journalists would be briefed adequately.”

Going by its best practice, the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions supposedly invite Ningi for questioning.

Efforts to get Ningi’s response was not successful as at press time. He didn’t pick up calls and respond to texts and WhatsApp messages sent to his line on Sunday.

Tinubu had on Wednesday, November 39, 2023, presented a total of N27.5tn budget which he tagged “ Renewed Hope budget” to a joint section of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly, however, on Saturday, December 30, 2023, passed a harmonize 2024 Appropriation Bill totaling N28.77tn for a third reading.

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