I Was Misquoted Over ‘N3tn Budget Padding’ – Ningi

Budget Box
Budget Box

I Was Misquoted Over ‘N3tn Budget Padding’ – Ningi

As the controversy over alleged N3 trillion 2024 budget padding rages on, the man at the centre of the storm, Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central) said those attacking him either have not listened to the interview or did not understand it because of language barrier.

Ningi who cleared the air on the matter Monday, said he spoke in his personal capacity, adding “everything that you heard in my Hausa interview has to do with my personal perspective.

Although he is the chairman of Northern Senators’ Forum (NSF), he said “I’m not representing NSF, I don’t speak for NSF. The interview I had was in my capacity as a senator and as an opposition senator. It has no bearing at all on the NSF position on any matter.

“At no time did I say Bola Tinubu is implementing two budgets. At no time did I say Bola Tinubu is biased against the North. At no time did I say Bola Tinubu is implementing N25 trillion budget. The Hausa version is there.

“I’m here to attempt to summarize to you, members of the press, what I said in my Hausa interview about a week today. I was speaking on the state of the nation and among other things, I lamented how the North found itself at the receiving end.

“The first example I gave was my president from my own party, Goodluck Jonathan for his failure to dredge the River Niger. Secondly, I also mentioned former President Buhari for his failure to anything on Ajaokuta, Mambila and as small as the road from Abuja to Kaduna.

“I came to President Bola Tinubu and said I don’t blame Tinubu for doing what he is doing because while he was campaigning, Northern leaders, particularly from his party have not extracted commitment that if he won what he would do for the North. I said that.

I also said, before President Tinubu came to power, did not understand the difficulty in running a very complex country like ours. I said it

Therefore, I was at a loss. Among other things, I also said, in the course of our perusing the budget, which Onanuga seemed to have dwelled upon, I said we have established beyond reasonable doubt N25 trillion so far has nexus in the budget i.e there is money, there is project and there is location. But we are yet to ascertain N3 trillion of that budget, its place and location. I said budget evaluation is ongoing.

I said lastly, the intention of Northern Senators as regards to the budgetary allocation was to meet the Senate President with our findings and subsequently meet President Bola Tinubu without findings. If one is questioning our desire to relate with Bola Tinubu, how will I say that the findings of Northern Senators’ Forum will go to the Senate President and Bola Tinubu, the President and Commander-in-Chief.

He made it clear that he is not a regional person, but he is from the North and the leadership of the Senate made him chairman, adding that in the past he was chairman of Niger Delta crisis and he traversed through the creeks. “I know the creeks more than an average south southerner”.

Therefore, he was very surprised that Bayo Onanuga, the Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Communication chose to “come out with a press release against my person without understanding the subject matter”.

“I never granted my interview in English. The Hausa version of the interview is here with me. Unfortunately, the people who took the story to Bayo did it with the sole aim of tarnishing my image. And Bayo went to the extent of calling me a liar. Bayo did not listen to my Hausa interview, he did not get a good translation of my Hausa intervie.

However, Ningi, who is a ranking senator said he just wanted to clear this ambiguity, adding that he has the full text of the Hausa version and he was not afraid of any punishment like suspension for exercising his freedom to speak his mind, but said Northern senators should be left out the whole matter.

In another development, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South) has called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to prosecute Senator Abdul Ningi for “negligence, criminal misinformation and likely breach of peace” within 7 days.

He threatened that if the IGP fails to charge Ningi within 7 days, he will cause Order of Mandamus to compel his trial because Ningi’s allegation has affected him as a senator and chairman of Inter Parliamentary Committee in the eyes of the world.

Meanwhile, Northern Senators dissociate selves from Senator Ningi’s padding allegation in a press statement titled “there’s no wrongdoing in 2024 budget”.

The statement said “We, the undersigned on behalf of the Senators from the 19 Northern States and the FCT, under the aegis of Northern Senators Forum (NSF), hereby state that Senator Ahmed Abdul Ningi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bauchi Central Senatorial District, who also happens to be the chairman of our forum, was on his own in the claims he made on the BBC Hausa Service on the 2024 budget. As such, the view he expressed was his personal opinion, sentiment and unfortunately skewed, incorrect and misleading.

“That there was never a time where we held a meeting and mandated Senator Ningi to address the press on the said matter.

“That the budget was presented to the National Assembly during a joint session of the two chambers – Senate and House of Representatives – by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on November 29, 2023, in line with the requirement of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That both chambers of the National Assembly diligently and meticulously debated, processed and passed the proposal of the President. And satisfied with it, the President assented to it.

“It is clear that Mr. President presented a budget of N27. 5 trillion to the National Assembly and the Assembly passed a budget of N28.7 trillion based on the need to make increases or decreases in the appropriations of the various MDAs which is in tandem with the legislative powers of the National Assembly in order to address critical projects and services across various sectors. Therefore, the statement made by Senator Ningi that the 2024 budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr President was the sum of N25 trillion was not correct and that should not be taken as the position of the Northern Senators Forum.

“That to the best of our knowledge there was no budget padding, whatsoever that was done to the 2024 budget. The assertion by Senator Ningi that certain things were done to the bill is his personal opinion. It is not the view of the generality of us, the Northern Senators.

“Hence, we strongly and collectively dissociate ourselves from his action which was grossly unparliamentary.

“That, we, the Northern Senators are solidly behind President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and we will continue to support him to succeed in addressing the challenges facing our country. Nigeria, at this particular moment does not need ethnic sentiments but collaborations of all to bring prosperity to our beloved country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

They pledged to continue to work with their brothers and sisters from the southern part of the country to move our country forward for the benefit of all and sundry.