Senator Ningi’s Exposure of Budget Padding In The Nigerian Senate Should Be Applauded Not Condemned, Says Obinna Ejianya

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The publisher of 9News Nigeria, Mr Obinna Ejianya has reprimanded the Nigerian lawmakers over the recent budget padding spills that resulted in the suspension of Senator Ningi by the 10th Senate led by Senator Godswill Akpabio.

In his words, Mr. Obinna Ejianya said that it is despicable that in the face of economic hardship in the country, the issue of budget padding could still be condoned among the lawmakers who should be representing the interest of the people.

The statements were made on the 9News Nigeria boss’ social media timelines on Friday.

The complete message read:

It is deeply disheartening and despicable that while the Nigerian economy is in shambles, with the citizens grumbling and roaring in the face of the untold hardship they are passing through, the Nigerian lawmakers, especially the Senators could still connive and indulge in such dastardly chronic act of sharing humongous amounts of money amongst themselves, in the guise of bogus constituency projects.

Senator Abdul Ningi’s courageous act of exposing budget padding in the Nigerian Senate is worthy of emulation and deserves compliments. The practice of allocating excessive and unjustified amounts of money to certain senators without transparent project allocations is a corrupt and collusive act between the executive and the National Assembly, an old practice shrouded in the garb of rewards to loyal lawmakers. Instead of condemning Senator Ningi, his actions should be recognized as heroic and patriotic.

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It is pertinent at this time to emphasize the need for transparency and accountability in budgetary allocations; hence seeing that someone from such rank as a lawmaker kicking against the ugly lethal old practice of diverting public funds to few individuals should be celebrated, if indeed Nigeria should smell progress.

The controversy surrounding the 2024 budget arose when Senator Ningi alleged that the budget was padded by approximately N3.7 trillion, representing more than 10% of the total budget. Despite the importance of his revelation, the Senate chose to suspend Senator Ningi for three months, citing violations of legislative rules, allegations of misconduct, and unethical behavior. This response fails to address the core issue of budget padding and undermines the significance of Senator Ningi’s brave act.

While the Senate President and his cohorts are witch-hunting, intimidating, and suspending Ningi, Seun Onigbinde, the Co-Founder of the civic group Budgit, affirmed Senator Ningi’s assertion that there was a lack of detailed project allocations amounting to approximately N3.7 trillion in the 2024 Appropriation Act. While clarifying that Nigeria is not running two concurrent budgets, Onigbinde emphasized the importance of having transparency and detailed breakdowns of budgetary allocations. He called for greater accountability in the allocation of funds to government-owned enterprises and ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).

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Similarly, a Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to reinstate Senator Ningi and refer the budget padding allegations to anti-graft agencies for investigation. SERAP believes that whistleblowers should not face penalties for exposing public interest disclosures. They emphasize that addressing budget padding and corruption in constituency projects is crucial for ensuring probity and accountability in the budget process. Transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds are essential for combating poverty and underdevelopment.

The 2024 national budget has been marred by controversy from its presentation to the National Assembly. The budget’s late submission and the lack of complete information provided to lawmakers raised suspicions about its integrity. The rushed passage of the budget without thorough consideration further fueled doubts about the government’s ability to effectively manage the economy. Since its implementation, the economy has deteriorated, with various indicators showing negative impacts. The inflation rate has surpassed projections, the value of the naira has plummeted, and interest rates have risen. These factors have contributed to increased hardships for ordinary Nigerians.

Senator Abdul Ningi’s exposure of budget padding in the Nigerian Senate should be commended rather than condemned. The allegations he raised shed light on chronic corrupt practices and the lack of transparency in budgetary allocations. The government and the National Assembly must take immediate action to investigate these allegations and ensure accountability in the budget process. A system that is enshrined and shrouded in secrecy will hardly reproduce progress, while transparency is a starting point for a government that will succeed. When a government is operating in secrecy, the parties and accomplices would surely go ‘gaga’ knowing that no one will hold them accountable so long as everyone is guilty. The result is bad governance, so much money in the bank accounts of the few people at the top, and resultant hardship and suffering for the majority of the citizens.

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