July 18, 2024

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has faulted the Senate for suspending the Senator representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Senator Abdul Ningi over his allegation of budget padding, with a call on the senate to act with more circumspection and sensitivity in processing criticism of its operations.

The forum expressed support for the suspended senator over his allegation of budget padding and claim that the 2024 budget is unfavourable to the North.

The Bauchi senator was suspended from the Senate for three months following his allegation that the 2024 budget is padded with N3.7 trillion not attached to any specific project, while claiming that the budget was skewed against the North with several Northern communities not benefitting from the projects and programmes in the budget.

Reacting to the development in a statement through its national publicity secretary, Professor Tukur Muhammad-Baba, ACF said the Senate was too hasty to have arrived at suspending Ningi and therefore urged the National Assembly to carry out a thorough investigation of such allegations in the future.

While the forum noted that Senator Ningi ‘s allegation has since been denied by the Senate as lacking in veracity, it however lamented that the interests of many Northern communities are at stake.

According to ACF, the process of suspending Ningi appeared nimbly rushed, with concerns looking more on the messenger rather than his message.

“ACF acknowledges the 10TH Senate’s constitutional privilege to determine how it operates or conduct its affairs. However, ACF expects that exercise of the privilege will always be hinged, strictly and transparently, on relevant provisions in the Constitution relating to the principles of due process and fair hearing. This is critical for a body empowered to make laws for the country and to exercise oversight functions over the operations of the executive arm of Government.

“ACF notes that the whole saga hinged on the rather weighty allegation by weighty allegation earlier made by Senator Ningi, euphemistically called “budget padding”. Senator Ningi, and we must say others, had alleged that as much as the sum of N3.7 trillion is not rather egregiously attached to any specific project as it ought to, under the 2024 Budget of the Federation passed for implementation.

“ACF notes that the allegation has since been denied by the 10th Senate as lacking in veracity. However, the interests of many communities in Northern Nigeria are at stake. Rather than the route of a rushed suspension of Senator Ningi, ACF prefers a thorough investigation of the allegation by some statutory or ad hoc committee of the Senate. As things stand, in the eyes of the general public, the allegation of padding as well as those related to the inclusion of curious items that benefit specific communities of some Senators as “constituency projects”, stand unaddressed with all attendant negative implications for the Red Chamber and, vicariously, the Executive, regrettably, unfortunately and avoidably so for Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

“ACF regrets that Bauchi Central will be without representation in the 10th Senate for the 3 months and stands with Senator Ningi and his supporters in whatever constitutional means they seek to respond for a satisfactory denouement to this sad development. ACF also calls on the 10th Senate to act with more circumspection and sensitivity in processing criticism of its operations. Robust debates on public policy issues undoubtedly strengthens development of the democratic project,” the statement partly read.

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