March 13, 2024

3 unforgettable moments from Senate’s session on Ningi’s ‘budget padding’ debacle

3 unforgettable moments from Senate's session on Ningi's 'budget padding' debacle

By Miftaudeen Raji

The Senate‘s stormy plenary session on Tuesday was marked by gripping moments that left Nigerians with many questions after the debate on the ‘budget padding’ allegation by Senator Abdul Ningi.

The Senate had a rowdy session today as senators bickered over a claim by Ningi, representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District of Bauchi State, that the 2024 budget was padded by N3 trillion, adding that there were two versions of the budget.

Read also: Alleged budget padding: Rumpus as senators bicker over money sharing

Ningi was reported to have made the claim during a BBC Hausa Service interview during the weekend.

Here are three unforgettable moments from that eventful plenary session:

Senator Olamilekan’s motion
At the resumed plenary of the Senate on Tuesday, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, moved a motion, calling for the investigation of the claim by Ningi.

Adeola’s motion was seconded by Senator Joel Onawakpo, after which senators engaged in a stormy debate while speaking on the matter.

Senator Adamu Aliero, representing Kebbi Central Senatorial District, raised a point of order, asking the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to ensure a fair hearing by allowing the man at the centre of the controversy to state his side of the story.

But, in his response to the motion, Akpabio, said, “For me I think this is a very straightforward matter. We have a situation to be the stabiliser of the National Assembly.”

Ningi’s defense

In his defense, Ningi denied saying the 2024 budget was padded.

This comes after he reportedly indicted the National Assembly for padding the 2024 budget with a whopping sum of N3 trillion.

The senator said he never said that the president was running two budgets, but that there was N3.7 trillion yet to be accounted for.

Ningi described the comments attributed to him as fake.

He said, “I have never said somebody was blinded. Secondly, I have never said the budget was padded,” the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator told his colleagues.

“Let me concur with about 80 percent of the translation read out by Senator Yayi. I think they have done a fair job, except on some issues they could not understand.

“The beginning of this brouhaha started with this text. Senator Abdu Ningi is purported to be the author of this document. Let me for the avoidance of doubt, I have never issued a statement of this nature to anybody anywhere and anytime.

“I want members of this Senate to record it, this is a fake observation that was forwarded, I do not know the author of this.”

Jarigbe’s shocking revelation

The storm in the senate plenary on Tuesday got intense when Senator Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe from Cross River North, revealed that some senators got a total of N500 million each from the 2024 Budget.

Agom-Jarigbe disclosed this while the lawmakers debated budget padding claims by Ningi.

Agom-Jarigbe, alleged that some senators are guilty of such practices, adding that some senior senators got N500 million each from the 2024 Appropriation Act.

He said, “If we want to go into this issue, all of us are culpable. Some senators here, so-called senior senators got N500 million each. I am a ranking senator, I didn’t get. Did I go to the press? Most of you got. We don’t have to go into those issues.”

Senate suspends Ningi

After a long, stormy session in the red chamber, Ningi, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for three months over allegations of N3.7 trillion in padding of the 2024 Budget.

A member of the Appropriation Committee in the Senate, Jimoh Ibrahim, first moved the motion for Ningi’s suspension for 12 months over allegations of criminal misinformation and breach of peace in the National Assembly and the country by extension.

However, other lawmakers, like Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong, who is from Cross River South Senatorial District, and Senator Abdulfatai Buhari from Oyo North, prayed for the reduction of the suspension to six and three months, respectively.

Akpabio, who described Ningi’s offences as “grievous,” conducted a voice vote during which most of the lawmakers voted in support of Ningi’s suspension for three months.