• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Northern Senators to meet Tinubu over alleged budget padding

Budget blues: Nigeria shortchanges its future, health with underfunding

Indications emerged weekend that Northern Senators, under the aegis of Northern Senators Forum, have concluded plans to meet President Bola Tinubu, over allegations that the 2024 budget was padded by about N3 trillion unexplained increase in the N28 trillion 2024 budget signed by President Bola Tinubu.

The group, led by Abdul Ningi, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, also alleged that the provisions were tilted against the north.

The group said it has however, began to scrutinies figures uncovered by its consultants, even as it alleged further that the padding were done to the detriments of the North.

The forum said the unexplained increase is unacceptable, adding that the increase was skewed against the north in particular and Nigeria in general.

Abdul Ningi, the Chairman of the forum, in an interview aired on the BBC Hausa Service on Saturday, said the Forum had engaged the Consultant over the past three months, to unravel the hidden figures.

The 2024 budget is the first annual budget to be implemented by the Tinubu’s administration, with an estimated provision of N28 trillion.

“For the past three months, we have engaged consultants to review the budget for us. We have some experts who are working on it line by line.

“We have seen the huge damage that was done not only to the north but to the entire country in that budget. We are supposed to sit with the Senate President to inform him about what we have observed.

“We want to show him what we have seen in the budget that is not acceptable; we will not accept them, and we don’t want the country to continue spending money on those things.

“Apart from what the National Assembly did on the floor, there was another budget that was done underground, which we didn’t know.

“The new things we have discovered in the budget were not known to us. We haven’t seen them in the budget that was debated and considered on the floor of the National Assembly.

“This is what we intend to do. We are to meet the president. We will talk to him about the Mambila power project, Ajaokuta, and the River Niger dredging. We will talk to him about the Niger Republic. Recently, they said they would construct a dam; this is not good for us.

“The action taken by ECOWAS has affected the relationship between Nigeria and Niger. There was an agreement that they would not construct a dam so that the Kainji Dam would be intact, and we would give them electricity in return.

“Over one billion US dollars was spent on Mambila, the BBC has reported. Where is that money? Who collected the money? We need to know and see what can be done. This Mambila is like the future of the North. Every part of the country has its own symbol that will save it in the future.

“One of our weaknesses in the north is that we don’t love ourselves and our region so much that we don’t care about the future. We are just living anyhow. We just love the region in our mouths, not at heart, and I am seriously worried about that.”

President Bola Tinubu, had Monday, January 1, 2024, signed into law the N28.78 trillion budget passed by the National Assembly.

The President while speaking at the signing of the appropriation bill, assured Nigerians that the implementation of the budget would be efficiently pursued and vigorously monitored, saying: “All the institutional mechanisms shall be held to account in ensuring diligent implementation.”

“All MDAs have been directed to take responsibility and provide monthly Budget Performance Reports to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, which in turn shall ensure the veracity of such. The Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy shall hold regular reviews with the Economic Management Team and, in addition, I shall chair periodic Economic Coordination Council meetings,” he said.

The top priorities of the 2024 budget are defence and internal security, job creation, macro-economic stability, improved investment environment, human capital development, poverty reduction, and social security.

The President emphasised that his commitment to enhance investment promotion while creating a rules-based society that favours no individual over the law begins with important reforms in the judiciary, the funding for which is captured in the 2024 Appropriation Act.

“Funding the judiciary is a major element in our effort to support a just, rules-based society. Statutory transfer to the judiciary has been increased from N165 billion to N342 billion,” he said.

Some of the key estimates are capital expenditure of N10 trillion, recurrent expenditure of N8.8 trillion, debt service of N8.2 trillion, and statutory transfers of N1.7 trillion.N

BusinessDay recalls that the National Assembly had passed the 2024 budget, after increasing it by a total of N1.2 trillion from N27.5 trillion, earlier presented by the President

Tinubu had on November 29, presented a proposed N27.5 trillion budget before the joint session of the National Assembly.