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Alleged budget padding: Nigerians call for probe

By Sade Adewale, Ondo, Victor Akinkuolie, Ado-Ekiti &
Michael Ofulue Osogbo

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Eminent Nigerians have called for thorough probe of budget padding allegation at the National Assembly with a view to bringing those involved to book. 

They described the trending allegations of budget padding in the country as a breach of trust between the Nigerian people and their elected leaders, even as they called on the citizens to hold their leaders accountable.

They described as unfortunate that a country like Nigeria that is facing serious social and economic challenges arising from sudden removal of subsidy can be witnessing high level of corruption among elected senators whose responsibility is to make laws for good governance.

Few weeks ago Senator Abdul Ningi, representing Bauchi Central, alleged that the National Assembly padded the 2024 N28.7 trillion budget as against N25 trillion approved by the National Assembly.

The allegation has continued to generate serious controversy, even as Senator Ningi has recanted his allegation and suspended by the Senate for three months over his wild burst.

An economist and former lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile- life, Prof. Olumide Ayandola, who explained that the legislature has the power to either increase or decrease the expenditure, depending on what they consider expedient and subject to availability of funds, however, said it becomes a crime when the increased expenditure is tied to fake or non-existent projects as currently being alleged by a serving Senator in the National Assembly.

Ayandola noted that it is still the legislature that should be responsible for budget scrutiny and approval to allow for checks and balances.

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He added that if there is any shady deal in the course of scrutinizing the budget, the office of the Auditor -General is there to do its job.

 A retired banker and political analyst, Elder Ayo Arogundade, described the alleged separate budget containing over N3 trillion, which differs from what was passed by the National Assembly, as a breach of trust between the Nigerian people and their elected leaders.

He called on the administration of President Bola Tinubu and the leaderships of the National Assembly to explain to Nigerians the purpose and process of adding the alleged N3 trillion allocation to the officially approved national budget for 2024.

Similarly, a senior lecturer from Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) Dr Wole Balogun, blamed the trend on the lawmakers, especially the Senate, saying that the trend is becoming a recurrent decimal, which must be addressed.

He noted that Nigerian people deserve full accountability for all the scarce resources placed in public trust.

Balogun questioned why such discrepancies should exist annually in the first place, stating that the presidency should investigate the alleged padding and bring the perpetrators to book.

“This is a shameful matter, it is a recurrent decimal, during the last administration of former President Mohammadu Buhari, almost all ministries engaged in the alleged budget padding. Look at it now again, over N3 trillion discrepancy between the budget approved by the Nigerian Senate and the one being implemented by the presidency.

“This alleged discrepancy is especially worrying and annoying, because it represents over 10% of our national budget, which is estimated at N29 trillion, and is more than the combined education (N1.54 trillion) and health (N1.38 trillion) official budgets.

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“This lack of transparency in managing public funds in this present administration under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, is a breach of trust between the Nigerian people and their elected representatives including the political appointee”, he stated,

He explained that Nigerians deserve what he called accountability in managing the resources, noting that any person appointed into public office deserve public trust.

The don stressed that Nigerians demand a public explanation from both the National Assembly and the Presidency, regarding the purpose and process of adding the alleged N3 trillion to the officially approved national budget.

Also, a political scientist and public relations consultant, Dr Ayodele Adeyemo (JP), who observed that similar allegations had been made in the past but later swept under the carpet, wondered why the situation is becoming very rampant.

“It is demeaning to our political and financial systems. it makes budget preparations mere ceremonial exercise that lacks credibility.  As long as it is the constitutional role of the National Assembly to vet and pass the budget, i don’t think there can be a water tight system. The honourable members should just live to the status ascribed to them.

“The best way to put an end to the menace is to prosecute those that may be found culpable, punish them appropriately when found guilty. 

It is unfortunate that Nigeria is experiencing such negative thing”, Adeyemo noted.

Also speaking, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Redeemer’s University, Ede, in Osun State Mr Kris  Obieje, said it is unfortunate that a country like Nigeria that is facing economic challenges arising from sudden removal of subsidy can be witnessing high level of corruption among elected senators whose responsibility is make Laws that can speedily address the many challenges facing the country at the moment.

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His words, “how the Nigerian political system is manipulated at the very top is what I will describe as “paddy, paddy thievocracy. Now that Senator Ningi has been slammed with a 3-month suspension from the Senate, what’s next? Don’t forget that Ningi’s advocacy for transparency in our national budgetary process could even be obfuscating.

“Did he open the can of worms at the Senate because he, as an opposition senator was cut out of the largesse? Or was his fight a legitimate nationalist struggle for good governance?

“Don’t also forget that Senator Jarigbe, Cross River North also alluded to the fact that Senate members equally cornered constituency projects running to ₦500m. This thievery by the political elite has been a recurrent phenomenon in our polity and there seems to be nothing that would change that anytime soon.

“Who will even institute the change? The same characters! Until the leaders saddled with the responsibility of minding our affairs realise that public office should be held in trust for the benefit of society, they can’t be any change in the nearest future.

While saying suspension of Senator Ningi was not the best way to go, the university lecturer hinted that until our political office holders being trusted with positions are held accountable, the quest to check corrupt practices will be an unrealistic dream.

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