Karimi, Zam, Sheu Blast Ningi Over Alleged Budget Padding

By Chris Udochukwu

Three senators – Steve Sunday Karimi, Titus Tartenger Zam and Kaka Sheu – yesterday said the allegation of budget padding against Senate President Godswill Akpabio by some senators was unfounded, baseless and a figment of imagination.

They warned against what they described as the antics of blackmailers bent on creating an atmosphere of crisis in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

Karimi, Zam and Sheu, speaking on behalf of the Northern Senators’ Forum, also said no room should be allowed for division and acrimony between senators from the North and South by those who may not want to accord priority to national unity and harmony.

In their statement, Karimi, who is from Kogi State, Zam from Benue State and Sheu from Borno State, on behalf of the Northern Senators’ Forum, said they can not be used to blackmail the budget process, which was done in good faith.

At a meeting last week,some northern senators accused the Senate President of inserting projects worth N4 trillion in the 2024 budget.

They alleged that the projects, which had no locations, were inserted into the budget, which they also claimed was lopsided against the North and some parts of the South.

The northern senators also accused Akpabio of railroading the senators to hurriedly pass the budget, adding that it favoured Akpabio and his cronies.

However, sheding light on what transpired at the meeting, Karimi, Zam and Sheu said it was only resolved that the report of the consultant engaged by the Northern Senators Forum be subjected to further scrutiny, as the entire appropriation process was a combination of work, from the executive, actively represented by the minister of budget and national planning and other ministers, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation and the Senate Committees on Appropriation.

Dismisssing the allegation of padding as a ruse, they said while the executive brought a budget proposal of 27.5 trillion, the Senate passed a budget of 28.77 trillion.

They queried: “The difference was N1.27 trillion, coming from all three arms of government. Where is the additional so-called padding of three trillion coming from? It was resolved that the Northern Senators’ consultant report be looked into by essential committees of the Senate and House of Representatives before jumping to a conclusion.”

Karimi, Zam and Sheu urged the Northern Senators Caucus Leader, Abdul Ningi, to “rein in those who think a crisis-ridden Senate would better profit them.”

Noting that the North has provided leadership in Nigeria and enjoyed the support of other regions seamlessly, the representatives of the North should not appear to act as instruments of destabilisation now that power has shifted to the South.

In their view, the North can agitate for a fair share of the national pie, but within the ambits of decency, decorum and diginity.

They added: “Senator Ningi has not given a correct information. He is yet to even give the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives a copy of what he claims to have discovered in the 2024 Appropriation Act before levelling allegations of budget padding against the President, the Senate President and the Senate.

“President Tinubu presented a budget estimates of over N27 trillion on 28th November to the National Assembly, which passed a budget of over N28 trlllion ; which became an Act of Parliament on 1st January 2024.

“Where did Sen Ningi get his Appropriation Act of N25 trillion?What about the extra requests that chairmen of appropriation committees of both chambers claimed came from the Executive after submission of the initial over N27 trillion proposals by Mr President?

“So, how did Sen Ningi’ s budget analyst get the N3trillion budget padding allegations? Must we attempt to give a dog a bad name to hang it? Are APC members of Northern Senators Forum that PDP Senator Ningi claims to lead oblivious of the anti-Tinubu/Akpabio undertones. The National Assembly should not be denigrated.”

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