3 Senators disagree with Senator Ningi over alleged N4trn budget padding

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By Okechukwu Jombo

Three Senators namely 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 of those involved.

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 Shehu from Borno State, on behalf of the Northern Senators’ Forum, said they cannot 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, shedding 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.

Dismissing the allegation of padding as a ruse, they said while the executive brought a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion, the Senate passed a budget of N28.77 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 dignity.