NINIGI AND THE PROBLEM WITH THE SENATE

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Last Tuesday, Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), immediate past Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, bagged a three months suspension for allegedly discrediting the integrity of the Senate and the National Assembly for alleging discrepancies up to the tune of N3.7trillion in the 2024 budget. This was on the heel of the debate of the motion on breach of privilege moved by Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC Ogun West) against Senator Ningi over the later’s interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (Hausa Services).

In the said controversial interview, Ningi was quoted as alleging that, the Federal Government is operating two versions of the 2024 budget, which is, the N25 trillion budget claimed to have been passed by NASS which is tied to projects, then the N28.7trillion budget passed and signed into law by President Bola Tinubu. The insinuation is that N3.7trillion had no project tied to it. He also alleged that the budget did not favour the North as much as it favours the South.

When given the opportunity to explain himself, Ningi said that he maintained his stance as transcribed from Hausa to English language which he held out for colleagues to hold. He also queried why he did not know how many aides are attached to the Senate President Godswill Akpabio. After the suspension, Ningi resigned as the Chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum.

However, Adeola who came under orders 9, 10, 41, and 51 to move a motion of privilege and issue of national importance against Ningi clarified that the difference of N3.7trn came under the Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs) and the first line charge and cited previous budgets as examples.

Ningi’s allegation sparked off series of allegations. For instance, Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe (PDP, Cross-River North) alleged that ranking senators got N500m each but he did not get. In fact, a senator was heard saying “Let us wash our dirty linen in public”

One of the biggest problems with our law makers, judging from the rumble in this particular Senate, is the fact that, there is a discrepancy – if not discrimination – in administering benefits to members, allocation of constituency budgets, among others.

There is also lack of effective and structured internal and external communication system. It is so embarrassing that, Senators are relying on rumours and eavesdropping among themselves to get proper information on legislative issues that pertain to their primary assignment.

Still talking about primary assignment, it is shameful for ranking Senators to be arguing and exposing the institution and the members to public ridicule on what they are supposed to know. Did Ningi not participate in the debate on the budget? Why then would a Senator pay N30million to a consultant on such a matter? Is a Senator of the Federal Republic not supposed to have a thorough and sound knowledge on the general principles of appropriation and as they apply to GOEs? Even after other Senators ha privately cautioned him about his miscalculation, Ningi still went ahead with his argument to the press.

Why would a Senator like Ningi who had earned respect among equals in the Red Chamber go alone on such a misadventure using the Northern Senators Forum as platform but he would not carry them along? How did he feel when his Northern colleagues openly denied him? That is why he gave Senator Opeyemi Bamidele the opportunity to turn the tide against him.

The Senate needs to reposition itself as an institution made up of experienced representatives. They have to demonstrate beyond the gallery that they are patriotic leaders. The noise of corruption is persistently very loud. Akpabio needs to recreate the Senate with a better public perception.