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Budget padding and Akpabio’s anti-North agenda

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio’s summary condemnation of Senator Abdul Ningi who represents the Bauchi Central over his bombshell on the alleged padding of the…

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio’s summary condemnation of Senator Abdul Ningi who represents the Bauchi Central over his bombshell on the alleged padding of the 2024 budget continues to generate reactions.

There have been loud calls for the reinstatement of the ranking senator.

It is pertinent to analyse Akpabio’s and the southern element’s fear of an Arewa push back.

Unfortunately for the leadership of the 10th Senate, Nigerians have since seen through their ruse as the desperation behind the suspension of Ningi becomes apparent.

Of course, Akpabio is not a stranger to controversy. From his time as governor, through the period he served as the CEO of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC), down to even the process that landed him the APC senatorial ticket and even the eventual election; his emergence as Senate president and his many gaffes since assuming the revered position of number three seat, the man has been at the centre of many controversies.

Besides Senators Opeyemi and Adaramodu who made bare their insecurities in an attempt to trivialise a very important national issue, by reducing Ningi’s budget padding allegations into a South versus North impasse, many Nigerians who now know the truth are beginning to join Ningi to ask critical questions.

When the dust finally settles on this 2024 budget padding imbroglio, the biggest losers would have been the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) formerly led by Ningi, but now chaired by Senator Yar’adua in whom Senator Ningi confided.

The NSF senate bloc it will appear played Ningi into a cul-de-sac and abandoned him when he needed them the most; when the entire Arewa needed them the most. It is still left to be seen whether they will join Akpabio to relish his trending limelight of infamy, specifically how they will fare when Ningi is restored to the senate as surely he would.

The Senate president is enjoying something of a late life crisis. The verdict is out on him. BudgIT and Premium Times have exposed him over the padding, perhaps in even more detail than Ningi’s consultant would have managed.

Through Ningi’s whistleblowing, Nigerians are now aware of how Akpabio allegedly settled himself with fictitious projects worth over N21 Billion, howbeit, cocooned into, and sometimes reduplicated in the budgets of several agencies.

According to Premium Times, Akpabio’s take home of alleged illicit funds may rack up to N50 billion naira which is consistent with Ningi’s submission. A rough analysis of the entire funds allocated to all the senatorial districts of the North shows that Akpabio alone is at par with the entire region. Yet, that is not even the real problem. Would the so-called projects loaded by Akpabio ever be executed? This question becomes even more pertinent following Premium Times report that much of the projects in Akpabio’s constituency have no address!

This was what erstwhile President, Muhammadu Buhari complained bitterly about before signing the 2022 budget into law.

Buhari had maintained that the provisions he made for as many as 10,733 projects were reduced while 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly.

He maintained that the cuts in the provisions for several of these projects by the National Assembly may render them unimplementable or set back their completion, especially some of his administration’s strategic capital projects.

Buhari insisted that most of the projects inserted relate to matters that were basically the responsibilities of States and Local Governments and did not appear to have been properly conceptualized, designed, and cost.

He lamented that many more projects had been added to the budgets of some MDAs with no consideration for the institutional capacity to execute the additional projects and/or for the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.

The former president is still very much alive, and it would be interesting to hear what he will say on the matter at hand. Unfortunately, the sitting president has not deemed it fit to speak to the controversies and as we say in public communication there are times when silence is not golden.

President Tinubu’s silence is already considered an admission of wrong by many Nigerians but who will blame them? If the best that can come from the president’s team is a rehash of the “error of arithmetic” explanation first offered by Senator Adaramodu, then a lot is sincerely left to be desired.

Whether the president is baiting Akpabio whose diarrhea of the mouth is becoming legendary is still left to be seen. One thing, though, is certain; Akpabio has played himself into the black book of history. Nigerians have seen him for who he is, and the people of the North now consider him not just an enemy of the entire region, but an enemy of Nigeria.

He, alongside the NSF senators who have forsaken Ningi at the precise hour when they should have stood up to be counted, have started reaping the harvest of their duplicity.

One good thing with Nigeria is that no matter how highly placed you are, the country will find a way of unravelling you and Akpabio is sitting pretty among the list of infamous Nigerians of this year whose other side has been exposed by a strong wind.

Ningi is the sacrificial lamb on whose conscience Nigeria’s budgeting fraud may well be unravelled for the now and the future. Whatever happens, Nigerians would never trust senators like Akpabio with the nation’s budget again. I reckon there will be more scrutiny going forward and even for that alone, Ningi deserves his flowers.

Abdullahi wrote from Abuja


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