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CISLAC describes Ningi’s suspension as attack on freedom of expression

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria (TI-Nigeria) has expressed worry over the “undemocratic action and questionable decision” by leadership of the…

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria (TI-Nigeria) has expressed worry over the “undemocratic action and questionable decision” by leadership of the Senate to suspend Senator Abdul Ningi over the 2024 budget padding controversy.

Daily Trust reports that the embattled Senator was slammed wit three months suspension on Tuesday over his allegation of N3trn budget padding in the N28.7trn 2024 Appropriation Act.

In a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, Executive Director of CISLAC/TI-Nigeria, Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said it was unacceptable that the suspension was initiated against Ningi for expressing his constitutionally guaranteed concerns and observations on 2024 budget at this critical moment when the nation is deeply soaked in socio-economic and financial crisis.

“We recognise and affirm that freedom of expression and opinion remains sacrosanct to preserve the democratic culture, values and principles in Nigeria. We without hesitation, uphold our position that freedom of opinion and expression is a constitutional and legally-backed right under Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria; Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Article 19 (2) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; hence, the sanity and sanctity of these provisions must be strictly adhered, demonstrated and protected by a civic institution such as National Assembly.

“Anything outside these provisions is tantamount to deliberate violation of human right and apparent disregard to the rule of law.

“We must reiterate that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a supreme law of the country gives zero provision or power to the Senate to suspend a Member of the National Assembly.
“Such provisions are only found in the Ethics and Privileges Committee laws, which is answerable to the plenary through the Senate President. On this note, the Committee laws cannot override the Constitution, most especially in a matter of freedom of expression which is a fundamental right,” Rafsanjani said.

He said unjust suspension of a Senator who represents an entire Senatorial district is similar to public demonstration of unguarded culture of silencing, insensitivity, disrespect and marginalisation of the people and dictatorship.

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