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National Assembly: Ningi’s suspension a hasty overkill

A most critical function of a legislature is to provide thought leadership to its constituency over which it exercises statutory jurisdiction and which for the National…

A most critical function of a legislature is to provide thought leadership to its constituency over which it exercises statutory jurisdiction and which for the National Assembly, is the entire Nigerian nation. That is why the expectations by the Nigeria public on the National Assembly along with the proclivities of the institution, are usually and rightly considered from the position of high moral ground. The ordinary Nigerian may not be the best moral being. But when it comes to appraising the National Assembly, he or she deservedly expects the best standards of rectitude from the National Assembly, and indeed from every member of the political class.

It is against such consideration that the recent turbulence in the Senate over a budget padding scandal and the eventual penalty of three months suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi from the activities of the Senate, stands as a matter that requires the maximum dose of discretion. Put succinctly, the entire brouhaha demands a more robust management, while the suspension of the Senator qualifies, as a hasty overkill. This is just as the Red Chamber needs to revisit the issue with dispatch, even if it is for the purpose of fostering damage control.

As the issue is currently trending in the public domain, Senator Abdul who represents Bauchi Central Senatorial District, had raised a query over the disproportionate allocation of constituency projects among the 109 Senatorial districts across the country, and had reportedly delivered his reservations last week, during an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In his query he claimed to have established discrepancies in the 2024 Budget whereby as much as N3 trillion of the N28 trillion 2024 budget, comprise entries of questionable status. According to Ningi, “we had a budget of N28 trillion, but after our thorough checks we found that it was a budget of N25 trillion. How and where did we get the additional N3 trillion from, what are we spending it for?”

In the course of the brouhaha, various submissions have been made in support as well as otherwise, of the allegation by Ningi. So also have reactions trailed the crisis, and given it an extended life as the matter is such that will not go away in a hurry, just as it will leave indelible pock marks on the integrity of the hallowed Red Chamber.

For instance, a pointer to the future of the matter is the complement of reactions to it including the plans by the SERAP and other activist platforms, to engage the courts over it, just as well is that th man at the centre of the storm, Senator Abdul Ningi himself is unrelenting in his advocacy for a revisit of the issue, in spite of the suspension on his neck.

However, beyond the foregoing lie some dimensions of the matter which qualify for attention. One of these is the issue of management of information in and about the institution which statutorily is designated for professional delivery by the National Assembly bureaucracy, through its surfeit of professionals. In appreciation of the imperative of effective information management as constituting the heartbeat of the enterprise of the legislature, the institution remains statutorily endowed with a functional information management and research component, which would have guided public take on a matter as is trending presently by providing clarification as would be  necessary. Rather what is operating is a miscarriage of statutory processes of the institution whereby all that the long suffering Nigerian public is hearing are the claims and counter claims by elements of the political class—each of whom represents one parochial interest or the other.

Second is that like any legislator, Senator Abdul Ningi’s primary responsibility is to the constituency that elected him which is Bauchi Central Senatorial Constituency, and not the Senate as is being mis-construed. Hence his enterprise as far as this budget brouhaha is concerned falls within his duty to his constituency. The fact that other Senators equally saw anomalies with the system and decided to be complacent, should not be the standard to judge Abdul Ningi.

Third is that the the enterprise of the legislature is more for the good of the nation, that the parochial interests of any subset of Nigerians, even if such constitute a particular Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as the nation’s interests supersedes those of any sub-group. That makes the quety by Ningi on the budget 2024, a matter that requires more than casual treatment. Given that the budget is a primary fiscal instrument for the entire country, any aspect of it that suffers a deficit of appreciation by any person in the country including Senator Abdul Ningi deserved clarification and and buy in.

It is for these reasons and others, that many Nigerians are ill at ease with the enterprise of casting Senator Abdul Ningi action in the ignoble robe of a sacrilege, rather than a call for a welcome review of the 2024 budget. And the Senate needs to address its self to this concern of the generality of Nigerians, over the rather weighty allegations by the ranking Senator Abdul Ningi. To do otherwise is to continue in the non-edifying trajectory of moving from one scandal to the other, and suffering from the progressive damage to its credibility.

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