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In open letter to Tinubu, PRP renews call for forensic audit of 2024 budget, Sen Ningi’s suspension



The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), has renewed its earlier call for the Federal Government to conduct a forensic audit of the controversial 2024 budget that has been enmeshed in a padding scandal that saw the figure raised from N25 trillion to N28 trillion, with an addition of N3.7 trillion.

In an open letter addressed to President Bola Tinubu on Monday by the party’s Acting National Publicity Secretary, Muhammed Ishaq, the PRP also demanded a review of the suspension of Sen. Abdul Ningi by the Senate for blowing the whistle on the alleged budget padding.

In its earlier press release, the PRP had opined that if the budget padding was true, it “represented gross misconduct and a blatant disregard for the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility that our great nation deserves especially at these trying times.”

The party had also called on the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional responsibilities by thoroughly scrutinizing the budget.

“As a party committed to the progress and welfare of all Nigerian citizens, we are deeply concerned about the potential negative impact of such an act on our economy, developmental goals, and the overall well-being of our people.

“We strongly believe that parliament must stand up to its statutory and constitutional responsibility of factual appropriation and funding by the provisions of the budget office and that public funds must be utilized judiciously and for the sole purpose of advancing the interests of the citizens.

“Consequent upon this, the PRP calls on the relevant authorities to immediately investigate these allegations and bring all those culpable or guilty of such malfeasance to book. We also urge the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional responsibilities by thoroughly scrutinizing the budget to ensure that it aligns with the best interests of the nation.”

However, in the letter to Tinubu, the PRP said an urgent forensic audit of the 2024 budget is required as well as a reform the budgetary process as well as a review of Ningi’s suspension.

The letter reads:
“Since the release of our (PRP) press statement dated 10th March, on the alleged padding of the 2024 budget, a lot of water has passed under the Nigerian political bridge. Some of these include (but are not limited to) the following:

“A response from the Presidency admitting that there was indeed some tinkering with the 2024 Budget by the National Assembly to the tune of N1.2 trillion as against the N3.7 alleged by Senator Ningi

“b. Senator Jarigbe Agom representing Cross River North in the Senate in a viral clip, admitted that the National Assembly added N500 million for Senior Senators, whilst he got nothing, subsequent to which he clarified that the monies put in the 2024 Budget for Senior Senators were for Constituency Projects;

“c. Senator Solomon Lekan Adeola AKA Yayi of Ogun West explaining the alleged N3.7 trillion addition in another clip that has gone viral, said that the sum represented budgetary provisions for the Judiciary, INEC, the National Assembly, UBEC and Government owned enterprise who got N3.7 trillion in block sums without detail and commenting further, Senator Yayi said that such block allocations have been the practice in previous budgets; and,

“d. BudgIT, a foremost civic organization that x-rayed the 2024 Budget, has shown that there were indeed insertions in the 2024 Budget of 7,477 projects with Constituency projects unfairly distributed with the Constituency of the Senate President of 10 Local Governments getting N90 billion financing projects such as boreholes at N193 million apiece, and streetlights at N184 million apiece.

“e. The Guardian News in its news report whilst quoting Economic Confidential said that the National Assembly (NASS) approved N6.6 trillion unknown projects which it so called because the projects had no geographical, identifiers.

“The expositions of Senator Jarigbe, Senator Yayi, Budgets and Guardian Newspaper have shown to Nigerians that the Nigerian Budgetary System at least in the last 4 years have been riddled with:

1. Budget Padding by the National Assembly;

2. Allocations in the National Budget to such establishments as the Judiciary are made emblock without details;

READ ALSO:Sen Ningi resigns as Northern Senators forum chairman

3. Substantial additions of both projects and monies have been made at least in 2024 Budget for Constituency Projects,

4. The National Assembly has failed the Nation by not scrutinizing the budget proposals of the executive but just rubber stamp what is sent to them and add to such provisions the Constituency project of select few.

Scrutiny of the 2024 budget has unfortunately shown these allocations to the National Assembly totaling N43.3 billion made by the executive and passed by NASS:

I. N3bn for NASS printing press

II. N12.1bn NASS library complex

III. N3bn for Purchase of books for the library 4. e library N225m

IV. Car Park for senators N3bn

V. N3bn Car Park for HRP

VI. N4bn for NASS recreation club

VII. N15bn for Building of new hosp for NASS.

“At a time when over 100m Nigerians are facing hunger and disease, in a country where over 70m children are out of school, in a society where citizen provide almost everything for their needs, in an environment where social safety nets are unavailable etc, above allocations by the Executive and passed by the National Assembly are putting it mildly wrong and rightly insensitive, insultive and shameful.

“Turning to amendments of budgetary provisions proposed by the Executive to the NASS, we in the PRP agree that the NASS has the Constitutional right to add or subtract from the budget proposals submitted to it by the Executive and this has got the affirmation of the Supreme Court of Nigeria but this power we submit does not entitle the NASS to allot billions and hundreds of millions to opaque constituency projects that Senator Agom Jaribe brought out in the course of the budget debate. Allocations for Constituency projects as we have seen is not driven by needs nor population and most certainly not transparently decided but hinged on considerations that lead to unfairness and corruption.

“These underscore the need for reform of the budgetary system.

“In the light of aforesaid revelations on 2024 budget and budgetary system at least in the last four years, we of the PRP strongly recommend:

1. Forensic Audit: We call for an immediate, independent, and comprehensive forensic audit of the 2024 Budget process to uncover any instances of corruption, misappropriation, or mismanagement and unfairness between constituencies.

This audit should be conducted by a reputable and neutral third-party organization, with the findings made public to promote transparency and accountability.

2. Budgetary Reform: The PRP advocates for a complete overhaul of the Nigerian budgetary system.

This should include the implementation of strict guidelines to prevent undue influence on budgetary allocations, the establishment of a centralized database for tracking all budgetary processes, and the introduction of stringent penalties for any violation of these guidelines.

3. Constituency Projects: We strongly call for stoppage of constituency projects as we have seen that it is prone to abuse, corruption and unfairness on how constituencies in the federation are being treated; and,

4. Strengthening Institutional Capacity: All legislatures at sub national and national levels should be thoroughly trained on budgetary system which is to henceforth be driven by needs, fairness and budget implementation from the point of signing the budget into law should be open and each constituency should know as of right their projects and the contractor to executive same.

“On Whistle Blowing, we find the action of the Senate President and the entire Senate not only morally wrong but legally offensive.

“Senate President Akpabio who was accused by Senator Ningi of wrongdoing sat as a judge and a witness in the proceedings that culminated into the suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi.

“Akpabio presided over the proceedings in which Ningi was tried, convicted and sentenced. You cannot be a judge in your own cause and Ningi has full protection of chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of Nigerian as Amended particularly sections 36(1) and 39(1) of the Constitution and he should be given fair hearing and instantly be recalled.

“In conclusion, we would say to Mr. President that, yes, we have heard you said that there was no padding of the 2024 budget and those alleging padding did not understand arithmetic.

“Sir the issues wrong with the 2024 budget as we have seen are more than padding. There were unfair and unjust constituency projects allocations.

“There were absence of details on the budgetary provision of up to N3.7 trillion with no known control of the budget expenses; and; there were corrupt budget estimates such as costing of borehole at N193 million and N184million per street light.

“In our view you can begin the corruption fight of your administration by dealing with all the wrongs identified in the budget and correcting them. Nigerians are watching.”

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