N3.7trn budget padding controversy: NASS faces fresh integrity crisis

N3.7trn budget padding controversy: NASS faces fresh integrity crisis

The Senate, on Tuesday, witnessed a rowdy session as it debated over claims of budget padding raised by Senator Senator Abdul Ningi.

Nigeria’s National Assembly, especially the upper house, the Senate, has become synonymous with controversy.

Since the return of democratic dispensation from military rule in 1999, the nation’s legislative arm has always been in the news for one wrong reason or the other.

The narrative surrounding the 10th National Assembly remains consistent, with recent allegations of padding in the 2024 National Appropriation Act amounting to N3.7 trillion. Despite denials from both the presidency and the legislative branch, these claims have shed light on opaque financial allocations within the National Assembly, raising concerns about its transparency.

Senator Jarigbe, representing Cross River North senatorial district, disclosed on the Senate floor that some Senators allegedly received N500 million each from the 2024 budget. This revelation followed earlier allegations by Senator Ningi of Bauchi Central, accusing the budget of being padded.

During the ensuing controversy, Senator Jarigbe criticized Senator Ningi’s claims, highlighting discrepancies in budget allocations among different senatorial districts. He questioned the transparency of the Senate President’s pay and the budgetary provisions for senators’ cars and aides.

These revelations have fueled calls to reduce the NASS budget, with many Nigerians questioning the lawmakers’ performance relative to their compensation. Past controversies, including the swift approval of N70 billion for lawmakers’ working conditions shortly after the 2022 supplementary budget, have further exacerbated public skepticism.

Moreover, the procurement of brand new SUVs for lawmakers amid economic hardships has drawn criticism for its perceived insensitivity. Even the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, inadvertently admitted to funds being disbursed to senators for their enjoyment during recess, adding to public outcry.

Budget padding controversies are not new, with past administrations also facing similar challenges. Former President Buhari expressed concerns about budget padding and unauthorized budget adjustments by certain National Assembly committees.

Recent debates within the Senate have seen senators trading accusations, with Senator Ningi’s claims prompting a heated exchange during a plenary session. Senator Opeyemi Bamidele denounced the allegations as an attempt to destabilize the Senate leadership, particularly targeting the southern Senatorial President.

While Senator Ningi’s claims about the lack of detailed project allocations in the 2024 Appropriation Act were acknowledged by some, others emphasized the need for transparency in budgetary processes. However, dissenting voices like Senator Ningi’s often face isolation within the Senate, highlighting systemic challenges in addressing corruption and malpractice.

Public commentators have called for institutional reforms to protect whistleblowers like Senator Ningi and ensure accountability within the government. They argue that without effective mechanisms to address budgetary discrepancies and punish offenders, corruption will continue to undermine the integrity of Nigeria’s democratic institutions.


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