Budget Padding: COPDEM Demand Tinubu’s Immediate Action

Coalition for the Protection of Democracy (COPDEM) in conjunction with Transform Nigeria Citizens Initiative (TNCI) have asked President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to come clean on the allegation of budget padding levelled by 48-member Northern Senators’ Forum, chaired by Senator Abdul Ningi.

The Senators last week accused the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, of inserting projects worth over N3 trillion in the 2024 budget, whereas the said projects were all to be sited at unknown locations.

Senator Ningi, had in a BBC Hausa interview, alleged that the budget version in operation is different from what the lawmakers passed in December 2023, revealing that senators had engaged a consultant to investigate the padding of the budget, saying that a N25 trillion budget was debated and passed by the National Assembly, not N28.7 trillion currently being implemented.

In a statement signed by Prince Rwang Pam Jnr., COPDEM said the 3 trillion padding is not only criminal but also a dangerous dimension to the looting of our common patrimony.

“The President’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, inadvertently admitted that there was a budget padding to the tune of over N1 trillion when he claimed that President Tinubu presented N27.5 trillion budget to the National Assembly but N28.7 trillion was passed; and this proves that there is merit in the allegation as what was passed was not what was presented to the National Assembly”, the COPDEM Spokesman stated.

COPDEM therefore demanded the immediate resignation of the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio and immediate probe by the Presidency.

COPDEM Noted that the President of the Senate is facing countless corruption allegations starting from his days as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State till date.

“Senator Akpabio is facing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged diversion of the sum of N700 billion while he held sway as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

“An audit report of Akwa Ibom State treasury between 2011 and 2015 accused Akpabio of financial infractions amounting to over N1 trillion naira while serving as governor.

“The President of the Senate was also accused of looting over N200 billion of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) funds hanging over his head as a minister.

“There is also the 2015 alleged theft of approximately N108 billion during Akpabio’s tenure as governor of Akwa Ibom State.

“Also, in May 2020, Akpabio was investigated by the National Assembly for the misappropriation of N40 billion from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) funds.

“Joy Nunieh, a former acting managing director of NDDC, also accused Akpabio of attempting to silence her by demanding that she take an oath to prevent her from exposing fraud at the commission.

“The said Nunieh also accused the now President of the Senate of sexual harassment and she claimed to have slapped him (Akpabio) at his guest house in Abuja.

“Just before he became the President of the Senate, in March 2023, the EFCC invited Akpabio for questioning regarding allegations of abuse of office and misappropriation of funds but Akpabio’s lawyer cited a scheduled medical appointment overseas as the reason for his client’s inability to attend the invitation. This is how Senator Akpabio have been manipulating and escaping legal processes.”

“We therefore urge President Bola Tinubu to stand on his feet and end the era of budget padding in the country by prevailing on Senator Akpabio to leave office for proper investigation”, COPDEM concluded.