Budget Padding: Senate bows, set to recall Ningi from three-month suspension


The Senate President Godswill Akpabio has announced that the Nigerian Senate is set to recall Senator Abdul Ningi from his three-month suspension.

Akpabio spoke while answering questions from reporters on arrival from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The decision of the upper chamber of the National Assembly to recall Ningi is likely unconnected with a letter by the lawmaker threatening to sue the Senate and report Akpabio to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for misconduct.

Akpabio said that the Senate would soon review the three-month suspension it slammed on Ningi for claiming that the 2024 budget was allegedly padded with the sum of N3.7trillion.

He said the matter would be resolved like a family affair and hopefully Ningi would return to take his seat earlier than expected.

His words: “It is a parliamentary decision. I have not seen the letter yet. But Senator Ningi is one of us. I mean what is suspension?

“I believe that in a few days he will join us. So, there is no problem. It would be resolved amicably. The Senate is a family.”

Early this month, Ningi sparked controversy when he alleged that the 2024 budget was padded by N3 trillion and that the country is operating two budgets concurrently.

Subsequently, the senate debated the matter at the “committee of the whole”.

The senator was thereafter suspended for three months for allegedly not providing evidence to back his allegations.

Godswill Akpabio, senate president, had said many Nigerians would no longer trust the upper legislative chamber because of the allegation.

“Nigerians are bashing the senate. Many Nigerians will never in future come back to respect this chamber. The integrity of this chamber has been totally damaged and we wanted you to repair it with your speech,” Akpabio told Ningi.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the Senate, Ningi authorized his lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN to write the red chamber for his reinstatement.

In a letter dated March 27 and addressed to Akpabio through Femi Falana, SAN, his counsel, the senator said he would approach a Federal High Court for his reinstatement if the suspension is not lifted within seven days.

In the letter, Ningi said his suspension is “unconstitutional and illegal”.

The senator’s lawyer said even though Akpabio was indicted in the budget padding allegation, he presided over the proceedings of the senate that suspended Ningi.

“It is on record that you were the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in your own case in utter violation of the provisions of section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,” the letter reads.

“Apart from violating our client’s fundamental right to a fair hearing, the Senate violated the right of the entire people of the Bauchi Central Senatorial District to representation in the Senate for three months.

“This is a breach of section 111 of the Constitution and article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act.

“As you are no doubt aware, the Federal High Court had struck down the suspension of some members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who had accused the leadership of both houses of corruption or abuse of office.

“Specifically, the court declared the suspension of the affected legislators illegal and unconstitutional.

“As a senior lawyer, you ought to have drawn the attention of the members of the Senate to these decisions and several others where the high courts of some states and the Court of Appeal have held that no parliament in Nigeria has the power to suspend or expel a legislator.

“In view of the foregoing, you will agree with us that the suspension of Senator Ningi and the denial of his entitlements are illegal and unconstitutional in every material particular.

“We are compelled to request you to ensure that the said suspension is lifted forthwith.

“However, if you fail to accede to our request within seven days of the receipt of this letter, we shall not hesitate to pray the Federal High Court for the reinstatement of our client.

“We shall equally report you to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for treating the judgments of the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal with disdain.”

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