No Detail for N3.7trn Allocation, As BudgIt Affirms Sen Ningi’s Budget Padding Allegations

Debate has reignited around transparency of the 2024 Appropriation Act after Senator Abdul Ningi’s claims of a missing N3.7 trillion was backed by a civil society group, BudgIT.

Ningi’s Allegations:

During a recent Senate session, Senator Ningi (Bauchi Central) raised concerns about the lack of detailed project breakdowns for a significant portion of the N28.78 trillion budget. He specifically highlighted an absence of granular information regarding N3.7 trillion, sparking accusations of “budget padding” from some quarters.

BudgIt Weighs In:

Seun Onigbinde, co-founder of the advocacy group BudgIT, appeared on Channels Television’s “Politics Today” program. While he disputed Ningi’s claim of a “parallel budget,” he acknowledged the lack of transparency in specific allocations.

“There should be a detailed breakdown of the budget,” Onigbinde stated. “On that point, Senator Ningi is right. But to say that we are running two parallel budgets, I don’t think that’s factual.”

Onigbinde further said as the rowdy session by Senate was ongoing, the Budgit team fact-checked claims by Ningi.

He said, “As the Senate rowdy session was going on, we were also fact-checking and one of the things we found out is that we were not able to lay hold to the claim by Senator Ningi. A budget of N28.7trn was passed into law and we were not able to see where N3.7trn (was missing).

“Historically, there are items in the budget that don’t have breakdown like statutory transfers but that does not mean there is a certain level of capital projects by the Federal Government that was appropriated and does not have a breakdown.”

Breaking Down the Numbers:

Onigbinde elaborated, explaining that the National Assembly often provides a very broad summary of allocations for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and government-owned enterprises (GOEs) This lack of granular detail makes it difficult to understand exactly how the funds are being distributed and for what specific projects.

“The budget we have now have the ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) and the government-owned enterprise budget,” Onigbinde stated.

“Around N2trn of the budget presented by the President is the government-owned enterprises budget. So, if Senator Ningi says there is a N25trn budget, yes, that is the MDA’s budget. It’s different from the government-owned enterprises budget whose budget was now added.

“In the current budget, the National Assembly gave a very broad summary of its allocations but there are no detailed allocations on a granular level that everybody can understand.

“These are transparent issues and if you put all these together, that is around N3.5trn to N3.7trn. So, if that is what he (Ningi) wants to interrogate, that there are component of the budget where there are no breakdown, that is very factual.”

Transparency Concerns:

Onigbinde’s comments highlight a persistent issue in Nigeria’s budgetary process. Civil society organizations and citizens alike have long advocated for increased transparency in government spending. A lack of clear and detailed breakdowns can hinder public oversight and raise concerns about accountability.

Executive Response Awaited:

The Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation have yet to comment on Ningi’s and Onigbinde’s statements. Their response, particularly regarding the N3.7 trillion allocation and its breakdown, will be crucial in addressing concerns about budget transparency.