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Budget Padding: Ningi gives Akpabio, Senate leadership 7-day ultimatum to lift suspension

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and the Senate leadership, have been given a seven-day ultimatum to lift the suspension placed on Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi, representing Bauchi Central of Bauchi State in the Senate, or keep a date in court.

Abdul Ahmad Ningi wrote Sen. Godswill Akpabio through his lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN).

Abdul Ningi, through his lawyer, Femi Falana, contended that the process of his suspension was faulty through a letter to the Senate President, which was received at the Senate President’s office on Wednesday.

In the letter, Femi Falana wrote: “On March 9, 2024, our client granted an interview to the BBC Hausa Service on the 2024 Appropriation Act. He expressed his views on the budget of the Federal Government in the exercise of his fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“Dissatisfied with the interview, you caused our client to be put on trial before the Senate on March 14, 2024, contrary to the provisions of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2018.”

Femi Falana stated in the letter that the Senate President acted as the accuser, prosecutor, and judge in the case, saying this was in utter violation of the provisions of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.”

The legal activist argued that apart from violating Abdul Ningi’s fundamental right to a fair hearing, the Senate also violated the right of the 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,” the SAN said.

“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 budget padding, corruption, or abuse of office.

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

“As a Senior Lawyer, you (Akpabio) 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 and confiscate his salaries and allowances.

“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 that you ensure that the said suspension is lifted forthwith.”

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

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

Recall that the Senate, on March 12, sent Abdul Ahmed Ningi on a three-month suspension over his claim that the 2024 budget was padded to the tune of N3.7 trillion.

Abdul Ningi, in a media interview with the BBC Hause Service, alleged that while the budget passed by the National Assembly for the 2024 fiscal year was N25tn, the one being executed by the Presidency was N28.7tn.

However, at the plenary on March 12, the Senate took the Bauchi Senator on to defend the allegation, at the end of which he was slammed with a three-month suspension for damaging the image of the Red Chamber over what the Senators decided was an unfounded allegation.

Following the pronouncement of the suspension, Abdul Ningi packed his things and walked out of the Red Chambers, waving hands to his colleagues.

He subsequently stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum and was replaced by All Progressives Congress Senator Abdulaziz Yar’Adua, representing Katsina Central.

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