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Budget Padding: CNPP, CSOs Demand Akpabio's Immediate Resignation, Issue 14 Days Ultimatum


Budget Padding: CNPP, CSOs Demand Akpabio's Immediate Resignation, Issue 14 Days Ultimatum

Conference Of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in conjunction with its over 75 allied civil society organisations under the umbrella of the National Civil Society Organisations Against Inept Leaders, have demanded the immediate resignation of the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, following allegation of budget padding levelled against him by 48-member Northern Senators’ Forum, chaired by Senator Abdul Ningi. 

In their statement co-signed by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of CNPP, Comrade James Ezema, and the National Secretary of the coalition of CSOs, Alhaji Ali Abacha, the umbrella association of registered political parties and political associations in collaboration with the civil society groups urged President Tinubu to raise up and end the era of budget padding in the country. 

“We recall that last week, Senators 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.  

“We are quick to note that the name of the President of the Senate for over ten years has come up in countless corruption allegations from his days as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State till date. 

“For instance, there are countless unresolved allegations of corruption against Senator Akpabio, including allegation by Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Network Against Corruption And Trafficking (NACAT), which had urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Senator Akpabio over alleged diversion of the sum of N700 billion while he held sway as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

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

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

“There was reported inconclusive investigation by the EFCC in June 2015 over 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. 

“Recall that Joy Nunieh, a former acting managing director of NDDC, had accused Akpabio of attempting to silence her by demanding 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. 

“It is true that Senator Akpabio denied these allegations, just as he is doing over the budget padding accusation, and even filed a defamation lawsuit against Nunieh. But these heinous allegations have put a question mark on the image of Senator Godswill Akpabio until they are resolved in favour or against the President of the Senate. 

“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. 

“However, the budget padding allegation is not the first time senators are accusing Akpabio of wrong doing. We recall that in a viral video in 2023, at plenary, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno (APC) accused the President of the Senate passing bills without contributions from Senators. 

“In his words, “You are just passing bills without prior notification, even money bills, you just pass without anyone’s contribution and within 2 hours. This is not good for Nigeria and history will judge you”, Senator Ndume said.

“These and many other unresolved allegations against Senator Akpabio carry heavy moral burdens and have continued to portray Senator Akpabio as a man of questionable integrity. 

“Therefore, we believe that this budget padding burden amid unprecedented hunger and deprivation in the country should reawaken the consciousness of Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration has been a party that have in nearly nine years made the corruption infested 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a child's play. 

“Unfortunately, the failure of the EFCC and the Nigerian justice system to bring corrupt politicians to justice led to his emergence as President of the Senate in what has been seen as the arm-twisting of Senators by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in June 2023. In the buildup to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, it became obvious that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had preference for his candidacy for the lofty office in the upper chamber. 

“Now, rather than give convincing explanation over how projects were inserted into the budget as alleged, the President of the Senate has obviously employed a divide-and-rule tactics in the Senate to water down the allegation. 

“Senator Akpabio should know that no amount of blackmail against his colleagues or the civil society would lessen his moral burden until he purges himself of the allegations against him. 

“We therefore call on the President of the Senate to immediately step aside for a thorough investigation of the allegation of budget padding against him and his office within 14 days. 

“In an event that he remains in office, we also call on all Senators of good conscience to rise to the occasion and commence impeachment process against Senator Akpabio after our 14 days ultimatum to pave way for a unhindered investigation of the allegation against him as Senator Akpabio cannot be a judge in his own case. 

“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 as the presidency in a statement signed by 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. 

“So, if our demands are not met, we will have no choice than to mobilize our members, all other civil society organisations, human rights activists, opinion leaders, political parties, men and women of good will and conscience, and all hungry citizens to occupy the National Assembly until our demands are met”, the CNPP and the Coalition of CSOs stated.

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