CISLAC Raises Concerns Over Senator Ningi's Suspension, Advocates for Freedom of Expression

By Abdullahi Alhassan, Kaduna

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria (TI-Nigeria) has voiced deep concerns regarding what it deems an undemocratic action—the suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi by the Senate leadership. The organization finds the decision alarming and questions its democratic legitimacy.

In a press statement signed and issued by Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the Executive Director of CISLAC/Transparency International TI-Nigeria, the organization expresses its dismay over the suspension initiated against Senator Ningi for articulating his constitutionally guaranteed concerns and observations on the 2024 budget. The suspension raises eyebrows, particularly at a time when the nation is grappling with socio-economic and financial crises.

The statement points out that the suspension seems linked to Senator Ningi's public exposure of the alleged N3 trillion padded into the 2024 budget by the Upper Chamber. CISLAC emphasizes the importance of transparency and public accountability in the annual budgetary allocation and spending, particularly in light of the allegations made by Senator Ningi.

The organization underscores the significance of freedom of expression and opinion in preserving democratic culture, values, and principles in Nigeria. It asserts that these freedoms are constitutionally and legally backed under Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).

CISLAC staunchly maintains that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as the supreme law of the country, does not provide the Senate with the provision or power to suspend a Member of the National Assembly. It clarifies that such provisions are found only in the Ethics and Privileges Committee laws, which answer to the plenary through the Senate President. The Committee laws cannot override the Constitution, especially in matters concerning freedom of expression.

The organization contends that every member of the National Assembly has the primary mandates and responsibilities to absorb communal observations and offer feedback to the people for public accountability. Expressing such opinions must not be interfered with, intimidated, or suppressed.

CISLAC warns that the unjust suspension of a Senator representing an entire Senatorial district demonstrates a culture of silencing, insensitivity, disrespect, and marginalization of the people. It emphasizes that silencing opposition views is unhealthy in any civilized democracy and must not be tolerated as a culture in Nigeria.

The organization calls on the Senate to shun silencing opposition views and uphold the essence of the legislature—to allow freedom of expression, contrary opinions, and constructive debates. It concludes by urging all well-meaning Nigerians and the media to reject any undemocratic actions or decisions by the National Assembly that impede public accountability and shrink civic space.

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