Vote buying: Adebutu charged in absentia, as court grants bail to co-defendants

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The Federal Government brought charges against Ladi Adebutu, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the 2023 gubernatorial election in Ogun State, and nine others for alleged vote buying. The arraignment took place before an Ogun State High Court sitting in Abeokuta.

Adebutu, who was charged in absentia, has been evading the law enforcement authorities. Several months ago, he fled the country following allegations of electoral malpractices and money laundering filed against him and his party by the Federal Government.

The All Progressives Congress (APC), through its Ogun State Chairman, Chief Yemi Sanusi, lodged a petition with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the vote buying allegations. The State Criminal Investigations Department Eleweran, Abeokuta, conducted an investigation into the matter.

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Upon concluding the investigations, the Federal Government, represented by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Federal Ministry of Justice, filed criminal charges against Adebutu and his co-defendants at the High Court.

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During the hearing before Hon. Justice Abiodun Akinyemi in court 4, the case was adjourned to July 10, 2023, due to the court’s process servers’ failure to serve Adebutu and his co-defendants with the information sheet.

However, when the case was called on Monday, Ladi Adebutu remained at large, while the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 10th Defendants, namely Ogunbona Hammed, Tiamiyi Waleed, Egunsola Owolabi, Sanni Adejoke, and Malik, were present in court.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to all four counts, and their counsel, Muyiwa Obanewa, subsequently requested bail for the defendants.

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Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecuting counsel, acknowledged that Ladi Adebutu was still on the run and did not oppose the granting of bail to the defendants.

In response, Hon. Justice Akinyemi granted bail to the accused in the sum of N100,000 each, along with one surety each, who must be either bondsmen or relatives of the defendants and provide evidence of tax payment.

The court adjourned the case to September 26, 2023, for the commencement of the trial.

The charge sheet of the case, numbered AB/10C/2003 and filed at the high court on June 2, 2023, revealed that Adebutu and his co-defendants are facing a four-count charge. The charges include criminal conspiracy, bribery, and two counts of undue influence, all contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

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According to the particulars of the offense, Adebutu and his co-accused allegedly conspired on or about March 18, 2023, at Ibara, to corruptly provide Verve prepaid cards inscribed with “Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement Scheme for Less Privileged” as gifts, with the intention of influencing voters to support PDP candidates during the gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in Ogun State.

Adebutu is further accused of distributing 200,000 prepaid Verve cards, loaded with N10,000 each and inscribed with the same name, with the purpose of corruptly influencing voters to vote for PDP candidates in the aforementioned elections.

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