The Federal Government of Nigeria has charged the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State during the 2023 elections, Oladipupo Adebutu, for allegedly buying votes during the 18 March elections in the state.
In a suit brought by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before an Ogun State High Court in Abeokuta, nine other persons associated with the PDP were also charged.
In a separate suit it filed at the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, the government also charged Zenith Bank and two of its top officials for allegedly aiding Mr Adebutu to commit the alleged offence.
The two suits were filed on Thursday, 2 June, by the Director , Public Prosecution of the Federation , M. B. Abubakar; Aderonke Imana, an assistant chief state counsel, and Sani Bagudu, a senior counsel at the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federation, on behalf of the AGF and Minister of Justice.
Charged alongside Mr Adebutu before the state high court in Abeokuta are Ogunbona Hammed, Tiamiyu Waliu, Egunsola Owolabi and Sanni Adejoke.
The other defendants are Dare Ogunleye, Dare Adeoye, Dayo Fashina, Wasiu Enololobo, and Malik Akawo.
According to the notice filed by the prosecution, Mr Adebutu and four of the other defendants are currently at large.
It had reported that Mr Adebutu fled abroad following threats to his life after the governorship election, which he narrowly lost to Governor Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
This newspaper also reported the police later stating that the politician told their investigators through his lawyer that he travelled abroad for medical care after he was invited over allegations of vote buying made against him in a petition by the ruling party in the state.
In the suit before the Ogun State High Court, the federal government charged Mr Adebutu and the fifth defendant, Adejoke Sanni, with three counts of alleged criminal conspiracy, bribery and undue influence, while the eight others were charged only with the first two counts.
The charge sheet with no AB/10c/2023 seen by Our correspondent reads:
“That you, (the ten defendants) on or about 18th of March, 2023 at Ibara, Ogun State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire amongst yourselves to corruptly give gifts in the form of verve prepaid cards which had inscribed in them ‘Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement (sic) Scheme for less privileged ‘ in order to induce voters to endeavour the return of PDP Candidates during the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in Ogun state and you thereto committed an offence.
“That you (defendants) on or about 18th of March, 2023 at Ibara, Ogun State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did corruptly give gifts in the form of verve prepaid cards which had inscribed on them ‘Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement Scheme for less privileged’ in order to induce voters to endeavour the return of PDP Candidates during the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in Ogun state and you thereby committed an offence.
“That you Oladipupo Olatunde Adebuti (now at large), Adult Male of Kessington House, Iperu, Ogun State between February-March, 2023 at Ogun State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did provide 200,000 prepaid verve cards loaded with N10,000 (ten thousand naira) which had inscribed on them ‘Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement Scheme for less privileged” for the purpose of corruptly influencing votes to vote for PDP Candidates (Including yourself) during the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in Ogun state and you thereby committed an offence.
“That you, Sanni Adejoke, Adult Female of No 1 Owoseni Street Lausa Olanbe junction Ifo, Ogun State on or about 18th of March, 2023 at Agbara, Ogun State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did have in your possession 131 prepaid verve cards which had inscribed on them ‘Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement Scheme for less privileged ‘ for the purpose of corruptly influencing voters to vote for PDP Candidates during the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in Ogun State and you thereby committed an offence.”
The prosecution listed eight witnesses it plans to call to prove its case. They include a police officer, three officials of the NDLEA and two points of sale (POS) operators.
In the other suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, the defendants are Zenith Bank, its Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, and the head of card services at the bank, Celestina Appeal.
The charges against them read::
“That you, (Mr Onyeagwu and Ms Appeal) between February 2023 to March 2023 in Ogun state within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did fail to report dust transactions which appeared to have no economic justification or lawful objective, in the account of Oladipupo Olatunde Adebutu domiciled in Zenith Bank plc. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 7(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022 and punishable under Section 7 (10) of the same Act.
“That you, Zenith Bank Plc of 278 Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island Lagos, between February 2023 to March 2023 in Ogun State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did fall to verify the identity of its customers carrying out Electoral Financial Transactions on verve cards with the inscription ‘Dame Caroline Oladuni Adebutu Memorial Endorsement Scheme for less privileged” requiring the customer’s personal information before their issuance and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 37 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.”
Meanwhile, the governorship election petition tribunal in Ogun State on Monday began hearing the petition filed by Mr Adebutu against the reelection of Governor Abiodun. Following the report of his investigation for alleged vote buying, a group of political parties in the state warned the police against being used to intimidate Mr Adebutu.
How trouble began for Mr Adebutu
Police investigators last month reported that Mr Adebutu deployed two billion naira to induce voters across the state to vote for him and other PDP candidates during the 18 March governorship and state assembly elections.
The report followed law enforcement investigation into a petition written to the Inspector-General of Police by the Ogun State chairperson of the APC, Abdullahi Sanusi.
In the petition dated 18 March, the election day, and addressed to the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, Mr Sanusi accused the PDP candidate of distributing ATM cards preloaded with N10, 000 to induce voters on election day.
The APC chairman alleged that Mr Adebutu used Verve ATM credit cards branded in the name of his late mother, ‘Dame Caroline Oladunni Adebutu Endowment Scheme for less privileged,’ to buy votes at polling booths. He said the PDP also “stationed Point of Sales (P.O.S) vendors in every polling booth as an easy means to withdraw the cash from the cards.”
The petition was investigated by a team led by Mohammed Babakura, a deputy commissioner of police at the criminal Investigation department of the police in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Source: Premium Times Newspaper