The Nigerian government has modified its accusations against Ladi Adebutu, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship candidate in Ogun State, and nine others before a State High Court in Abeokuta.
The accusations were revised on Tuesday to accommodate and arraign Adebutu in a complaint filed in July 2023 alleging financial enticement of voters during the March 18 gubernatorial and state assembly elections.
In case no: AB/10c/2023 (FRN Vs Adebutu &Ors), the Nigerian government claimed that Adebutu ordered the issuance of 200,000 preloaded ATM verve cards with N10,000 and distributed them across the state on election day with the objective of influencing votes.
The Federal Government arraigned nine other defendants in July 2023, with the exception of Adebutu, who was purportedly outside the country.
On Tuesday, when the hearing resumed, Counsel to the Federal Government Rotimi Jacobs informed the court that the charge had been changed after serving Adebutu, a significant defendant in the case.
The counsel asked the court’s permission to alter the charges, and the presiding judge, Abiodun Akinyemi, granted his request.
The court also heard the pleas of Adebutu and six other defendants who were present in court. They all pled not guilty.
Mr Adebutu’s counsel, Goody Uche, pleaded with the court to allow his client bail on self-recognizance, claiming that the defendant was merely served on Tuesday morning and appeared in court.
Jacobs did not oppose to the bail applications.
Justice Akinyemi granted Adebutu bail in the amount of N1 million with one surety. He continued the matter until Wednesday for trial.
Speaking with reporters, the FG’s Counsel stated, “Yes, he was served this morning (Tuesday). We filed this morning as well. He came and just received his statement.”
Uche, for his part, stated, “You are already aware that our client is at large. I’m glad he’s here today in person. In fact, he appeared in court freely, and he signed the charge sheet there.
“He entered a plea of not guilty to all seven counts of the charge. We are thrilled to be here and ready for the trial, which we expect to continue tomorrow.
“The main thing is that he has put to rest all speculation that he fled; he is now outside the country. Throughout this period, he was receiving treatment, and now he is back to face his trial. Nothing has gone wrong. He has come here voluntarily and has accepted his plea. We’re ready for the trial.
When questioned if the case before the court involves money laundering, Uche replied in the negative.