The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last governorship election in Ogun State, Ladi Adebutu, was arraigned before the State High Court in Abeokuta on Tuesday.
However, at the court sitting today, the government made changes to the charges filed against the PDP chieftain and the other defendants.
These amendments were made in order to include Adebutu in the ongoing case that was initiated in July 2023, which accuses him of financially influencing voters during the March 18 election.
While the other nine defendants were arraigned by the Federal Government in July 2023, Adebutu was not present as he was reportedly out of the country at the time.
During the court hearing on Tuesday, the Counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, informed the court that the charges had been amended and Adebutu had been served as the main defendant in the case.
Jacobs requested that the court accept the amended charges, and the defendant’s counsel, Gordy Uche, SAN, did not object to this request.
Consequently, Justice Abiodun Akinyemi granted the application.
Adebutu and six other defendants who were present in court pleaded not guilty to all the charges brought against them.
The case, identified as AB/10c/2023 (FRN Vs Adebutu &Ors), involved the Federal Government accusing Adebutu of ordering the issuance of 200,000 preloaded ATM verve cards with N10,000 through his bank.
These cards were allegedly distributed on the day of the election across the State with the intention of influencing voters.
During the court proceedings, Uche requested that Adebutu be granted bail on self-recognizance, emphasizing that the defendant had only been served with the charges on Tuesday morning and had willingly presented himself before the court.
Jacobs, the opposing counsel, did not object to the bail applications.
Justice Akinyemi, presiding over the case, granted Adebutu bail in the amount of N1 million and required one surety.
The trial was adjourned until Wednesday for further proceedings.
Addressing journalists shortly after the court sitting on Tuesday, the Federal Government’s Counsel confirmed that Adebutu had been served with the charges on Tuesday morning.
“Yes, he was served this (Tuesday) morning. We filed this morning, also. He came and just got his statement,” Jacobs said.
On his part, Uche said, “You know, before now, there has been news all over that our client is at large. I am happy that today he is here in person. In fact, he presented himself to court voluntarily and it was inside the court that he signed for the charge sheet.
“He has taken his plea, he has pleaded not guilty to all the seven counts of the charge. We are happy that we are here, and we are ready for the trial, hopefully, we will come tomorrow and continue with the trial.
“The important thing is that he has put to rest all the speculations that he ran away, he is outside the country. Within all this time, he was taking his treatment and he is back, back to take his trial. There’s nothing that has gone wrong. He has come here voluntarily and he has taken his plea. We are ready for the trial.”
Uche also said the charge “has nothing to do with money laundering.”