Contrary to his claim that he left the country because of alleged threats to his life, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 18 governorship election in Ogun State, Hon Ladi Adebutu, actually travelled abroad to evade the long arm of the law over alleged criminal activities, sources have revealed.
Checks revealed that Adebutu left the country following security agencies’ uncovering of a vote buying plot linked to him during the March 18, 2023 governorship and House of Assembly polls in Ogun State and the invitation extended to him to clarify issues.
According to the sources, Adebutu was alleged to have perpetrated bribery, conspiracy and peddling undue influence contrary to sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act 2022; breach of electoral law prohibiting vote trading, deliberate facilitation of money laundering, and connivance to deliberately breach the monetary policy of the Federation.
Sources revealed that in a letter made available to security agencies investigating his criminal activities, Adebutu had indicated that he travelled abroad to seek medical care, and had given no indication of threat to life.
Sources within the security services indicated that preliminary investigations showed that in the build-up to the election, Adebutu had contacted his bank and caused over 200,000 prepaid Verve bank cards preloaded with N10,000 each to be printed.
A credible security source confirmed, with clear-cut evidence that these Verve Bank Cards were delivered directly in two batches on the 16th and 17th of March 2023, respectively, by an accounts officer from a new generation bank.
This, it was maintained, is a violation of Section 121of the Electoral Act (2022), which prescribes 12 months’ imprisonment for any “person who directly or indirectly, by his or herself or by any other person on his other behalf corruptly makes any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement to or for any person, in order to induce such person to procure or to endeavour to procure the return of any person as a member of a legislative house or to an elective office or the vote of any voter at any election.”
The Verve cards, which were supposedly printed to honour the lawmaker’s late mother, were however uncovered as vote buying instruments going by the confessions of party agents and POS operators arrested by security agencies during the polls, which indicted the PDP guber candidate.
Adebutu was said to have applied for the Verve cards from the Bank on February 27, 3023 two days after the presidential election which the PDP lost by a wide margin in Ogun State, following which the cards were delivered to him by his relationship officer in the bank.
Investigation further revealed that contrary to Adebutu’s claim that the cards were issued during his mother’s burial, they were actually issued few days to the election, raising the obvious question of collusion by the bank with a politically exposed person to perpetrate electoral fraud.
Also, the statements by some of Adebutu’s polling agents that were arrested confirmed that he gave them the cards to manipulate the March 18 polls.
The sources described Adebutu’s actions , using game-betting platforms and POS operators, as well planned, carefully orchestrated and unprecedented electoral fraud made out of desperation after losing the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Adebutu and his agents were said to have distributed the cards throughout the over 5000 polling units and positioned POS operators at the same so each voter could convert the card to cash at the POS terminals.
The cards were said to have been funded on the 16th and 17th of March directly from Adebutu’s account with the Bank, with the lawmaker paying over N2.4bn directly from his account.
Said a source: “Checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) showed that the foundation in whose name the PDP candidate carried out his criminal activities were fictitious.
“We have it on good authority that following a petition written to security agencies over the incident, it was observed that Adebutu expended huge sums to manipulate the March 18 2023. governorship election in Ogun State.
“Hon Adebutu caused prepaid Verve cards preloaded with N10,000 each and bearing such inscriptions as Dame Caroline Oladunni Adebutu Empowerment Scheme, Dame Caroline Scheme and “Dame Caroline Oladunni Adebutu Memorial Endowment Scheme, to be printed under the guise of honouring his late mother, but it was a vote buying gimmick, and these cards were used to buy votes on March 18.
“Luck, however, ran out on him when party agents and POS operators who were used to perpetrate the deliberate manipulation of the electoral process were arrested by the security agencies and made statements that indicted him.
“The financial institutions that collaborated with him have revealed that he contacted them to create the cards which were delivered to him two days to the governorship election.
“It was when he observed that all these things had come into the open that he suddenly disappeared into thin air in order to evade justice.”
The security sources, which accused the PDP lawmaker of violating Sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act (2022) which expressly forbid vote buying, said that it was regrettable that Adebutu had flagrantly violated laws meant to sanitize Nigeria’s electoral process.