The 2023 governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State, Ladi Adebutu, was on Tuesday arraigned before a state High Court sitting in Abeokuta.
Adebutu was arraigned, alongside nine others, even as the Federal Government amended the charges filed against them.
The charges were amended in the case instituted in July 2023 over allegations of financial inducement of voters during the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the other nine defendants had, in July 2023, been arraigned, with the exception of Adebutu who was reportedly out of the country then.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Counsel to the federal government, Rotimi Jacobs, told the court that the charge had been amended, having served Adebutu who is a major defendant in the suit.
Jacobs, thereafter, prayed the court to accept the amended charges, with counsel to the defendants, Gordy Uche not objecting to it.
Justice Abiodun Akinyemi granted the application and subsequently took the pleas of Adebutu and the six other defendants who were present in court.
Adebutu and the six other defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them.
In the suit, marked: AB/10c/2023 (FRNvsAdebutu &Ors), the federal government alleged that Adebutu ordered, through his bank, the issuance of 200,000 preloaded ATM verve cards with N10,000.
The cards were said to have been distributed on the day of election across the state, with the intent to induce voters.
Counsel to Adebutu, however, prayed the court to grant Adebutu bail on self-recognisance, saying that he (Adebutu) was only served on Tuesday morning and he still presented himself in court.
Recall that Jacobs did not object to the bail application.
Consequently, the judge granted Adebutu bail in the sum of N1 million, with one surety in like sum and adjourned the case till Feb. 7 for trial.
Speaking with newsmen after the court sitting, the federal government’s counsel confirmed that Adebutu was served on Tuesday.
“Yes, he was served this morning (Tuesday). We filed this morning also. He came and just got his statement,” Jacobs said.
On his part, Adebutu’s counsel, Uche, said: “You know that before now, there had been news all over that our client was at large.
“I’m 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 had taken his plea; he had pleaded not guilty to the seven-count 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 was outside the country. Within this time, he was taking his treatment and he is back to face the 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, however, maintained that the charges against his client had nothing to do with money laundering.