In a dramatic turn of events, Muyiwa Obanewa, the counsel representing the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, Ladi Adebutu, has vehemently denied reports suggesting that his client was arraigned before a state High Court on charges of alleged vote buying.
Obanewa, speaking to reporters in Abeokuta on Tuesday, insisted that Adebutu had not been served any court documents related to the case.
Adebutu, alongside nine others, was reportedly arraigned in absentia for their alleged involvement in vote buying during the governorship election held on March 18. The federal government, acting on allegations raised by the state Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Yemi Sanusi, charged Adebutu and the others in court through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice
However, Ladi Adebutu is currently out of the country and has not yet responded to the police invitation regarding the allegations. Obanewa, addressing journalists, dismissed the case as a mere “political stunt” that would not hold up in court.
“Out of the ten defendants, only five were served court papers and appeared in court yesterday (Monday). Rotimi Jacob (SAN) was the counsel representing the prosecution and also appeared for the defendants. The defendants entered their plea, and we applied for bail, which was granted on very lenient terms, indicating that the charges lack substance,” the counsel stated.
He further revealed that the bail conditions were set at a sum of N100,000 and required one surety. This, according to Obanewa, demonstrates that the charges against his client and others are not serious. The court proceedings concluded with the case being adjourned until September 26 for the start of the trial.
The counsel also argued that according to the Electoral Act, only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the authority to sue individuals for electoral offenses. He emphasized that the duty to investigate such matters falls solely within INEC‘s purview, not the chairman of the APC in Ogun State or any individual.
“The chairman of the APC in Ogun State does not have the power to initiate criminal prosecutions for electoral offenses. We are eagerly waiting for them to come, and we will meet them in court. We are even waiting for the APC chairman to come and provide evidence,” Obanewa asserted.
Responding to questions regarding Adebutu being arraigned in absentia, the counsel, Obanewa clarified, “It is not true that Adebutu has been docked. As we speak, he has not even been served; he is not even aware of it. Until you are aware and served with a court process, you cannot be alleged to have evaded the court. He must be served before he can be arraigned.”
The Counsel expressing their preparedness for the upcoming trial, stating, “We are ready for the case. We have reviewed the proof of evidence and found it to be purely political, given that the APC chairman was the one who submitted the petition to the police, which is not his responsibility.