The Nigeria Police Force has submitted a report to the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), indicting a top politician, Ladi Adebutu, for money laundering and vote-buying, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Mr Adebutu, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, is indicted for deploying two billion naira to induce voters across the state to vote for him and his party during the 18 March election, the police said.

“We have written our report and submitted it,” said Oladimeji Yomi, Ogun State Commissioner of Police. “The next step is for INEC and the Attorney General of the Federation to look into the report and determine how to proceed against the suspect,” Mr Yomi told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.

The investigator said Mr Adebutu had yet to honour their invitation to respond to the allegation. “Obviously, we have written to invite him (Adebutu), he does not appear to be in a hurry to honour our invitation,” Mr Yomi said.

On 14 May, this medium published a report in which Mr Adebutu claimed he fled Nigeria over threats to his life. However, a police interim report stated that he had told police investigators, through his lawyers, following his invitation over the petition, that he was receiving medical treatment abroad.

According to our earlier report, Mr Adebutu ran into trouble on 18 March for allegedly using Verve ATM credit cards branded in the name of his late mother, ‘Dame Caroline Oladunni Adebutu Endowment Scheme,’ to buy votes in all polling booths.

Mr Adebutu is a household name in Ogun State, where he lost the governorship election in March after polling 262, 383 votes to return second behind Governor Dapo Abiodun of the APC, who polled 276, 298 votes. He has, however, filed a petition before the election petition tribunal to challenge Mr Abiodun’s return.

Police investigators said they had done their job covering all the necessary grounds against Mr Adebutu.

“We have done our investigative job and our report is already with the Attorney-General of the Federation and INEC,” Mr Yomi, the Police Commissioner, said, adding, “It is an election matter so it is INEC and the Attorney-General who will take the matter forward,” he said. “Whatever they come up with, we will know the next line of action.

“We have covered all the necessary grounds we need to cover. We interrogated necessary suspects involved and the bank Interswitch. Only Adebutu is left for us to interview. So to that extent, the case remains open,” Mr Yomi added.

“We are now expecting the legal advice from the Federal Director of Prosecutions, who also has our investigative report. If Adebutu shows up, we will speak to him and update our report,” the police officer said.

Mr Adebutu’s spokesperson Afolabi Orekoya denied all allegations against his principal.

Nigerian politicians are notorious for vote-buying. But shortly before the general election, a cash redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria led to a severe cash shortage across the country, leaving politicians to design other ingenious ways of compromising voters, most of whom have been impoverished by poor service delivery and corruption by elected and appointed officials.

Government officials confirmed that one of the aims of the CBN naira redesign policy was to prevent vote-buying at the general elections, a phenomenon that had blighted off-season governorship elections in Anambra, Kogi, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States.

To address the widespread vote-buying menace, penalties were stipulated in the amended Electoral Act 2022.

Section 121 of the Act states:

1. Any person who does any of the following-

(a) directly or indirectly, by his or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf, corruptly makes any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement to or for any person, 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;

(b) upon or in consequence of any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement corruptly procures, or engages or promises or endeavours 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;

(c) advances or pays or causes to be paid any money to or for the use of any other person, with the intent that such money or any part thereof shall be expended in bribery at any election, or who knowingly pays or causes to be paid any money to any person in discharge or repayment of any money wholly or in part expended in bribery at any election;

(d) after any election directly, or indirectly, by his or herself, or by any other person on his or her behalf receives any money or valuable consideration on account of any person having voted or refrained from voting, or having induced any other person to vote or refrain from voting or having induced any candidate to refrain from canvassing for votes for his or herself at any such election, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.

(2) A voter commits an offence of bribery where before or during an election directly or indirectly by his or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf, receives, agrees or contracts for any money, gift, loan, or valuable consideration, office, place or employment, for his or herself, or any other person, for voting or agreeing to vote or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting at any such election.

Many persons – including politicians, party agents and voters – were arrested in parts of the country before and during the 2023 general elections for vote buying and related offences. The electoral and security agencies have the responsibility for prosecuting them in court.