Indeed, bad banking, however, sprouts like a tumour, as is the case with Zenith Bank. There is no gainsaying the new generation bank has recently plummeted in pride and repute, no thanks to its role during the March 18 gubernatorial elections.
governorship elections, Zenith Bank, allegedly supported the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, in using the bank as a conduit for perpetrating electoral fraud.
Yes, Ladi Adebutu has been indicted by the Nigeria Police Force for money laundering and vote-buying during the last general elections.
The police said Adebutu, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, deployed two billion naira to induce voters across the state to vote for him and his party during the 18 March election.
The allegation is contained in the interim report of police investigation into a petition written to the Inspector-General of Police by the Ogun State chairperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Sanusi.
Preliminary investigations showed that, in the build-up to the election, the bank met with Adebutu and agreed to produce over 200,000 prepaid Verve bank cards preloaded with N10,000 each for him, to be used in buying votes during the election.
The Verve Bank Cards were delivered directly in two batches on March 16 and 17, 2023, respectively, to Adebutu by an accounts officer from Zenith Bank.
What remains unclear is, if Adebutu’s co-conspirators within Zenith Bank were aware that lending the bank’s facilities for such fraudulent activity is in 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.”
Although the Verve cards were purportedly printed in honour of the lawmaker’s late mother, further findings revealed that they were actually produced to serve as vote-buying instruments. 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 suspicion of collusion by Zenith Bank with a governorship aspirant to perpetrate electoral fraud.
The PDP governorship candidate was indicted by confessions made by party agents and POS operators arrested by security agencies during the polls. Adebutu’s cohorts who were among the polling agents that were arrested, confirmed that he gave them the cards to manipulate the March 18 polls.
Security sources revealed that Adebutu applied for the Verve cards from Zenith Bank on February 27, 2023, two days after the presidential election which the PDP lost by a wide margin in Ogun State. The cards were delivered to him by his relationship officer in the bank.
The sources described Adebutu’s actions, using game-betting platforms and POS operators, as a 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 reportedly distributed the cards throughout the over 5000 polling units and positioned POS operators at the same place so as to allow each voter to convert the card to cash at the POS terminals.
The cards were allegedly funded on the 16th and 17th of March, directly from Adebutu’s account with Zenith Bank, with the lawmaker paying over N2.4bn directly from his account.
According to a source, “Checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) showed that the foundation in whose name the PDP candidate carried out his criminal activities was 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 turned out to be a vote-buying gimmick, as these cards were used to buy votes on March 18.
“Luck, however, ran out on him when the party agents and POS operators who were used to perpetrate the deliberate manipulation of the electoral process, were arrested by the security agencies and they 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 before 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 sanitise Nigeria’s electoral process.
No sooner had Adebutu got the news of his impending arrest than he fled the country. Contrary to his claim that he left the country because of alleged threats to his life, the lawmaker actually travelled abroad to evade the long arm of the law over alleged criminal activities, sources have revealed.
Adebutu reportedly fled the country immediately after security agencies uncovered his complicity in a vote-buying plot with Zenith Bank during the March 18, 2023 Governorship and House of Assembly polls in Ogun State. He left the country when he received an invitation from security agencies to clarify these issues.
Security sources revealed that Adebutu fled because he knew there was no way he could defend his alleged complicity in bribery, conspiracy and peddling of 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.
By Onuigbo Felicia