General News Tue, 16 Oct 2018

I am unaware of green light for ‘Opuni’s fertiliser’ - Witness

A prosecution witness has told the Accra High Court that he was unaware of any scientific report recommending the use of the fertiliser which is at the centre of the alleged GH¢271.3 million fertiliser scandal for which a former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial.

Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), informed the court that he had not sighted any report from the Committee for Testing of Chemicals and Machines (CTCM) of CRIG evaluating the fertiliser and giving the green light for its use.

The witness made the statement after counsel for Agongo, Mr Benson Nutsupkui, asked him if he had come across any re-evaluation report from the CTCM on the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), the subject matter of the trial which is said to have been distributed by Agongo's company, Agricult Ghana Limited, to COCOBOD.

Counsel asked the question last Monday when he cross-examined Dr Amoah, who is the first prosecution witness.

He had sought to establish a case during the cross-examination that the LFF was one of the products CRIG tested, recommended for use and later re-evaluated for further use.

Mr Amoah, however, said he was not aware of any revaluation report or any report giving the green light for the use of the LFF.

Below are excerpts of the cross-examination

Nutsukpui: Have you ever come across the CTCM report in August 2016?

Amoah: Not to the best of my knowledge

Nutsukpui: That report was submitted to COCOBOD per a CRIG letter dated August 31, 2016 with the reference number 27/118/4743. Have you ever seen that report ?

Amoah: I don't remember seeing that report.

The cross-examination will continue on October 22, 2018 at the court, presided over by Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as a High Court judge.

Controversy over fertiliser

Dr Amoah in his evidence-in-chief had earlier told the court that Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD boss, ordered CRIG to reduce the testing period of fertilisers that would be used on cocoa farms.

According to him, as a result, CRIG reduced the testing period for LFF, which was to be used on matured cocoa, from two years to six months.

He added that even after CRIG had reduced the testing period for the LFF, which he said was in powdery form, COCOBOD, under Dr Opuni, bought a liquid LFF from Agricult Ghana Limited, which was never tested by CRIG.

Dr Opuni's lawyer, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, has, however, denied this assertion by the witness and has maintained that the said fertiliser which was tested by CRIG was indeed a liquefied LFF and not a powdery LFF.

Case against Opuni and Agongo

In March 2018, the Attorney -General charged Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertilisers to cocoa farmers.

According to the A-G, Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD CEO (November 2013 to January 2017), breached laid down procedures in procurement and other laws that led the state to loss GH¢271.3 million in the alleged fertiliser scandal.

Agongo is also alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.

The two accused persons have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges.

They are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

Source: Graphic.com.gh
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