The Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, Seidu Agongo have been left gnashing their teeth as the original powdered Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer which was tested and a certificate issued on has been submitted to an Accra High Court.A soil scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr. Alfred Arthur who tested the fertilizer in 2013 when it was submitted to CRIG for testing and recommendation tendered in the product yesterday.
Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo are before an Accra High Court for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH?217,370,289.22.
The two are facing a total of 27 charges including defrauding by false pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The nature and form of Lithovit Fertilizer tested at CRIG and what was purchased by COCOBOD for distribution to farmers has been the centre of controversy between the prosecution led by Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa and the defence teams led by Samuel Codjoe and Benson Nutsukpui.
While the defence claimed the fertilizer tested was liquid in form, the prosecution maintains that it was a powdered fertilizer that was tested at CRIG and subsequently recommended to COCOBOD.
Dr. Arthur who is the Acting Head of the Soil Science Division at CRIG, led in his evidence-in-chief testified that the product which was handed over to him for testing by the then head of the division, Alex Asante Afrifah was a greyish, odourless powdered Lithovit fertilizer.
He told the court that in July 2013, “a letter introducing Lithovit foliar fertilizer and signed by the former deputy director of agronomy and quality control of Ghana Cocoa Board was minuted to me by my head of division Mr. A.A Afrifah to go for a sample of Lithovit foliar fertilizer from the chairman of the committee for testing chemicals and machines, Mr. Andrews Yaw Akrofi. I went for the sample which was in a whitish cylindrical container with a green lid in a brown paper.
Dr. Arthur subsequently sought the permission of the court to tender in the sample of the powdered Lithovit which he tested at CRIG as evidence.
This was, however, vehemently objected to by the defence team as Samuel Codjoe, lawyer for Dr. Opuni challenged the authenticity of the product that was about to be tendered.
His colleague lawyer, Benson Nutsukpui who represents Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited associated himself with him.
But Mrs. Attakora-Obuobisa laying a foundation for the admissibility of the sample told the court that the fact that the defence lawyers claimed the product in the container appears unused cannot be grounds for rejecting the sample.
She said the witness was yet to speak to the sample he wished to tender and how he went about conducting the test.
The court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga overruled the objection and admitted the sample as an exhibit.
Dr. Arthur was asked by the prosecutor to open the sample which was sealed and when he did, it was a grey powdered substance that was in the container.
Dr. Arthur further told the court that the material safety data sheet (MSDS) that accompanied Lithovit fertilizer emphatically stated that it was a fine powdered fertilizer which was exported from Germany.
“The MSDS indicates the country of origin as Germany. The manufacturer is Zeovita GMBH. The chemical composition of Lithovit foliar fertilizer has been stated in broad terms as being calcium carbonate from natural lime stone deposits with micro nutrients and it is readily soluble. The physical state is powdery. Colour is grey and is odourless”.
“These are the relevant information that we look out for in the MSDS when handling a product submitted for testing by a client”, Dr. Arthur told the court.
In clarifying the quantity of sample of Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer received for testing, he told the court that after he had received the MSDS on the product, he went on to prepare a budget and the budget included the amount to be paid by the client and additional quantity of product required for testing.
“In the case of Lithovit foliar fertilizer, the additional quantity requested was 10kg since the product submitted was powdery”, the witness stated.
He told the court that before he conducted the test, he did literature search on the product and all the literature available on it described it to be a fine powdery substance.
Dr. Arthur also told the court how he was rushed into releasing the report on Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer because it was “urgent” to do so.
He said after conducting the test on the sample submitted to him, he went on a streak in Sefwi Wiaso in the Western Region. He told the court that he was there when his then head of soil division called him that a report on the nursery studies on Lithovit was need by Dr. Opuni.
The witness stated that he told Mr. Afrifa he could not immediately return to Tafo as they were having a re-evaluation of agrochemicals and spraying machines for renewal of 2014 certificates. He said they had gone there with just one vehicle and he could not have returned to Tafo with that car.
He said a vehicle was subsequently sent to Sefwi Wiaso to pick him back to Tafo to release the report.
Dr. Arthur tendered in the report although the defence vehemently objected its tendering claiming it does not have his name and could be prejudicial.
It was admitted on the basis that the witness had confirmed he authored it, had laid the proper foundation for its tendering and it was one of the prosecution documents given to the defence lawyers.
The witness also disclosed that the literature available also revealed that Lithovit foliar fertilizer has been tested on tomato here; in Ghana.
The case has been adjourned to November 2, 2018 for Dr. Arthur to continue his evidence-in-chief.