September 30, 2020
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Opuni trial: ‘Dead scientist’ approved fertiliser — lawyer

An issue of a dead scientist approving a fertiliser at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) came up yesterday at the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former CEO of the COCOBOD, and businessman Seidu Agongo, who have been accused of acting together to cause financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state.

During cross-examination of the third prosecution witness, the lawyer for Agongo, Mr Nutifafa Nutsupkui, sought to make a case that some of the fertiliser procured by COCOBOD were never tested.

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Also, counsel claimed that a report approving a certain fertiliser by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was signed by three scientists, including a dead scientist.

The issue of the testing of fertilisers is a crucial part of the trial.

It is the case of the Attorney-General (A-G) that the Dr Opuni-led COCOBOD purchased liquid Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF) to be used on cocoa from Agongo’s company, Agricult Ghana Limited.

According to the A-G, in breach of laid down rules, the LFF was never tested by CRIG, a division of COCOBOD mandated with the testing of all fertiliser and machinery for the cocoa sector.

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Cross-examination

Mr Nutsupkui was cross-examining Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, a former Deputy CEO of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, who is currently the Special Advisor on Cocoa to the Minister of Food and Agriculture.

It emerged in court that in 2018 COCOBOD purchased fertiliser known as Omnifert Cocoa Aduane based on a testing report dated May 19, 2017 and signed by three scientists from CRIG.

Counsel, however, reminded the witness that he (witness) had previously told the court that one of scientists, Mr A.K. Quaye, died before 2017.

Below is what ensued between counsel and the witness:

Mr Nutsupkui: According to you, A.K. Quaye passed on before 2017.

Dr Adu-Ampomah: Yes.

Mr Nutsupkui: Yet COCOBOD relied on that report and procured Omnifert fertiliser, even though it was known to you that the lead author of that report could not possibly have led the team from his grave.

Dr Adu-Ampomah: He was part of the team. The fact that his name is on the report implies that he was part of the team that started the work.

Mr Nutsupkui: I put to you that Omnifert fertiliser was recommended for use on mature cocoa even when it had not been tested on seedlings, let alone mature cocoa.

Dr Adu-Ampomah: Omnifert fertiliser has been duly tested. It is one of the most extensively tested cocoa fertilisers.

The cross-examination will continue tomorrow, July 8, at the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.

Charges

In March 2018, the A-G charged Dr Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of sub-standard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

Source: General News

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