Opuni reduced fertilizer testing period – Witness
Dr Stephen Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD)
Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, a former Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD, has insisted that a directive given by former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the board, Dr. Stephen Opuni, led to the reduction in the testing period of fertilizers and agrochemicals at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who chaired a COCOBOD fact-finding committee that looked into anomalies detected in the testing of fertilizers and other agrochemicals, said all the scientists who worked on Lithovit Foliar fertilizer, which is at the centre of the trial, stated that Dr. Opuni directed them to shorten the testing period for fertilizers.
The reason he gave, according to them, was due to the high cost of fertilizers and agrochemicals in the market hence the intention to make it affordable to farmers.
According to the witness, the effect of the said directive was that Lithovit supplied by Seidu Agongo’s company was only tested on young cocoa seedlings with no further test on mature cocoa trees because of its similarities with other fertilizers already in use, but was approved for application on mature cocoa trees by farmers.
Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, 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 pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act (PPA).
The nature and form of the Lithovit Fertilizer that was tested and approved by CRIG and the one purchased by COCOBOD is at the centre of the trial as well as the directive Dr. Opuni gave to scientists at CRIG to reduce the testing period of fertilizers and agrochemicals.
Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, in his cross-examination of Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness, said there was no single document before the COCOBOD committee indicating that Dr. Opuni directed CRIG scientist to shorten the testing of any particular fertilizer, including Lithovit, and the witness said yes.
Mr. Codjoe further put it to the witness that any such serious directive as this would have been in writing and not oral.
“That should be the norm but in this case the scientists who appeared before the committee said they were instructed by the first accused (Dr. Opuni) in his office… My Lord, Mr. Afrifa and Dr. Amoah and one Dr. Adu Acheampomg told the committee that Dr. Opuni told them to shorten the testing period for agrochemicals,” the witness insisted.
Veracity of Report
Mr. Codjoe then questioned the veracity of the committee to declare the CRIG report on Lithovit which says the fertilizer can be applied to mature cocoa due to similarities with other fertilizers in use as unscientific, since the composition of the committee did not include any expert in fertilizer.
“My Lord, no; the committee called Dr. Ofori Frimpong, a seasoned soil scientist whose name also appeared on the report and interrogated him in the presence of Mr. Afrifa the other soil scientist and Mr. Dogbatse another soil scientist and Dr. Amoah an agronomist and myself as a scientist, and during the interrogation we all came to the conclusion that it was unscientific because if you go through the report you will see that Dr. Ofori Frimpong, the senior most soil scientist, stated that it was very unscientific,” Dr. Adu-Ampomah replied.
Dr. Opuni’s lawyer concluded the cross-examination of Dr. Adu-Ampomah who has been in the witness’ box since May and Benso Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo, is expected to conduct his cross-examination on December 11.