An advisor to the Food and Agriculture Minister on Cocoa Affairs, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the third prosecution witness in the trial of Dr. Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo, was stunned when it was revealed that he actually procured the services of a board member of COCOBOD to tell Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) that he drank fertilizer; a highly poisonous substance with a pungent smell and can kill.
Unfortunately for him, the board member identified as Nana Obeng Akrofi, failed to do his bidding when he appeared before the anti-graft agency, counsel for businessman, Seidu Agongo, lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui, who was holding brief for lead counsel, Benson Nutsukpui, told the High Court, last Thursday.
Dr. Stephen Opuni Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah
The test result conducted on the fertilizer by the Ghana Standards Authority revealed it had 14.6percent as the value for urea found in the sample lithovit liquid fertilizer, yet the witness claimed in his evidence in-chief when EOCO submitted it for testing, the fertilizer which he had said contained a substance that “smells like urine”, was drank by a farmer.
The court also heard that another person the witness directed to EOCO to report that he drank lithovit fertilizer in place of water, to prove that the fertilizer was not efficacious, rather went and praised the product, saying his yields rather increased.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is a former Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, conceded he would not have asked them to go to EOCO, if he had known that they would not mention that they drank lithovit fertilizer.
“None of these two ever told you they drank lithovit fertilizer,” the lawyer asserted, but the witness insisted, “My Lord they did. I directed them to EOCO”.
“In fact Mr Emanuel Obeng, said at EOCO that lithovit fertilizer is very good for young and matured cocoa,” lawyer Nutsukpui told the witness.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah replied, “my Lord that cannot be; I wouldn’t have told them to go to EOCO”.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah under cross-examination on January 21 alleged, “During the preliminary investigation and during EOCO investigation, we received complaints from farmers concerning the Lithovit liquid fertilizer. Some farmers complained that the Lithovit liquid fertilizer was like water and that when they went to their farms and there was shortage of water, they could drink that in place of water.”
He, however, admitted on February 6, 2020 that there is no documented evidence that he is even privy to, either at EOCO or when he himself investigated lithovit fertilizer that said farmers drank the product.
He also admitted in court that no farmer complained about lithovit fertilizer to any of the divisions under COCOBOD or any extension officer of CHED.
Mr. Nutsukpui disclosed that per the statement Nana Obeng Akrofi gave to EOCO, his complaint was that he used to get 50 bags of cocoa from a 10-acre farm but having applied lithovit he got only 52 bags. As such he did not find lithovit as effective as the extension officers of CHED had claimed.
Nana Obeng Akrofi gave this statement to EOCO on the 20th of April 2017, about a month after he was sworn in as a board member of COCOBOD on 28th March 2017.
Asked “Sir, you had procured these two individuals to do your bidding but unknown to you they spoke the truth. I am putting that to you”, Dr. Adu-Ampomah responded, “No my lord!
Asked again “From your experience as a scientist, can you drink urea? The Agric Minister’s advisor responded again “No my lord”.
Asked “The test result that you saw from Ghana Standards Authority which you referred to in your evidence in chief of the 20th of May 2019, had 14.6% as the value for urea found in the sample lithovit liquid fertilizer that according to you, EOCO had submitted for testing”, Dr. Adu-Ampomah responded in the affirmative.
Q. And again from your science background, urea generates an offensive smell or pungent smell. That is true?
Ans. My lord urea smells like urine
Q. And you want the honourable court to believe this is what your farmers had been drinking on their farms?
Ans. My lord that is what they told me and that is the reason why I asked them to report to EOCO
Q. Again as a scientist of great repute is it possible for someone to drink a compound or solution which has 14.6% urea as water?
Ans. My lord that is what they told me
Q. Now sir, I am putting it to you that it is scientifically impossible to drink that much urea as water and survive to come and tell you the story
Ans. My lord, as I have said, I am not in a capacity to judge.
Q. Did you think that EOCO had the capacity to judge what they told you which is why you sent them there?
Ans. I thought EOCO could further investigate by consulting relevant authorities
Meanwhile, Dr. Adu-Ampomah also opened up, a little more, on the work of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) contrary to earlier perception he created which limited the scope of CHED.
He admitted that CHED does not only carry out extension services to farmers.
“My Lord extension services cover a wide range of agriculture or farming activities that the farmers undertake… [extension officers of CHED] advise on the use of good agricultural practices such as planting improved material, using proper population densities, applying appropriate agrochemicals and various studies,” he said.
The witness also admitted that the extension officers interacts with cocoa farmers in farming communities in carrying out their mandate as well as producing field report.
Lawyer Nutsukpoi also got Dr. Adu-Ampomah to admit to the content of a document that contradicts his earlier submission which suggested that there was a specific procedure employ at CRIG in testing chemicals.
The document, signed by Revd. Fr. E. K. O. Oddoye (PhD) in his capacity as the deputy director of CRIG dated September 22, 2017, was a response to query which the defence counsel said reflects the “true procedure” of how chemicals are tested at CRIG.
“There are no laid down protocols as such. With the advent of the testing of chemicals and machines at CRIG, Scientists in the various Scientific Divisions evolved their own protocols, based on standard scientific procedures,” the letter addressed to one Andrews Yaw Akrofi, head of Soil Science Division of CRIG said in part.
Below are excerpts of the proceedings
Q. During the 2015 field visit, the farmers in the areas visited by CHED who had been blessed enough to use lithovit liquid fertilizer were full of praises and wanted more. Are you aware
Ans. No my lord. But is it captured in the report?
Judge: please you don’t ask questions
Q. And sir, I am putting it to you that such expression of profuse joy at the opportunity to use lithovit liquid fertilizer was duly captured in CHED’s report on field visits to the regions dated April 2015
A Ans I am not aware of that
Q. According to you, some of the sources from which COCOBOD may get complaints about products are through some of these visits by CHED
Q. And Sir, here you were with complaints about a particular product to investigate because it was not efficacious and was being drank by farmers according to you. But you didn’t look in any of the CHED’s reports to see whether this complaint was captured in any of the reports from those field visits
Ans. The committee during the investigation never found any report like that
Q. The committee didn’t find because it never asked CHED. I am putting that to you
Ans. My lord there was no document available to COCOBOD like that
Q. Would you be surprised to know that the investigators of Eoco found these reports
Ans. yes its possible they can find such reports if they did a search but our committee never found such a report
Q. When you spoke about CRETECH, who did you say at COCOBOD that they report to
Ans. The CE through the Dep CE A&QC
Q. That was the position you occupied
Q. Did you enquire of CRIG whether they had any complaints on the lithovit liquid fertilizer
Ans. There was no need
Q. There was no need because you knew the answer before you started the investigation
Q. You meant to find the truth. That is correct
Q. Yet you shut your eyes to the sources within COCOBOD some of which in fact report to you from where you could have easily found the truth
Ans. No my lord. To find the efficacy of a product, you need not necessarily go to CRETECH and that is why we sent samples through Eoco to GSA for testing.