Witness Shocks Court In Opuni Trial
Dr. Stephen Opuni
Dr. Alfred Arthur, the Acting Head of Soil Science Division of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), last Friday made a shocking revelation before the Accra High Court hearing the case of Dr. Stephen Opuni and Alhaji Seidu Agongo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricult Ghana Limited.
According to Dr. Arthur, who is the second prosecution witness in the trial, CRIG, does not keep records of its scientific findings on chemicals and machines that come before it for investigations and certification.
Under cross-examination, Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, asked the witness, whether CRIG has a diary, in which scientists record daily happenings, including research into chemicals and machinery, the witness said he could not tell.
He was further asked, whether the Soil Science Division has a diary, which record daily activities and he said yes, but that not every activities done at the division were been recorded in the daily.
Dr. Arthur, had told an Accra High Court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge that his division never tested a fertilizer named Agricult Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer.
Interestingly, Benson Nutsukpi lawyer for Alhaji Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited, had earlier shown an invoice, a receipt and requests letters from CRIGwhich he said confirm that a product named Agricult Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, had been tested by CRIG end certificates of approval issued.
Dr. Arthur, said even though there were no records in their system to show that the fertilizer was tested, but there was a certificate issued with the signature of Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, the Executive Director of CRIG.
Dr. Amoah, who is the first prosecution witness, had admitted to the court that he indeed, issued the certificates on Agricult Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer after CRIG scientists summited their research findings on the product.
Dr. Amoah, had attested to his personal integrity and vouched for the competence of the scientists whom he suggested could not be manipulated.
But Dr. Arthur said in his evidence in chief led by Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Oboubisa, the Director of Public Prosecution that on October 9, 2017, himself, Mr A.A Afrifa, the former Head of the Soil Science Division of CRIG and one J.H Dogbatse, were summoned to appear before Adu-Ampoma Committee at COCOBOD.
He said the committee was chaired by the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD in Charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, Yaw Adu-Ampomah, and they were asked to explain whether Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer went through full field testing at least two years.
In his response, he said, the Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer was tested for a period of six months, the question, therefore was that why was the recommendation made for it to be used on matured Cocoa and “I told them that I cannot speak to that.”
Dr Arthur said Mr A. A. Afrifa after a series of interrogations from one of the Committee members, said he wrote the supposed final report and submitted without the knowledge of the witness and one J.H Dogbatse.
Dr. Arthur, also said he had heard his former boss, Mr. Afrifa telling the Committee that he was instructed by Dr. Opuni to end the trial of the testing of the fertilizer at the six month period and that COCOBOD was going to carry out a pilot project on a 10,000 acre cocoa production farm.
Interestingly, the report that went to COCOBOD was signed by Dr. Amoah, CRIG boss and not Mr Afrifa his subordinate. Again, Dr. Amoah had on Friday, October 12, 2018, told the court that he and his colleague scientists at CRIG flouted an alleged verbal directive from Dr. Opuni, and ensured that Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, went through every due process before its certification and purchase by the COCOBO.
Dr. Amoah, had told the court that he referred the Lithovit sample to the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM); a body he personally set up to be responsible for the testing and evaluation of all agro chemicals and machines presented to CRIG by COCOBOD.
In court last Friday, Mr. Cudjoe, the lawyer for Dr. Opuni, drew the courts attention that the evidence of Dr. Arthur, was given about Mr Afrifa was inadmissible as it’s a hearsay evidence, unless the State comes under section 126 of the Evidence Act and tender the material as an official document or else call Mr Afrifah to come and testify.
In response to the observation, the Director of Public Prosecution, said the witness was telling the court, what he had seen, heard and took actions on.
She said from the beginning on his evidence-in-chief, the witness had testified on how he had worked on the fertilizer and various interactions with officers of COCOBOD, EOCO and CRIG all in respect to the testing.
The court then overruled the observation and allowed the witness to continue his evidence in chief.
Dr Arthur said in December 2017, Management of CRIG, asked scientists and technical officers of the Soil Science Division, Plant Pathology and Entomology Division to go to the field and re-evaluate all agro-chemical and spraying machines used on cocoa for the 2018 crop season.
He said samples of fertilizers and insecticides among other chemicals were collected from farmers and one of the fertilizers found on the market found at Tafo Cocoa Station was the supposed Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer.
He said, the samples were sent to the laboratory to check its efficacy, adding that “My Lord we were expecting to find the fertilizer in a powdery form but, however, what we picked from the field was a liquid fertilizer but we analysis the content all the same.”
The Acting Head of Soil Science Division said the Laboratory analysis indicated that there was 0.06 per cent of Calcium Carbonate and 0.086 magnesium carbonate in the fertilizer. It is, however, not clear whether the lawyers of the accused persons will challenge the independence of the laboratory analysis but the question why the container and its content had been kept away from them until last Friday, although the Court had said they should be furnished with exhibits. The judge reiterated his ruling that the prosecution must furnish the defense with every exhibits.
Dr. Arthur had added that “the packaging of the container did not indicate the expiry and manufacturing dates and based on the improper labelling, we asked management not to issue any certificate covering the Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer with the product name; Agricult Lithovit Folliar Fertilizer plus 5 per cent urea,”
He said after submitting report to Mr Afrifa on January 14, 2014, he did not do anything again and no re-evaluation was done by the division thus at a lost the re-certifications.
He told the court that somewhere in July 2017, he appeared before the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) where he was shown a sample of liquid Agricult Lithovit Fertilizer he tested in 2013.
“A sample of fertilizer supposed to be Lithovit Fertilizer was shown to me by one of the investigators. On it was written 1 litre. There was another inscription: ‘Made in Germany for Agricult Ghana Limited.” It was a whitish cylindrical container with a green lid.
“What you are showing to me is a liquid substance since it has indicated 1 litre because the Lithovit that I worked on though was also in a whitish cylindrical container with a green lid, the name of the product was simply Lithovit and the weight was expressed as 1kg indicating that it was a solid product,” Dr. Arthur told the court.
When the DPP asked the name of the cylindrical container, the witness replied “it was Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer.”
on certificates tendered in evidence by the defence as those given to Agricult Ghana Limited for the 2015, 2015 and 2016 cocoa seasons, Dr. Arthur said, “as far as I can see on the face of the certificate I am holding, the soil science division of CRIG never tested a product by name Agricult Lithovit. Lithovit is a patented or registered product and is always sealed without any company name attached to it.”
Dr. Arthur also sought to discredit certificate signed by Dr. Gilbert Anim-Kwapong, former CRIG boss compared to the original 2013 certificate, which was signed by the then Chief Executive Officer of CRIG, Dr. Amoah.
It is not clear, whether Mr Afrifah and Dr. Anim-Kwapong, will be called as prosecution witnesses to buttress the claims of the subordinates.
Mr Afrifah was sent home as the head of the Soil Science Division, when the new management of COCOBOD took over in 2017 and Dr. Athur made to take of over.
The case has been adjourned to November 12, 2018, for the defence lawyers to cross-examine the witness.