As Attorney-General’s Witness Praised Fertilizer In His 2017 Caution Statement To Police
The Attorney General’s first witness in the ongoing criminal trial involving Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo and Agricut Company Limited on Wednesday, contradicted his earlier claim to High Court, Accra presided by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, when he claimed in a statement that the lithovit fertilizer, the subject matter of the prosecution he tested, was a liquid fertilizer and not a powdery fertilizer.
The Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, had in April 2017 upon his arrest by the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) in a caution statement to the state agency, stated that , Dr. Francis Baah, who was the head of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED), a division of COCOBOD, had affirmed that the lithovit fertilizer which was evaluated and certificate issued to Agricult was in liquid form and not solid or powdery.
Under a five-hour grueling cross-examination on Monday, October 8, 2018, Dr. Amoah, admitted to have given the said statement to EOCO, after the statement was tendered in court by lawyers for Dr Opuni.
The Prosecution, which seemed surprised upon being shown a copy of the EOCO statement, asked the lawyers for Dr. Opuni, whether the said statement was part of the document they (prosecution) gave to the accused person.
Dr. Opuni through his legal team led by Samuel Codjoe, have maintained that no powdery substance was submitted to CRIG for testing, but rather a liquid fertilizer was submitted, tested and highly recommended as worthy for the growth of Cocoa.
Dr. Amoah, had further disclosed in his statement to EOCO that, Dr. Francis Baah, the Executive Director of CHED, had further confirmed that the use of Lithovit liquid fertilizer, induced prolific flowering and result in higher cocoa yield.
He averred that, it was based on the work done by CHED that it came to light that, Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, was efficient and could improve yield.
Indeed, Dr. Amoah admitted, “I was a member of the team, the Director of CHED, Dr. Baah, affirmed that Lithovit as a liquid fertilizer induced prolific flowering on cocoa trees which could result in high yields.”
The description of the fertilizer as “a liquid fertilizer induced prolific flowering on cocoa trees which could result in high yields,” by Dr. Amoah in the statement he personally submitted to EOCO, drew a surprise look on the face of the judge, as well as lawyers present.
The witness was made to identify his handwriting in the caution statement and made to read portions of it to the court. Mentions were made of Dr. Kwarpong and one Dr. Afrifa; both soil scientists, who had both worked on the said fertilizer and recommended its purchase and use by the Cocoa farmers.
Dr. Amoah, admitted to have signed and issued the first certificate on the fertilizer.
The witness further admitted to a question posed to him by lawyers of Dr. Opuni to the effect that one cannot rely on one factor such as application of fertilizer application to determine cocoa yield, which admission is contrary to the claims made by the Attorney General, Gloria Afua Akuffo, when she read the facts in support of the charges that the application of lithovit fertilizer resulted in lower yield.
He conceded that, although subsequent reports and certificates were issued in support of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer, he was on retirement when the certificates were issued.
He further stated that, he was not privy to whether due process was followed or not. This statement is in conflict with his earlier statement to the Court that due process was not followed in the evaluation of the fertilizer, before certificates were issued to Agricult.
Counsel for Dr. Opuni, also inquired from the witness the meaning of “affirm” which appeared in his caution statement to EOCO, which he said it means “confirm,” implying the product was certified as good for use.
The trial of Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, who have been accused of causing financial loss to the state, resumed after two months break, due to the legal vacation which began from August 1, 2018.with lawyers, grilling the first prosecution witness for more than five hours.
An attempt by counsel for Dr. Opuni’s lawyer to know the salary of the prosecution witness, however, was overruled by the judge, after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, had raised objection.
Lawyer Cudjoe, was of the view that, the witness’ salary was crucial to his client’s case, as it would show that the “witness is being motivated by money,” hence his engagement by the Akufo-Addo government on contract to his former place of work as the boss of CRIG.
This was after, Dr. Amoah, had told the court that he retired in 2015, but was recalled and given a 19-month contract by the Akufo-Addo government as Executive Director of CRIG in 2017.
Based on that, Mr. Codjoe, made a case that the witness lobbied to get his job back, despite being on retirement, purely to continue to enjoy his salary, and was desperate to make a case against Dr. Opuni.
Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, argued that the salary of Dr. Amoah, was irrelevant to the case and should be disallowed.
She further argued that, Mr Codjoe, was just bent on embarrassing the witness.
“He need not disclose his salary. His salary is not relevant to the case. Salaries are privileged information between employees and employers,’’ she said.
But Mr Codjoe, insisted that the question was relevant and questioned why the salary of a public official should be a secret.
“Salaries in the public service are well known. The salaries of the President, Speakers of Parliament and judges are in the public domain,’’ he said.
After listening to both sides, the presiding judge, disallowed the question, describing it as outright conjecture.
Mr Codjoe, shifted focus and asked Dr. Amoah about certain allegations that he (Dr. Amoah) unlawfully harvested timber from COCOBOD’s concession.
Dr. Amoah, explained that the allegations were false and investigations directed by Dr. Opuni, concluded that the allegations were totally unfounded.
“After the investigations, a report was sent to Dr. Opuni, who saw that all were false allegations to tarnish my hard-earned reputation.
He, therefore, directed that the main architect behind the unfounded allegations be transferred from CRIG to a plantation at Wassa Akropong,’’ he said.
Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agogo, are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretence, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the court.
Before the legal vacation, Dr. Amoah told the court that Dr. Opuni, sidestepped all rules governing the testing of new chemicals before their application on cocoa crops.
He later under cross examination told the Court that he was not around when subsequent tests were conducted and the products recommended for use and was therefore not privy to whether or not due process were followed .
The case has been adjourned to today the 10th day of October, 2018 for continuation of cross-examination of Dr. Amoah by lawyers for Dr. Opuni.