COCOBOD’S Documents And Procedures Confirm Witch-Hunt
The Akufo-Addo government, may have scored some political points within the rank and file of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) by dragging former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo to the Accra High Court with a claim of causing financial loss to the state.
But details emerging from the Chief State Attorney, Evelyn D. Keelson’s files show, she may find it very difficult to prove any wrongdoing on the part of the respected bone surgeon and the businessman, because there appears to be nothing to nail them with.
Indeed, it has also emerged that the Prosecution used Ghana Standards Board, not the certified Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, to claim that the fertilizers supplied, distributed and already used by Ghanaian cocoa farmers, is fake.
From the files seen by The Herald (pictured) the case will only end at media trials and speculations on social media platforms with the most ridiculous reported in the Daily Guide newspaper which belongs to the acting National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Freddie Blay, that Dr. Opuni, took GH¢25,000, as kickback in awarding contracts worth Gh¢217,370,289.22.
Documents sighted by The Herald in the wake of the 27 charges leveled against Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo, show that the COCOBOD under former CEO, followed laid down procedures in the award of the contracts to Agricult Ghana Limited owned by Mr. Agongo.
Credible documents intercepted by this paper, indicate that the said fertilizer and other products supplied by Mr. Agongo ,were not only of excellent quality, but were tested and approved by an organization tasked with that job.
According to the documents, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) a division of COCOBOD at New Tafo – Akim in the Eastern Region, tested the fertilizer; AgricCult Lithovit and recommended same to COCOBOD.
CRIG, the only certified body to approve such chemicals for the cultivation of cocoa in Ghana, issued about three certificates on AgricCult Lithovit, arguing that its field instigations and interactions with the cocoa farmers, show that cocoa farmers are excited about it use.
The first certificate issued on January 22, 2014, was signed by the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, one Dr. F.M. Amoah, captioned “Certificate”, it read “The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana tested and recommended to the Ghana Cocoa Board LITHOVIT FOLIAR FERTILIZER……”
The second certificate issued by the same outfit on March 31, 2015 and signed by its new Executive Director, Dr. G. J. Anim-Kwapong, also gave the go ahead to COCOBOD to use the fertilizers, which per the then government’s policy, was distributed to cocoa farmers across the country, free of charge.
Interestingly, it was this same fertilizer that had “not for sale” embossed on them, which was sold to cocoa farmers across the country by the Akufo-Addo government and Joseph Aidoo-led COCOBOD management upon assumption of office last year, despite mass protests.
The third certificate, issued by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana on July 28, 2016, also gave same directive to COCOBOD, to use it after testing.
Meanwhile, The Herald, has gathered that government in its desperate attempt to prosecute members of the previous administration, having tagged them as corrupt, took samples of the said fertilizer to the Ghana Standard Board (GSB) which claimed the fertilizer was of inferior quality after testing.
The GSB, headed by Prof. Alex Duodo, rather tested the fertilizer, instead of the outfit responsible for testing these products, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana.
Interestingly, Prof. Alex Duodo, who now heads GSB, has had a longstanding quarrel with Dr. Opuni, during the presidency of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills. Prof. Duodo ,was made board chairman of the then Food and Drugs Board but his appointment was later terminated.
He blamed it on Dr. Opuni and never forgave him. Throughout Dr. Opuni’s stay at FDB and later Food Drugs Authority (FDA), he mounted a negative campaign against him in the media, even on post market surveillance on drugs and food products, which the WHO had many times commended the FDA for doing effectively.
Some suspect, Prof. Duodo, is out to get his revenge for his 2009 dismissal as FDB Board Chairman by claiming Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo imported a fake fertilizer into the country.
Interestingly there is yet another document dated July 25, 2013, which shows CRIG, submitted a bill totaling GH¢24.018.80 to the CEO of Agricult for “Testing of your product, Lithovit on cocoa for 2013/2014 season.
This particular document showed that long before Dr. Opuni was sent to COCOBOD, Agricult Ghana Limited, owned by Mr. Agongo, had been dealing with COCOBOD.
The letter signed by then Dr. F. M. Amoah, added “Please arrange to effect payment to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. In paying any bill related to this product, please quote name of product submitted to CRIG”.
The Herald has also sighted portions of an April 2015 “Report On Field Visit To Regions” prepared by Cocoa Health & Extension Division (COCOBOD).
The report stated that “Additional foliar fertilizer, especially LITHOVIT which farmers have shown preference for could be purchased to argument the 700,000 litres purchased to ensure that all bearing young cocoa farms are fertilized so that the country could maximize its cocoa output”.
The former CEO, who also headed the FDA, was the first John Mahama appointee to be sacked by Akufo-Addo administration in a letter written by the Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo, who is also his nephew.
Mr. Agongo, is said to be owner of Zeera Group of Companies. The case will be called on Friday, March 23, 2018 at the High Court.
He and Dr. Opuni are facing 27 charges, including abetment of crime and defrauding by false pretence, willfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of public procurement Act, manufacturing fertilizer without registration, money laundering and corruption by public officer.