Drama unfolded outside the courtroom at the last hearing of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo criminal case, when the Director of Public Prosecution, Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, prevented a witness from attending to nature’s call.
The witness, Samuel Torbi, who was on admission at the Ridge Hospital for days and had to truncate his testimony to return later, was going to use the washroom to ease himself when the court went on recess, but the DPP accosted him showing no mercy even as he begged her not to have himself publicly embarrassed by passing out excreta on himself.
The DPP was suspicious that Dr Opuni and the witness who was under cross examination, had planned to interact in the washroom to spoil her case.
Eyewitnesses were left in shock when Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa, ordered a police officer in the court to prevent, a defense witness from attending to nature’s call, because she feared Dr Opuni, the first accuse had gone to the washroom, and the presence of the witness in the same washroom was going to compromise the state’s case.
The witness who was accompanied by a police officer as the rule required to ensure he talks to no one, was rudely stopped at the entrance to the washroom by Madam Atakora-Obuobisa.
Mr Torbi, a highly respected Cocoa farmer with over 33 acres in the Central Region, who was shocked at the development, sadly asked her “are you going to look on whilst I embarrass myself in public”.
The question didn’t move the DPP to be compassionate and have empathy for the illing man, she instead stood her ground and retorted back “I will not allow you in until that person leaves the washroom”.
Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa, instead, instructed the police officer not to allow Mr Torbi enter the washroom, until everyone, including Dr Opuni, exits.
Meanwhile in the courtroom, it was a humiliating moment for the Director of Public Prosecution last Thursday as she was schooled in court by a young cocoa farmer for her inability to tell a fertilizer from pesticide.
Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, had spent several minutes in a back and forth session with the second defence witness as she tried to decipher apart the difference between two chemicals – fertilizer and a pesticide – as captured on a waybill which is in evidence.
The DPP had initially misconstrued all the chemicals to be fertilizers.
Mr Torbi, who has over 33 acres of cocoa farm has been testifying at the trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo who have been accused of, among others, causing financial loss to the state.
It is the prosecution’s case that Lithovit liquid fertilizer purchased during the tenure of Dr. Opuni was a waste of resources, because the state did not get value for money.
Although, the state called seven witnesses, none was a farmer, as the end user, to testify to the efficacy or otherwise of Lithovit liquid fertilizer, which is at the center of the trial, after it was applied on the farm.
During his evidence in chief, Samuel Torbi, who is a witness for Dr Opuni, tendered in evidence a distribution waybill given to him by the CHED of COCOBOD in 2016 on some chemicals, including Lithovit liquid fertilizer.
Under cross-examination on June 2, the witness was asked by the DPP, Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa to tell the court the fertilizers and the amount he received from CHED on February 11, 2016.
“My Lord I received 12 bottles of fertiliser,” the witness answered in reference to Lithovit liquid fertilizer.
Prosecution then asserted, “Mr Torbi, you have deliberately left out in your evidence before this court fertilisers you received apart from Lithovit fertiliser as exhibit 111 shows you received fertilisers other than lithovit.”
The witness replied to her, ‘That is not true my Lord, I didn’t write this receipt so what I was given is what is on it.’
Mr Torbi who knew that Lithovit was the only fertilizer stated on the waybill enquired from the DPP, which other fertilizers she was referring to.
Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa then pointed to the Akate, which the witness admitted receiving 48 bottles (48 litres) in addition to the 12 bottles of Lithovit.
It became obvious that the DPP could not tell the difference between a fertilizer and pesticide just by their names.
Mr Torbi then offered this education: “My Lord, there is only one fertiliser on exhibit 111. The other one written there is called Akate master. It is a pesticide and not fertiliser.”
Mr Torbi had told the court how his yield was doubled when he applied Lithovit liquid fertiliser on his farm, describing the product as a “messiah”.
He noted that COCOBOD has records of his claims, and therefore asked the court to verify from the state agency if it is in doubt.
But Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa challenged claims by the witness on the efficacy of Lithovit, noting that the witness’ account has “inconsistencies” and made certain “insertions” just to prove that Lithovit was good.
But, Mr Torbi shot back, “My Lord what DPP is saying is not true, what I am saying is the truth. Because I have already told the court where exactly to verify the truth about my passbook from and so I am telling this court that I am not lying.”
The witness was also accused by prosecution of altering the passbook which he tendered in evidence as his.
“Mr Torbi, you are not being truthful to this court because the R,O ,C K,S,N and that will mean Rockson and not Samuel,” Mrs Atakora-Obuobisa noted.
But the witness stressed, “my Lord I am telling the truth, I was brought up to tell the truth. The PC who wrote my name is still alive and I can show where he is for the court to ask.”
Prosecution pushed further, “Sir, the name in the passbook is not yours because the name has been changed from Rockson to Samuel and the signature in your passbook is different from the one in your witness statement.”
The witness replied, “My Lord I am explaining to the court that what the prosecution is saying is not true. My lord with the cocoa farm I have in the Central Region if three farmers are to be selected from the Assin Fosu district, I will be first or second and so I cannot take someone’s passbook to be mine. I will further say that before you are given a passbook, the cocoa Clerk will send the names of farmers who need the passbook before the passbooks are issued to them. So if you the PC makes mistakes in your passbook whiles filling it, you will not be issued a different passbook and so those mistakes must be corrected in the book. My lord most farmers do not see the mistakes that are made but I am little educated so when I saw there was a mistake in my name I told the Clerk to change it. I initially asked the PC to give me a new passbook but he refused because there is a unique code which identifies the district so he will not be able to get me a new one till the next year. The code on the passbook is CR126364. There is no farmer that harvest more cocoa than me and if there is doubt, my passbook can be taken back there if there is anyone called Samuel Torbi apart from me or anyone who is called her so-called Rockson Torbi”.