Justice Clemence Honyenuga, has excused the ex-CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, from his own ongoing trial for six weeks on medical grounds.
This was after the Medical Director of St. Lucy Eye Clinic, Dr Kodjo Abalo, gave the first accused person, who is being tried together with businessman Seidu Agongo for causing financial loss of GHS271 million to the state, a six-week excuse duty from any activity that could stress his eyes to enable him heal fully.
Dr Opuni, recently had four surgeries on his left eye and is recuperating at home with strict instruction by the medical time not to step out and subject the eye to pressure or else he goes blind.
But the court invited Dr Abalo, an eye surgeon who has been practicing his trade since the 1980s, to justify the six-week period. His facility is internationally recognized and has been receiving patients from abroad.
In court on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, Dr Opuni’s lawyer, Sam Codjoe, informed the hearing, presided over by Supreme Court judge Clemence Honyenuga that his client had been given a six-week medical excuse by his doctor, so he could stay away from all activities that risked straining the surgically operated eye to enable proper healing.
But after hearing both sides, Justice Honyenuga, who went on retirement recently, but has been given some additional time to finish the case said: “Looking at the circumstances of this case, it is my view that in order to clear any controversy or doubts about the medical report before this court, I will order that Dr Abalo Kodjo, the medical director of St. Lucy Eye Clinic, to appear before this court with all the records on the first accused [person]”.
“The Registrar of this court is to ensure that his order is served on the said medical director per his address as stated on the medical report. In the circumstances, I will adjourn this matter to Monday, the 17th of October 2022 at 10 am”.
Appearing on Monday, October 17, 2022, the surgeon said that the six weeks were “crucial in the healing process of the eye.”
According to him, Dr Opuni, was a referral patient who first visited the clinic on May 21, 2022.
He said after the patient was examined, it became clear that his eye needed to be operated on.
The medical director, said the two-hour operation was done on September 23, 2022 after Dr Opuni recovered from COVID-19 on September 9, 2022.
Dr Opuni was then given post-operative medication and a six-week excuse duty.
For the first 14 days of the six weeks, he was to always keep his head bowed because of the gas injection component on the retina.
Dr Opuni, along the line, developed high intraocular pressure and had to be managed with medication, the medical director told the court.
Subsequently, he was advised to always be in dark shades and avoid bright light.
The medical director was then cross-examined by Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson, who insisted that the witness had no capacity to offer the court an expert opinion on the matter since he did not perform the operation himself.
Dr Abalo, however, noted that even though he was not the specialist who conducted the surgery, everything was carried out under his supervision, adding that the “post-operative cases were done by me.”
“l am in charge of all the operation cases at the facility”, he noted, mentioning: “In case anyone needs an excuse, it is the medical director, who writes the report”.
Dr Abalo noted: “Every medical director has the capacity and the responsibility to be in charge”, noting: “The success and failure of an operation rests on the director.”
After the cross-examination, Justice Honyenuga ruled: “It is my opinion that the court grants Dr Opuni the excuse duty to heal”.
The judge said the explanation by the medical director informed the court’s decisions to shelve its plan to continue with the trial virtually.
He, thus, adjourned the case to 7 November 2022.
Ahead of the surgeon’s appearance, the chief state attorney Evelyn Keelson argued: “My Lord, the first accused person, who is on bail, is required to be present in this court, as undertaken in his bail conditions. My Lord, we have seen a medical report indicating that the first accused [person] has had surgery on his left eye; and in that report, the medical director has indicated that he needs six weeks to rest the eye for proper healing”.
“Respectfully, my Lord, this statement by the medical director is not binding on this honourable court. My Lord, the medical director did not indicate the basis for the six weeks he has indicated in the report. My Lord, under section 169(2) of Act 30, this honourable court cannot adjourn this matter for more than one month; and having already indicated that this court is not bound by the report, I pray that the court invites the medical director, Dr Abalo Kodjo, to give further and better particulars to his request for the first accused [person] to be excused for six weeks”, she went on.
She also proposed: “My Lord, in the alternative, this court can sit virtually to accommodate the first accused [person]. Indeed, my Lord, during the vacation, we were sitting virtually and it worked very well”.
Mrs Keelson also said: “My Lord, I want to state that nobody has taken away or seeks to take away the first accused person’s under article 19(3) to be present at his trial. The first accused person is on bail and is at liberty to attend the trial”.
Citing the same case referred to by Dr Opuni’s lawyer to counter a point made by the defence team, Mrs Keelson said: “My Lord, these matters were clearly explained in the case my learned friend cited; the Benjillo case, so, my Lord, it is, therefore, our submission that this court, in the exercise of its discretion, can proceed with the case without infringing Article 19(3) since, as I have stated, the doctor’s opinion for the accused person to stay away for six weeks, is not binding on this honourable court”.
In her view, “My Lord, this court can grant the accused person some days but certainly not six weeks as suggested by the medical doctor, especially when he is not admission”.