– Witness tells court at COCOBOD trial
Peter Okyere Boateng, the seventh defence witness, has shot down claims by the third prosecution witness, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, that a farmer told him lithovit liquid fertilizer is sometimes drunk in the absence of potable water.
Though the farmer to whom the claim is attributed failed to put this in his witness statement when he appeared before the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), the prosecution had strongly pushed that oral narrative to discredit the efficacy of the fertilizer.
Interestingly, the farmer in question, Nana Obeng Akrofi who happens to be a board member of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), actually told EOCO that he harvested two extra cocoa bags after he applied lithovit liquid fertilizer on his 10-acre farm.
However, under cross-examination led by counsel for Seidu Agongo, Benson Nutsukpui, the former Deputy Executive Director of Cocoa Health Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, Mr Okyere Boateng, told an Accra High Court that though the product is liquid, no farmer trained by CHED would dare to drink lithovit liquid fertilizer as alleged.
“Did you meet any of the farmers drinking lithovit as water,” the witness was asked on Thursday, November 2, 2023.
“My Lord a big no,” the witness stated, stressing, “I wouldn’t expect any farmer who has gone through CHED extension education to even taste any agrochemical let alone drinking it.
“My Lord, let me add that the farmers have been trained to look at every agrochemical as a potential poison irrespective of the actual toxicity level or sidal effect, that is the cleaning ability.”
Counsel further asked the witness if he ever received any complaint from farmers in his tour to cocoa farms that the lithovit fertilizer was just like ordinary water.
“My Lord I never received any form of complaint from the farmers that I met on the farms, rather it was all commendations and singing of praises of the efficacy of the fertilizer,” he told the court president over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh.
Mr Okyere Boateng, also said his regional managers did not complain to him about the efficacy of lithovit
“My Lord I have said here severally that all regional managers including the Eastern region praise lithovit and lobbied for more supply, and therefore I never received any complaint. Though I personally did not go to the Eastern region, they never brought any report that seems to complain. So far as I’m concerned there is no complaint about lithovit fertilizer that came to me.”
Meanwhile, the witness has also maintained that he never met the second accused person, Seidu Agongo, nor any official from his company Agricult Ghana Limited before the court processes.
“My Lord I have already said it in my evidence that I had never met the A2 being described here until I came to this honourable court,” he said
Former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, as well as the latter’s company, Agricult Ghana Limited, are being trialed on 27 counts, including willfully causing financial loss to the state and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.
The case has already passed through the hands of two judges. The third trial judge, Justice Aboagye has been accused of bias and meting out unfair treatment to the first accused person.
The trial judge has however thrown out an application asking him to recuse himself.
Find excerpts of Thursday’s cross-examination below
Q.your director of CHED at the time was Dr. Francis Baah, that is also true
A. Yes my Lord that’s also true
Q. You told this court that part of your duty is to meet monthly with regional managers
A. Yes my Lord
Q and this regional managers reported to you on matters affecting cocoa in their cocoa regions
A. Yes my Lord
Q how many cocoa regions were normally coming to the meetings with you
A. my Lord in Ghana there are 7 cocoa regions where cocoa is planted and produced
Q and these regions which are they
A. My Lord the cocoa regions are Western North, Western South, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti region, Central region, Eastern region, Volta region. These are the regions where cocoa is planted and from where Ghana cocoa board gets its cocoa produce every cocoa year
Q. and it is the regional managers of the regions you just mentioned that you were meeting with
A. yes my Lord
Q. I want you to clarify something, when you said “being very close to the regional managers” would I be right if I understand it to mean being constantly dealing with them in a professional manner in your working relation
A. my Lord the relationship that existed between the regional managers and my office as the deputy executive director was very cordial and not bossy, so I was running a completely open administration of the department. Therefore my Lord, the regional managers always felt comfortable and at home to come to me with any problem or request, be it official or even personal
Q. it is because of your style of administration that the regional managers will feel free and open up to you and lobby on good fertilizers or chemicals for their regions, that is correct
A. My Lord that is very correct
Q. Sir kindly tell this court with respect to lithovit, how many managers talk you on the need for more in their regions
A. My Lord the whole of the seven regional managers, those whose region did not get supply of lithovit fertilizer came lobbying for the lithovit fertilizer for their farmers because, the farmers were putting pressure on them to get them the chemical
Q. While you were the deputy executive Director in charge of monitoring and evaluation at CHED did you ever come into contact with A2
A. My Lord I have already said it in my evidence that I had never met the A2 being described here until I came to this honourable court
Q.and for the purposes of emphasis, have you ever met any official of A3 Agricult Ghana ltd
A. My Lord, I have sworn by the crucifixion which is the foundation of my Christian belief and by that I stand to state that I have never met any official from Agricult
Q. Sir it is true that the regional managers who were lobbying for lithovit were lobbying because of its efficacy
A. My Lord that is exactly the reason they gave me for lobbying for more of the lithovit fertilizer. In fact my Lord, they told me that the performance of the lithovit that their farmers applied had performed magic in the sense that the farms had produced beyond imagination
Q. Sir you told this court that they challenged you to visit the farms and see for yourself
A. My Lord that is exactly true
Q. You visited Brong Ahafo in April 2015, that is correct
A. my lord I and one technical officer visited the Brong Ahafo region and while other officers visited the other regions from the monitoring and evaluation department
Q. Sir did you visit Bechem
A. My Lord there are six cocoa districts in the Brong Ahafo region. And therefore it is not only Bechem district that I visited, meaning yes I didn’t visit Bechem township, I visited Bechem district,
Q. These six that you visited, you are talking about visiting the cocoa farms and cocoa activities in the cocoa districts
A. My Lord yes, when any official visits the field, the visit is meant operational and that is to perform activities in the field. It would be my Lord, for the farmers with the farmers or the field staff either separately or together
Q. Sir it is true that all the six cocoa districts in the Brong Ahafo that you visited on April 25 had had their farmers earlier supplied with lithovit fertilizer
A. The farms that I visited with the field staff were varied in terms of the fertilizers that were supplied therefore I did not visit only lithovit applied farms
Q. During the April 25 visit did you visit the farms that were supplied with lithovit fertilizer
A. My Lord yes because one of the objectives of my field visit and for that matter all the other officers was to look at the performance of farms sprayed with the lithovit fertilizer, therefore yes, I visited farms applied with lithovit fertilizer in all the six cocoa districts in the Brong Ahafo region
Q. The lithovit that was used at the cocoa districts you visited were supplied by COCOBOD to the cocoa districts through your normal chain of distribution.
A. my Lord yes, COCOBOD is the only source of supply of the lithovit fertilizer for farmers
Q. Sir and your good self and your team came to the conclusion same as the regional managers that lithovit was very efficacious
A. My Lord what I personally observed in the field and what the farmers I happened to meet in farms said, the kind of commendation that they gave, was exactly the same thing that the regional managers told me as the reason why I come to the field to observe, and also lobby for more supply of lithovit to their regions
Q. Did you meet any of the farmers drinking lithovit as water
A. My Lord a big no. I wouldn’t expect any farmer who has gone through CHED extension education to even taste any agrochemical let alone drinking it. My Lord, let me add that the farmers have been trained to look at every agrochemical as a potential poison irrespective of the actual toxicity level or sidal effect, that is the cleaning ability
Q. Sir while you were on your tour, did any of the farmers complain to you that the lithovit fertilizer was just like ordinary water
A. My Lord I never received any form of complaint from the farmers that I met on the farms, rather it was all commendations and singing of praises of the efficacy of the fertilizer
Q. Did the regional manager of eastern cocoa region complain about the efficacy of lithovit
A. My Lord I have said here severally that all regional managers including the Eastern region praise lithovit and lobbied for more supply, and therefore I never received any complaint. Though I personally did not go to the Eastern region, they never brought any report that seems to complain. So far as I’m concerned there is no complaint about lithovit fertilizer that came to me
Q. Your staff that visited the Eastern region would ordinarily report to you, that is correct,
A.. my Lord that is correct
Q. Please clarify to this court that at all times you, your staff and also the regional managers, also the farmers report to were referring to lithovit liquid fertilizer, that is correct
A. My Lord there is only one lithovit liquid fertilizer that I know and so are my officers, and that’s the Agricult lithovit liquid fertilizer
Q.and when your staff lobbied and you forwarded same to the executive director of CHED at that time that the number of lithovit should be increased, you were all talking about lithovit liquid fertilizer
A. My Lord yes, it was nothing but lithovit liquid fertilizer
Q. It is true that COCOBOD and its officers were very clear that the lithovit they were using is liquid fertilizer, that is correct Sir
A. My Lord that is correct