The failure of the state to call even a single farmer to give evidence in court in support of its case against former COCOBOD boss and two others, was telling on prosecution as the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) makes strenuous efforts to discredit a defence witness, Thomas Amo Amankwaa.
The witness, who is based in Berekum in the Bono Region, with a 20-year experience as a cocoa farmer, has been testifying about the efficacy of Lithovit liquid fertilizer.
At Monday’s proceedings, prosecution insisted that the witness had no receipts proving that he was given lithovit liquid fertilizer by COCOBOD.
But he replied, “my Lord as for the receipts I have many. My Lord COCOBOD has records and they can always go and check. The last time I left for Berekum, the district officers called and told me that they were called from Accra to ask whether I was a farmer and they told them I have plenty farms”.
He had described Lithovit liquid fertilizer sold by Seidu Agongo’s company Agricult Ghana Limited as a “saviour” due to the bumper harvest he and his colleague cocoa farmers recorded after applying lithovit.
Former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo have been accused of, among others, causing financial loss to the state. It is the case of prosecution that Lithovit liquid fertilizer purchased during the tenure of Dr. Opuni was a “worthless product” because the state did not get value for money.
But the witness has told the court that his yield jumped from 1,600kg of cocoa beans to 4,600kg when he applied Lithovit liquid fertilizer during the 2015/2016 cocoa season, an account that contradicts prosecution’s “no value for money” claims.
Mr. Amankwaa has since tendered in evidence his passbook which contains details of all products received and the quality of cocoa produced by him as well as other information from Licenced Buying Companies.
“My lord, I am here not because of anything but to plead with the government to bring back Lithovit fertiliser because it really helped us,” he told the court on Thursday.
When the case resumed on Monday May 30, 2022, the onus, therefore, was on prosecution to convince the court that the witness was not credible, which became a daunting task for the DPP, Mrs. Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa to surmount during cross-examination.
Prosecution insisted that the witness’ have no receipts proving that he was given lithovit liquid fertilizer by COCOBOD. But he replied, “my Lord as for the receipts I have many. My Lord COCOBOD has records and they can always go and check. The last time I left for Berekum, the district officers called and told me that they were called from Accra to ask whether I was a farmer and they told them I have plenty farms”.
Mrs. Atakora-Obuobisa further asked him, “Even the receipt you brought to court in the last adjourned date is nowhere related to the passbook”.
Amo Amankwaa answered, “my Lord that is not true. What I brought was one covering 2013/2014 cocoa season, the quantity of fertiliser that was supplied to me and that was the waybill”.
The witness was then asked about his request to a cocoa purchasing clerk to remove pages 5 to 8 from his passbook after the clerk made mistakes, which prosecution said “if those pages had indeed been removed in the passbook, it would have affected the pages on the other side i.e. pages 61,59,63 but that is not so as they are all intact.”
But the witness reminded the court, “my Lord, I asked the cocoa clerk to tear them out because he had made mistakes. I have already stated that I made this book for me to get scholarship for my children in future and it is the pages he made the mistakes that we tore off, but the opposite pages we did not write anything there. So when you look into the passbook, you will realise that from 2012/2013 follows with 2013/ 2014 and also follow up to 2021”.
Prosecution was unconvinced and asserted, “please you haven’t answered my question, my question is that you can’t tear one half and have other parts intact i.e. numbers intact”.
The witness maintained, “My Lord, that is why I am saying that the Clerk tore only where there were mistakes. My lord, the book was not made in such a way that when you tear one side the other side will tear off.”
Mrs. Atakora-Obuobisa pushed further, “I put it to you that your answer is not true and that from exhibit 113, when you tear one side, the other one too will be removed.”
The witness then retorted, “my Lord what counsel is saying is rather not the truth. What I am saying is the truth.”
Prosecution further enquired if the cocoa purchasing clerk was literate or illiterate, and was told that the clerk, “Mr. Nana Yeboah cannot read and write but he has vast experience on the job”.
“I am putting it to you that the entire exhibit 113 was made up by yourself just to make a case that lithovit is a good product and that it increased your yield,” prosecution asserted, which the witness countered, “my lord, that is not true, I cannot deceive the court”.
Former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, are facing over 25 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a justice of the Supreme Court who is sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, adjourned the case to today, Wednesday, June 1, 2022.