The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa last Thursday, incurred the wrath of counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe with the former being accused of giving verbal instruction to Justice Clemence Honyenuga in an open court.
For over 10 minutes, the two lawyers were entangled in hot verbal exchanges over the admissibility of a document lawyer for Seidu Agongo, Nutifafa Nutsukpui, had wanted to tender through the witness of Dr Opuni, Mr Codjoe’s client.
In the heat of the unfriendly and adversarial moment, and whilst the trial judge was making strenuous efforts to calm tempers down, Mrs Attakora-Obuobisa, asked him to rule on an issue, whilst lawyer Codjoe was on his feet addressing the court.
This obviously infuriated lawyer Codjoe and with a stern gaze at Mrs Attakora-Obuobisa, counsel, stretched a warning finger in her direction and retorted: “You can’t give instructions to the judge”.
Prior to that, prosecution had objected to the tendering of the document by lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui who was cross-examining the witness. The document was a waybill issued by COCOBOD to the third defence witness who wanted to use it to authenticate some inscriptions he made on his passbook which is in evidence.
“My lord it has no reference to the writings he made in page 113 and it cannot be admitted in the court,” the prosecution said in part, “so what he is seeking to tender will have no reference at all. My lord this document seeks to throw dust in the eyes of the public and most importantly has no relevance.”
But Nutifafa Nutsukpui, drew the attention of prosecution to page 9 of the passbook which speaks to the relevance of the document he was seeking to tender through the witness. Lawyer Codjoe then rose to also argue in support of the tendering of the document through his client’s witness.
He, therefore accused prosecution of “misleading” the court, something Mrs Attakora-Obuobisa, didn’t take kindly and asked the court to stop Mr Codjoe from objecting to points raised by her.
This generated a heated argument between the two with lawyer Codjoe insisting that if the prosecution has a right to object and explain her objection, it would “fly in the face of common sense” to say that he cannot explain why he supports the tendering of the document. After the back and forth had dragged for a while, the judge gave lawyer Codjoe the permission to make his point, in order to end the intellectual cul-de-sac.
Nonetheless, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, upheld the objection raised by prosecution as he ruled that the document counsel for second and third accused persons was seeking to tender “has no relevance”.
Mr Amo Amankwaa, a cocoa farmer with 20 years of experience told the court “it is not true that COCOBOD wasted money when it bought Lithovit liquid fertiliser… My lord Lithovit is a great saviour for farmers like myself and others who used Lithovit in the 2015/2016 cocoa season.”
The Berekum-based witness is the second cocoa farmer to have so far testified in the over four-year trial, and have all testified in favour of the accused persons. Whilst the first described Lithovit as a “messiah”, Mr Amankwaa calls it a “great savior and sought debunk the charges of causing financial loss to the state levelled against Dr Opuni and Seidu Agongo.
Based on experience, he said, the efficacy of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer which is at the centre of the trial was way above other fertilizers he and his colleague farmers applied on their cocoa farms.
“As a result of the prosecution’s position that COCOBOD wasted its money in buying lithovit liquid fertiliser, the prosecution has brought second and third accused to be jailed or punished for causing financial loss to Ghana because they sold the litovit liquid fertiliser to COCOBOD. What will be your reaction sir?” Counsel asked.
Mr Amankwaa replied: “My Lord, they have not caused financial loss to Ghana. This is because when we farmers used Lithovit liquid fertilizer, it gave us a lot of yields which we have never seen before.”
He stated further, “the COCOBOD unit, CHED that supplied us with the fertiliser knows that it is very good. In 2017/2018, I went to CHED office to request for Lithovit liquid fertiliser to be used for my cocoa farms and the CHED officials told me that they are aware that it is very good but its supply has been ceased by the COCOBOD officers in Accra.”
The witness also recounted how he roamed the open market, wanting to buy Lithovit without success. “My lord, we went to CHED office to demonstrate for the Lithovit fertiliser to be brought back because it helped us. The COCOBOD officials told me that this will not have any effect and that if we want we can go to radio stations and so I went to Akonoba FM in Sunyani, Chris FM in Berekum, Ahenfo FM in Berekum and Shalom FM in Berekum to appeal to the government to bring back Lithovit fertiliser because it helps give us good yield in our cocoa farms.
“My lord I am here not because of anything but to plead with the government to bring back Lithovit fertilizer because it really helped us.”
The witness who has been engaged in cocoa farming for the past 20 years reiterated that “it is not true that COCOBOD wasted money when it bought Lithovit liquid fertiliser… My lord Lithovit is a great saviour for farmers like myself and others who used Lithovit in the 2015/2016 cocoa season.”
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 Licensed Buying Companies.
In his evidence-in-chief on Wednesday, the witness narrated how his production jumped from 1,600kg of cocoa beans to 4,600kg when he first applied Lithovit liquid fertilizer.
The 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, Monday, May 30, 2022.