Opuni trial: Farmers preferred lithovit fertiliser — Witness

Opuni trial: Farmers preferred lithovit fertiliser — Witness

The efficacy of lithovit, the fertiliser at the centre of the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni came up once again at the Accra High Court last Wednesday with a witness testifying that some cocoa farmers preferred it as compared to other fertilisers.

Advertisement

The witness, Dr Francis Baah, the Director of Research at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) confirmed to the court that he was part of a technical team that toured some cocoa producing districts in April 2015, during which some farmers said they preferred lithovit fertiliser as against granular fertilisers.

However, the witness said due to the small number of the farms visited, the technical team decided to undertake more studies on more farms to ascertain the veracity of the claims by the farmers.

Dr Baah, who is also a former Executive Director of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, was testifying as a subpoena witness for Seidu Agongo, the second accused person.

He made the assertions as he was being led to give his evidence-in-chief by Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Agongo, at the court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

Dr Opuni, a former Chief Executive of COCOBOD is standing trial with businessman Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, producers of the said fertiliser.

State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of transactions involving the said fertiliser.

They have pleaded not guilty to 24 counts ranging from wilfully causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretence, contravention of procurement laws, corruption of a public officer and manufacturing fertiliser without registration.

The two are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

Efficacy of lithovit

The issue of the efficacy of the lithovit fertiliser is one of the bone of contention in the trial.

While the prosecution claims that the fertiliser was substandard and has accused Agongo of allegedly using fraudulent means to sell the fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, the defence team insists the fertiliser was very efficacious, leading to tremendous increase in cocoa yield.

The prosecution has further accused Dr Opuni of using his position as the CEO of COCOBOD (November 2013 to January 2017) to facilitate the alleged acts of Agongo by allowing the lithovit liquid fertiliser not to be tested and certified as required by law.

A prosecution witness, Dr Yaw Adu- Ampomah, a former Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of Quality Control and Agronomy, told the court in 2020 that farmers expressed concerns about the efficacy of the lithovit liquid fertilisers supplied to them, with some even describing it as drinkable water.

However, a cocoa farmer, Samuel Torbi, who testified as a defence witness for Dr Opuni, told the court in May 2022 that the lithovit fertliser was exceptionally good to the extent that it increased his cocoa yields remarkably from 2,875 kilogrammes in the 2013/14 cocoa season to 8,125 kilogrammes in the 2015/16 cocoa season.

Lithovit foliar fertiliser

During the evidence –in-chief, Dr Baah said he recalled the technical team that made the field trip made a composite report in which they recommended to COCOBOD to purchase more lithovit fertiliser.

However, he said such recommendations from technical reports, especially with regard to fertlisers was not an absolute decision to purchase those fertilisers but could influence the decision to purchase or not purchase a fertliser, which was within the purview of Cocoa Disease and Pest Control (CODAPEC) programme of COCOBOD.

Mr Nutsukpui then asked the witness whether his client, Agongo, influenced him or any member of the technical team that made the composite report after the field trip.

The witness answered in the negative.

Below are excerpts of what ensued between Dr Baah and Mr Nutsukpui:

Mr Nutsukpui: Do you know Alhaji Seidu Agongo?

Dr Baah: Not on a personal level, but I have seen him in the media.

Mr Nutsukpui: While you were at CHED, did you ever meet Alhaji Seidu Agongo?

Advertisement

Dr Baah: I believe we met at cocoa functions but not on personal level.

Mr Nutsukpui: In the performance of your duties at CHED, were you or your team influenced in anyway by Alhaji Seidu Agongo or Agricult Ghana Limited
Dr Baah: My Lord, no.

Hearing will continue Tuesday, March 19, this year.

writer’s email: [email protected]

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...

0
Shares