Dr Stephen Opuni, former CEO, COCOBOD
Dr Stephen Opuni, former CEO, COCOBOD
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Opuni trial: ‘Lithovit fertiliser went through standard testing’

A subpoenaed witness in the case in which a former CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and two others are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state has told the High Court that the lithovit foliar fertiliser went through the standard test for seedlings. 

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Under the cross-examination of state attorneys, the witness, Reverend Father Emmanuel Okpoti Kofi Oddoye, who is a former Deputy Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), said although he was not at post when the fertiliser was submitted for testing, lithovit went through the standard test for seedlings of six months after the content had been verified in the laboratory. 

Not guilty

Dr Stephen Opuni is standing trial with Seidu Agongo, Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemical company. State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of lithovit foliar fertiliser transactions.

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

Dr Opuni and Agongo have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each. 

Cross-examination 

Rev. Oddoye had indicated in his statement that the lithovit that was submitted for testing was powder and not liquid. The witness was shown two exhibits, one requesting the verification of nutrient OmniFert cocoa aduane, and the other requesting CRIG to evaluate lithovit’s suitability for cocoa production.

The prosecution suggested to the witness that the period of testing for the two fertilisers could not be the same. In his response, the witness explained that the circumstances surrounding the testing of the two fertilisers were a little different.

“Although I was not present when lithovit was submitted, it went through the standard test for seedlings of six months after the content had been verified in the laboratory, and in the case of OmniFert cocoa aduane, the Soil Science Division decided to carry out only a laboratory verification.

“Indeed, CRIG management initially wrote to COCOBOD to deny any knowledge of fertiliser trials that had been done earlier. Subsequently, the Soil Science Division of CRIG were able to prove that some earlier trials had been carried out using a fertiliser formulation similar to that of OmniFert cocoa aduane, and so the report was allowed to stand,” he said.

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