A prosecution witness told the Accra High Court yesterday that test results on the fertiliser at the centre of the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and businessman, Seidu Agongo, were fabricated.
A Special Advisor on cocoa to the Minister of Food and Agriculture and former Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, said the test results allowed the use of the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser on mature cocoa even though the test was conducted on cocoa seedlings and not mature cocoa.
He accused a former head of the Soil Science Department of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Mr Alex Afrifa, of fabricating the test results without the knowledge of two other scientists, Dr Dogbatse and Dr Alfred Arthur, who took part in the test.
In his previous testimony last Monday, the witness said between 2014 and 2016, Dr Opuni gave contracts valued at $66million to Agricult to supply about 2.4million litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser to COCOBOD to be applied on mature cocoa.
He said further that Dr Opuni awarded a contract of $27.5million in the latter part of 2016 to Agricult to supply one million litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser for the 2017 cocoa season.
The contracts, he said, were awarded when the fertiliser had not been tested on mature cocoa and that the fertiliser that Agricult gave to CRIG for testing was powdery and not liquid.
Continuing with his evidence-in-chief yesterday, Dr Adu-Ampomah based his testimony on investigations that a committee set up by COCOBOD in 2017 and headed by him to investigate certain anomalies with regard to the testing of agrochemicals and fertilisers by CRIG had come out with.
According to him, a former Executive Director of CRIG, Dr Anin Kwapong, told the committee that he suspected that Mr Afrifa was not being truthful with the test on the fertiliser, and, therefore, had had him replaced as Head of the Soil Science Department of CRIG.
The witness further said Dr Kwapong told the investigative committee that he queried scientists at CRIG and made further investigations on the test results on the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser submitted by Agricult and also made certain findings which revealed that the results were bogus and had been fabricated by Mr Afrifa.
Dr Adu-Ampomah testified that based on the revelation, the four-member investigative committee recommended that the certificate issued to Agricult Ghana Limited for the sale of Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser be withdrawn and the contract for the supply of one million litres of the fertiliser, signed in 2017, abrogated.
“We also recommended that the conduct of the CEO of COCOBOD, Dr Opuni, and that of the scientist, Mr Alex A. Afrifa and Mr Seidu Agongo, should be reported to state investigative agencies,” he said.
During cross-examination, counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, asked the witness to mention the names of certain American and Dutch non-governmental organisations (NGO) that he said he worked for after he retired from COCOBOD.
Dr Adu-Ampomah mentioned Solidaridad as the Dutch NGO, and added that the American NGOs were linked with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Counsel put to the witness that he never worked for any NGO and that was why he could not mention any of the American NGOs.
Cross-examination continues on May 28, 2019 at the court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga.
Case against Opuni & Agongo
In March 2018, the Attorney-General (A-G) charged Dr Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused a financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
Seidu Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.
The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.