Opuni’s “fertiliser” admitted into evidence

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni
Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni

A sample of the fertilizer at the centre of the alleged GH¢ 271.3 million COCOBOD fertiliser scandal was today admitted into evidence by the Accra High Court despite an objection by counsel for the first accused person, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

The prosecution had sought to tender as evidence the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF) in a container which it said was tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in 2013.

That was after the second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, the research officer, who testified to have conducted the test, identified it as the LFF that he worked on.

Counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, however, objected to the LFF being tendered as evidence on the basis that the witness could not had worked on the sample and still present the full sample as evidence.

“Based on this, the alleged Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser which was worked on in 2013 should be rejected as evidence,” he prayed the court.

Ghana News Headlines

For latest news in Ghana, visit Graphic Online news headlines page Ghana news page

Objection has no basis

In her response, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, described counsel’s objection as one without basis and urged the court to dismiss it.

According to her, by law, the only reason why an exhibit should be admitted as evidence was its relevance to the case.

The accused persons, she argued, had been charged with offences related to the LFF.

Also, she submitted that the witness was the one that conducted the test on the said LFF and, therefore, the LFF was relevant to the case.

“The basis for admission of evidence in this court is relevance. The objection has no basis under the rules of evidence and should be overruled,” she said.

After hearing the two sides, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, overruled counsel’s objection and admitted the LFF sample into evidence.

Powdery or liquid fertiliser

Dr Opuni, a former CEO of COCOBOD, and Mr Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, have been charged with a total of 27 charges in relation to the alleged scandal.

One of the bond of contention in the trial had been the form of the alleged LFF.

It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser that CRIG tested was powdery in nature, but Dr Opuni’s led COCOBOD bought liquid LFF from Agricult Ghana Limited that had never been tested by CRIG.

Counsel for the accused persons on the other hand had always maintained that the LFF that was tested was liquid in nature and not powdery.

At the hearing today, Dr Arthur, who is currently the Head of the Soil Science Division at CRIG, told the court that the LFF that he tested was powdery.

According to him, the LFF in the container that was presented to him for testing was a grayish powdery substance
“I opened the lid of the container and a fine powdery substance was in the container,” he said.

Case against Opuni and Agongo

In March 2018, the Attorney -General charged Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertilisers to cocoa farmers.

According to the A-G, Dr Opuni, during his tenure as COCOBOD CEO (November 2013 to January 2017), breached laid down procedures in procurement and other laws that led the state to loss GH¢271.3 million in the alleged fertiliser scandal.

Agongo is also alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.

The two accused persons have denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges.

They are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.