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Opuni Trial: Lithovit liquid fertiliser ‘good as water'

BY: Justice Agbenorsi
Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni
Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni

The seventh prosecution witness in the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and businessman Mr Seidu Agongo, has testified that one of two farmers interrogated by the police as part of investigations described the lithovit fertiliser as “good as water”. 

The form and quality of the lithovit fertiliser has become a major contention in the trial of Mr Opuni and Mr Agongo, who were dragged to court on 27 charges for allegedly engaging in illegalities in a series of fertiliser transactions, which the Attorney-General says caused a financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.

According to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, although one of the farmers only described lithovit as good, the second farmer described it “as good as water”.

The prosecution witness made this known during cross-examination by counsel for Mr Agongo, Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, who held brief for Mr Benson Nutsukpui.

Counsel sought to make a case that there was no adverse statement from any farmer during cross-examination regarding the suitability of lithovit liquid fertiliser as they applied it to their cocoa farms.

However, Detective Chief Inspector Mercer said although he did not have the statement of the farmer who described the lithovit liquid fertiliser as “good as water”, he could produce the said statement if asked to.

This is not the first time a prosecution witness in the case is linking the fertiliser to water.

In January last year, the third prosecution witness, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah, said farmers expressed concerns about the lithovit liquid fertiliser supplied to them.

Under cross-examination, he said during the preliminary investigation conducted by the transitional team of COCOBOD and during EOCO investigation, they received complaints from farmers describing the product as water.

Charges

Dr Opuni was the CEO of the COCOBOD between November 2013 and January 2017, while Agongo is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, an agrochemicals company.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to the COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo's products not to be tested and certified as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges, and are on self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.

Excerpts of cross-examination

Mr Nutsukpui: So as far as you are aware, it was only two farmers you obtained statements from as part of these investigations; is that correct?

Chief Inspector Mercer: Yes, My Lord.

Mr Nutsukpui: In exhibit 69 which is a statement by one Mr Emmanuel Obeng, he confirmed that he used lithovit fertiliser and found it very good for young and mature cocoa; is that true?

Chief Inspector Mercer: Yes, My Lord.

Mr Nustukpui: Sir, you see, I'm putting it to you that you never obtained any other adverse statement from any farmer regarding the suitability of lithovit liquid fertiliser as they applied it to their cocoa farms.

Chief Inspector Mercer: My Lord, so far as this investigation is concerned, statements were obtained from two farmers. One is exhibit 69 that I hold in my hand in which the farmer stated lithovit as good. Unfortunately, the other farmer also described lithovit as good as water.

Mr Nutsukpui: Sir, I am putting it to you that no farmer gave you a statement in which he or she described lithovit as good as water.

Chief Inspector Mercer: My Lord, that is not true. I can produce the statement if I am asked to.