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Allegation that the duration of Lithovit’s tests was altered suffers a setback

The long-standing claim by prosecution witnesses in the GH¢217 million financial loss case against former Ghana Cocoa Board CEO Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo that fertilizers pass through a minimum two-year probationary period at CRIG before receiving the green light. for use, suffered a shock in the courts following the revelation that the Omnifert Aduane fertilizer, approved in 2017, was tested for only three months.

Four of the seven prosecution witnesses in the ongoing trial alleged that testing of Lithovit foliar fertilizer conducted by CRIG in 2013 did not undergo the minimum two-year testing period due to an oral directive from the then CEO.

However, evidence has been presented in court that testing of Lithovit fertilizer was even concluded months before Dr. Opuni joined COCOBOD.

The Accra High Court which heard the trial on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 learned that three of the prosecution witnesses who made that claim actually played a role in the testing of the Omni Cocoa Aduane granular fertilizer in 2017, which was subjected to only three tests. month-long laboratory test and was approved for use on ripe cocoa, contrary to his testimony in court.

Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo, as well as the latter’s company, Agricult Ghana Limited, have faced 27 charges, including fraud by false pretenses, intentionally causing financial loss to the State, corruption of public officials and contravention of the Public Procurement Law.

Dr FM Amoah, former Executive Director of CRIG; Dr Alfred Arthur, former CRIG senior soil scientist; and Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, former Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, who are the first, second and third prosecution witnesses, as well as Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, the seventh prosecution witness , they all stated that the fertilizers tested at CRIG lasted a minimum of two years or on average three years, except for the Lithovit foliar fertilizer.

But in 2017, when the CRIG approved the Omni Aduane fertilizer, the final trial report was sent to Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, Dr. FM Amoah was the Executive Director of the CRIG with full knowledge of the trial period, and the Dr. Alfred Arthur was even one of the scientists who worked on the laboratory test.

It may be recalled that Dr Amoah, for example, alleged in 2018, when he gave evidence in court, that when he was Chief Executive of CRIG, Dr Opuni, then Chief Executive, told scientists including Dr Francis Baah , who was the Office Manager of the Presidency of the Executive, that the former Director General ordered to shorten the fertilizer tests at the time when the CRIG was testing the foliar fertilizer Lithovit.

As a result of the directive, Dr Amoah said, testing of Lithovit foliar fertilizer for mature cocoa was reduced to six months instead of the stipulated minimum period of two years.

Dr Francis Baah has denied Dr Amoah’s claim that Dr Opuni gave such a directive when he appeared in court.

The claim that fertilizers are tested for a minimum of two years has been disputed by several COCOBOD scientists who have testified in court so far and have argued that there is no set or static testing period at the Cocoa Research Institute. from Ghana.

In the statement in chief of Rev. Dr. Emmanuel O. Oddoye, former Deputy Executive Director of the CRIG and former Chairman of the Committee on Testing of Chemicals and Machines (CTCM) of the CRIG, Mr. Benson Nutsukpui, the lead counsel for Mr. Agongo, produced a piece of evidence marked with the number 41 and signed by the witness who disagreed with the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses regarding the trial period of the fertilizers.

Rev. Dr. Oddoye retired from COCOBOD on June 16, 2021 and is now in full-time ministry as an Anglican priest.

He is the fourth witness cited by Mr. Agongo.

He noted that Omnifert Limited on February 16, 2017 submitted Omni Cocoa Aduane granular fertilizer to COCOBOD for testing.

A report on the laboratory testing of the said fertilizer, signed by Rev. Dr. Oddoye, and dated May 19, 2017, was addressed to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD at the time, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who had a supervisory function. on the activities of the CRIG.

Was the report submitted “no later than three months after the presentation of the sample?” The witness was asked, to which he replied: “That is correct.”

The executive summary of the report on Omni Cocoa Customs states in part that “deviations (above or below) of the laboratory test result from the specified content could be attributed to human, laboratory and equipment errors.”

The witness was therefore asked to explain what that statement meant.

“The statement explains that the results of the laboratory test were not exactly as indicated in the formulation, but that the deviations are within normal limits,” he told the court.

However, the witness admitted that the scientists who worked on the product concluded that: “The content of the fertilizer sample is, therefore, duly verified by laboratory testing such as Omni Cocoa Aduane and suitable for use in ripe cocoa.”

The scientists who prepared the report are Dr AK Quaye, Dr Alfred Arthur (second prosecution witness) and AJ Dogbatse (third defense witness).

Rev. Dr. Oddoye was therefore asked: “In the case of Exhibit 42, did the authors return to the field in 2017 when Omnifert Limited brought its Omni Aduane fertilizer?”

“They did not return to the field,” the witness responded.

He was further asked, “While you were the head of the CTCM fertilizer testing team, please tell us about the field trials regarding the fertilizers that were tested at that time. Did the scientists do a field test for every fertilizer that was brought to the CTCM?

The witness replied: “No, my Lord.”

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