General News of Saturday, 3 November 2018
A prosecution witness has told the Accra High Court that the fertiliser which is at the centre of the GH¢271.3million fertiliser scandal trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Seidu Agongo did not contain the required nutrients.
In his evidence-in-chief yesterday, the Head of the Soil Science Division of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Alfred Arthur, also said the label of the Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser did not have manufacturing and expiry dates.
He said he and other group of scientists from CRIG came by the information after CRIG directed them to revaluate all agrochemicals on the market in December 2017.
The said revaluation, he said, was to determine whether or not the agrochemicals should be renewed for use in the 2018 cocoa season.
According to him, laboratory analysis done during the revaluation indicated that the Agricult Foliar Fertiliser contained 0.06 per cent calcium carbonate and 0.86 per cent of magnesium carbonate.
The analysis, he said, was totally different from the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF) that CRIG tested in 2013 which contained 75.3 per cent calcium carbonate and 9.8 per cent magnesium carbonate.
“Based on this improper labelling and the extremely low nutrient content in the sample, we asked management not to renew the certificate for the liquid Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser,’’ he said.
“Not what we tested”
Dr Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, have been charged with 27 counts for allegedly 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.
It is the case of the prosecution that the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser that CRIG tested and approved for use was powdery in nature but Dr Opuni’s-led COCOBOD bought liquid LFF from Agricult Ghana Limited that had never been tested by the 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.
Dr Arthur, who testified that he tested the LFF, said what he tested was powdery LFF with a registered patent from Germany.
According to him, the scientists tasked to conduct the revaluation were surprised when they found that the LFF on the market was a liquid LFF known as Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser.
“ We were expecting to find LFF in a powdery form, however, what we picked from the field was a liquid substance. The Soil Science Division has never tested a product by name Agricult Liquid Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser,’’ he said.
Hearing continues on November 12, 2018 for Dr Opuni’s lawyer to cross-examine the witness.
Case against Opuni & Agongo
It is the contention of the Attorney-General (A-G) that 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 lose 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