Court demands vital documents from COCOBOD in Opuni trial

General News of Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Source: theheraldghana.com

2018-12-05

Former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni

An Accra High Court, has directed the Ghana Cocoa Board to furnish it with some vital letters and other documents to assist in the trial of Dr. Stephen Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the COCOBOD and Alhaji Seidu Agongo, CEO, of Agricult Ghana Limited.

The Court, gave the directive to the Board’s Solicitor on Monday and asked that the documents, the letters and their attachments in the custody of the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), be filed before the next session on Monday, December 10, 2018.

This letters and documents includes, a letter for renewal of certificate dated November 20, 2014 for pesticides, fertilizers and spraying machines from January to December 2015 with Reference number CRG 4 Vol. 54.714 and another letter with reference number CRG. 39/14 Vol. 19/6448 dated October 21, 2014.

The directive said, they should include its attachments and also a handing over notes of Dr. Anim Kwapong, an ex-Executive Director of CRIG, together with its attachment and its report on the testing of agro-chemicals and spraying machine with all the pages signed.

It will be the second time in the trial that, the court is asking COCOBOD to furnish it with very important documents. The previous documents, which have since been handed over to the court, had to do with investigations and suspension of the second prosecution witness, Dr. Alfred Arthur, over a forged scientific report on a fertilizer called Cocoa Nti, which has been described as unethical conduct.

Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge on Monday, said Cocoa Health and Extension Division of COCOBOD, is also joined to the directive.

He said, a further signed copy and completed report on the field visits by the management of Cocoa Health and Extension Division dated April 25, 2015, should also be furnished to the court.

Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the Counsel for Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, initiated the directive by praying the court for the order.

Dr. Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the Court.

Dr Alfred Arthur, a scientist at the Soil Science Division of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), answering questions under cross examination was asked whether he knew about these documents but he answered in the negative

Mr Nutsukpui, asked the witness, whether he knew Dr. Anim Kwapong, prepared a detailed handing over note for Dr. Franklin Amoah, but Dr. Arthur said “My Lord I have not sighted any document, but it should be a normal practice for any officer leaving office.”

On whether, he was aware that Agricult Ghana Limited, paid an amount of GH¢21,492 to CRIG and also received acknowledgment of receipt for the sensitisation of farmers and extension officers on new tested products, the witness indicated he may not know that.

The Counsel asked the witness, whether scientists from the Soil Sciences Division, train extension officers of COCOBOD on new fertilizers tested, Dr Arthur answered yes.

Mr Nutsukpui, further asked that when these trainings take place, does the Division send bills and budget to the companies, whose products were tested to pay for the sensitisation and awareness creation on the product , the witness said yes and explained that what happens is that if a product was tested and recommendation made to COCOBOD and approvals made with issuance of certificate, the client may write to CRIG that they want a sensitisation to be done for the farmers and the officers on the approved product, so it was upon the request from the company that the training would be done.

The Counsel asked whether the witness was aware that CRIG gave an invoice of GH¢6,492.50 for the certificate renewal of Agricult Liquid Lithovit fertilizer signed by Dr. Anim Kwapong, the then Acting Executive Director of CRIG.

The witness said “CRIG at the end of the trial year will normally send bill to clients, whose products have been tested and approved by COCOBOD to renew their certificate before the New Year.”

He said it usually based on the first certificate issued, which should be renewed but the certificate on Lithovit fertilizer issued indicated that the product was Lithovit foliar fertilizer, so he was surprised to hear that CRIG was to renew a certificate called Agricult Liquid foliar fertilizer, which CRIG never tested.

The Court presided over by Justice Honyenugah adjourned the case to Monday, December 10, for continuation of further cross-examination of the witness.

Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the lead counsel for businessman, the Seidu Agongo in the GHS217 million Opuni-Agongo trial on Monday, 3 December 2018, demonstrated to the Accra High Court hearing the case that the chemical composition and scientific operation of Lithovit Foliar fertilizer, which is at the heart of the case, aided not only cocoa yield, but worked perfectly on vegetables and other plants too.

During his cross-examination of the state’s second prosecution witness, Dr. Arthur, Mr Nutsukpui stated that available literature on Lithovit which he insisted was liquid indicates that it speeds up photosynthesis and releases a high concentration of Carbon Dioxide, which essentially stimulates growth in

Dr. Arthur agreed to that particular assertion and affirmed to the court that, indeed, that particular physicochemical reaction is what Lithovit Foliar fertilizer is well-known for. He also affirmed that an activity called tribodynamic action, in which the particles of Lithovit Foliar fertilizer permeate into the stomata of the leaves, ignites the release of plant energy essential for growth.

As such, this quality of Lithovit Foliar fertilizer makes it essential not only for cocoa tree growth, but also for the growth of other plant species including vegetables.

Dr. Arthur again responded in the affirmative when Mr. Nutsukpui told the court that when Lithovit Liquid fertilizer is sprayed on leaves, it leaves a thin layer on the surface of the leaves which ensures the release of more plant energy to aid growth.

Here are excerpts of today’s proceedings:

Cross-examination by Nutsukpui

Q. You gave some evidence that you did some reading on Lithovit.

A. Yes my lord.

Q. Did it also come to your attention while you were reading on Lithovit that it is not soluble in water?

A. No my lord. In all cases, Lithovit was recommended to be mixed with water at the point of application and in fact, the scientific adviser to Zeovita GMBH, Prof. Dr. Bilal in 2010 recommended Lithovit to be applied at the rate of 500g in 100 litres of water.

Q. So, is it your position that Lithovit is soluble in water?

A. Yes.

Q. I am putting it to you that all scientific evidence indicates that Lithovit is not soluble in water.

A. As I indicated to the court earlier, work done on Lithovit here in Ghana by Prof Nkansah and Prof Owusu, both at the University of Ghana, clearly stated that Lithovit foliar fertilizer was mixed with water at the point of application. The client of that work was Agricult Ghana Limited and the report is dated December 2013

Q. And you have the report?

A. My lord, I have to look for it.

Q. You can bring it at the next sitting?

A. I can’t promise but I will look for it.

Q. When we say something is soluble in water, it means it dissolves in water.

A. Yes my lord.

Q. Like sugar dissolves in water?

A. Yes my lord.

Q. And is it your position that Profs Nkansah and Owusu stated that Lithovit is soluble in water?

A. The treatment they tested indicated that Lithovit was mixed with water at the point of application. Per the treatment they tested.

Q. Are you deducing from the treatment or Profs Nkansah and Owusu stated that Lithovit is soluble in water?

A. My lord, I am deducing from the treatment and also from the scientific advisor to Zeovita GMBH, manufacturers of the Lithovit foliar fertiliser.

Q. I am suggesting to you that Zeovita did not state that Lithovit is soluble in water. It specifically stated that it is not soluble in water.

A. What I am quoting is from the scientific advisor to Zeovita and not Zeovita as a company.

Q. It is true that when Lithovit is sprayed on the leaves, it leaves particles size smaller than stomata openings on the leaves.

A. Yes.

Q. It is also true that its particles penetrate through to the stomata to the intercellular compartment?

A. Yes.

Q. It is also true that that action creates a physicochemical reaction at the cell membrane releasing Carbon Dioxide at high concentration?

A. That is correct and, in fact, that is the main function of the powdery Lithovit Foliar fertiliser and not by inducing flowering.

Q. As a result of the physicochemical reaction, photosynthesis is greatly enhanced.

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know what is called tribodynamic action?

A. Yes.

Q. That is the effective action that Lithovit ignites in the plant.

A. Yes.

Q. And that increases the energy converted from the particles.

A. That’s correct.

Q. It is true that when Lithovit is sprayed as a suspension on the leaves, a considerable portion of it remains in a thin layer on the leaf’s surface.

A. That’s correct.

Q. Indeed, it is also true that there are 2 mechanisms by which Carbon Dioxide is released from Lithovit.

A. I don’t know that one.

Q. You will agree with me that if the particles were soluble in water, the solution cannot form a thin layer.

A. Not entirely so.

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