General News of Wednesday, 15 January 2020
An application by the Attorney General in defense of a key state witness; Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who has been cited for perjury in the ongoing COCOBOD case, has been rejected by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, Appeal Court Judge, presiding over the trial of Dr. Stephen K. Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo, as an additional High Court Judge.
The state wanted to defend Dr. Adu-Ampomah, but the Accra High Court ruled that since perjury is a quasi-criminal matter, the Attorney General’s action contradicts the constitution. This means the witness is on his own, and he has been given two weeks to seek the services of a private lawyer, to defend him.
This was after Justice Honyenuga, had heard objection raised by Samuel Cudjoe, to strike out the affidavit filed by the state in defense of the Agric Minister’s advisor on Cocoa Affairs.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness, was cited for perjury by Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for Dr. Stephen Opuni.
The motion for the perjury was supposed to have been moved on Thursday, January 9, 2020, in which Dr. Adu-Ampomah, was to justify why he should not be imprisoned for committing perjury.
Perjury is a criminal offense. It means willfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath. People who commit perjury, disrupt the legitimate discovery of the truth. They may face a variety of severe legal ramifications if they are convicted. These include having to spend time in jail, probation, or paying fines to the court.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is a former Deputy Chief Executive Officer at COCOBOD in Charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, had in his evidence-in-chief, in May 2019, told the court that the procurement practice at COCOBOD for fertilizers had always been by open tender.
This, he said, was done through advertisement in the newspapers, where the product required was specified, and interested companies, whose products have been tested and certified by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), were required to support their bids with documents.
Throughout his evidence-in-chief and whilst under cross-examination, the witnessed consistently told the court that it was the practice at COCOBOD that procurements of fertilizers are done through advertisements in the dailies.
It, however, turned out in court that COCOBOD has never procured fertilizers through advertisement but rather by sole-sourcing them.
Indeed, whilst the trial was ongoing, Mr. Cudjoe pointed out at least 18 contract documents which were rather sole-sourced at COCOBOD under the signature of Mr. Adu-Ampomah; the witness.
“I am putting it to you that in the entire life of COCOBOD, there has never been any occasion that the general public has been invited to bid for fertilizers by way of advertisement. It has never happened in any newspaper in Ghana,” lawyer Samuel Cudjoe asserted when he cross-examined the witness.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, a former deputy chief executive officer at COCOBOD in charge of agronomy and quality control, subsequently said “for fertilizers, yes my lord”, admitting that no advertisement was ever done.
But when the state reneged on its responsibility to cite Dr. Adu-Ampomah for perjury, counsel for the first accused decided to file a motion to that effect in November 2019.
When the perjury case was first called on Thursday, January 9, 2020, lawyer Cudjoe objected to an affidavit filed by the Attorney General on December 2, 2019, in opposition to the perjury.
Earlier, the judge had asked the respondent, Adu-Ampomah, if he had a lawyer, but he said no, adding, “I thought I was in for the state”.
Mr Cudjoe, then drew the attention of the judge that he even has a primary objection to the affidavit filed by the AG, which the respondent is seeking to rely on.
“My Lord, it is our position that the AG filing affidavit in opposition is against Article 88 (3) of the constitution,” he said.
Article 88 (3) stipulates that “The Attorney-General shall be responsible for the initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences”.
Mr Cudjoe, therefore argued that since perjury is a quasi-criminal case the Attorney General cannot represent anyone in such trial.
He cited a number of cases including the Supreme Court vrs the Fast Track High Court in which the National Lotteries Authority was the ex-parte.
“My Lord this is just to show that when it comes to perjury the respondent has to have his own lawyer,” he said.
He accused the AG of “acting unconstitutionally and breaching Article 88 (3)”, explaining, “the AG cannot work against the republic so the affidavit should be struck out”.
But, Mrs. Stella Ohene Appiah, a Principal State Attorney, said the AG was only an interested party and not representing the respondent, adding that it was Adu-Ampomah, who wanted to align himself with the state’s affidavit.
She, therefore, pleaded for time to enable the respondent to secure the services of a lawyer.
According to Justice Honyenuga, “…upon hearing the learned counsel for the applicant and the principal state attorney, it is my candid opinion that the state cannot represent the respondent. That will be a clear breach of Article 88 and therefore, the affidavit in opposition filed by the state is struck out. The respondent being a layman will be given 14 days to get a lawyer of his choice.”
Meanwhile, Nutifafa Nutsukpui, who held brief for Benson Nutsukpui, Counsel for Agongo, commenced a cross-examination of Dr. Adu-Ampomah.
Mr Nutsukpui, asked the witness, whether it was his evidence that in 2014 COCOBOD procured 700,000 liters of liquid Lithovit fertilizer from Agricult Ghana Limited and he answered in the affirmative.
“Is it your case that in 2015, COCOBOD bought one million litres of the same product from Agricult Ghana Limited,” he asked and the witness again answered in the affirmative.
The court adjourned the trial to January 21 but the hearing of the perjury to January 28, 2020 to enable Adu-Ampomah to find a lawyer to defend him in the perjury since the Attorney General is unable to defend him.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah has been testifying against former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni, as well as Seidu Agongo and his company, Agricult Ghana Limited, who are standing trial for causing financial loss of over GH¢271 million to the state.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail.