Saturday, November 3, 2018

Opuni Lithovit Pops Up In Court

5:34:00 PM


An Accra High Court hearing the trial of former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBD) has taken delivery of a sample of the purported Agricult Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer with extremely low nutrient content.

A sample of the controversial fertilizer, which has been described by the state as substandard, was submitted to the court by the prosecution led by Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa â€" Director of Public Prosecution. The fertilizer was marked ‘ID2.

It was picked from the cocoa station at Tafo during one of the re-evaluation exercises by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in 2014.

The acting Head of the Soil Science Division of CRIG, Dr. Alfred Arthur, who confirmed the fertilizer, told the court that CRIG officials found the Agricult Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer at the Tafo Cocoa Station in 2014 and was improperly labelled, with no indication of the manufacturer or the expiry date of the product.

He said a test conducted on the fertilizer at the institute showed that it had extremely low nutrient content and the scientist subsequently asked management of the institute not to renew the certificate of Lithovit Fertilizer.

He told the court that the Soil Science Division of CRIG, as an institution, never tested any Agricult Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer and no subsequent re-evaluation was done on the product.

Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, are before an Accra High Court for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢217,370,289.22.

The two are facing a total of 27 charges, including defrauding by untrue pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

Dr. Arthur, who is the second prosecution witness in the trial of Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, told the court that after his test and subsequent issuance of a report on Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer, which was powdery in nature, no re-evaluation was carried out on Lithovit Fertilizer again by the Soil Science Division of CRIG.

This is not the first time the court has heard that the Lithovit Fertilizer that was tested at CRIG was powder and not liquid, as the defence kept insisting on.

Dr. Arthur, a soil scientist, who performed the test on the product, tendered in the original powdery Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer, which was given to him for testing.

He told the court that the quantity of the fertilizer given to him was weighed in kilogrammes, indicating that the product was powdery.

He added that a liquid substance would have been weighed in litres.

At yesterdays proceeding, he told the court that somewhere in July 2017, he appeared before the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) where he was shown a sample of liquid Agricult Lithovit Fertilizer he tested in 2013.

A sample of fertilizer supposed to be Lithovit Fertilizer was shown to me by one of the investigators. On it was written 1 litre. There was another inscription: ‘Made in Germany for Agricult Ghana Limited. It was a whitish cylindrical container with a green lid.

What you are showing to me is a liquid substance since it has indicated 1 litre because the Lithovit that I worked on though was also in a whitish cylindrical container with a green lid, the name of the product was simply Lithovit and the weight was expressed as 1kg indicating that it was a solid product, Dr. Arthur told the court.

When the DPP asked the name of the cylindrical container, the witness replied it was Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer.

Field Testing

Dr. Arthur told the court that Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer, which was tested at CRIG only went through a six-month nursery testing when a recommendation was made for it to be used on mature cocoa, which was against the standard of testing for at least two years.

This, he noted, was as a result of an instruction by Dr. Opuni, who ordered that trial should end after the six-month period and that COCOBOD was going to carry out a pilot project on a 10,000-hector mature plantation using Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer.

Certificates

Dr. Arthur also punched holes into certificates tendered in evidence by the defence as those given to Agricult Ghana Limited for the 2015, 2015 and 2016 cocoa seasons.

Evaluating the certificates, he said, as far as I can see on the face of the certificate I am holding, the soil science division of CRIG never tested a product by name Agricult Lithovit. Lithovit is a patented or registered product and is always sealed without any company name attached to it.

He also identified some inaccuracies in the alphabets used to represent the nutrient contents of the fertilizer in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 certificates signed by Dr. Gilbert Anim-Kwapong, former CRIG boss compared to the original 2013 certificate, which was signed by the then Chief Executive Officer of CRIG, Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah.

The court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, adjourned the matter to November 12, 2018, for the defence lawyers to cross-examine the witness.


By Ghana Leaks Blog


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