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General News of Thursday, 1 April 2021

Source: Daily Mail

CRIG had lithovit liquid fertilizer manual for training farmers – Court told

The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), a division of COCOBOD actually had a training manual specifically designed to train cocoa farmers on the use of the Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, the High Court has heard.

This came to light when counsel for the 2nd and 3rd accused persons, Nutifafa Nutsukpui who is holding Benson Nutsukpui’s brief engaged the trial investigator in his final bout of cross-examination on Monday.

The then Ag. Executive Director of CRIG, Dr. G.J. Anim-Kwapong in a letter dated 21st October 2014 addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited, asked Agricult to pay GHC 21,390.00 for a training exercise for cocoa farmers on Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer.

It was under the subject: “BUDGET FOR AGRICULT/CRIG TRAINING SENSITIZATION PROGRAMME FOR EXTENSION OFFICERS AND FARMERS ON THE USE OF AGRICULT LITHOVIT LIQUID FERTILIZER ON COCOA”

The lawyer, therefore, noted, “Sir, as part of CRIG’s introduction of Lithovit to the farmers. CRIG had prepared a detailed training manual on matters relating to the application of Lithovit liquid fertilizer."

But the seventh prosecution witness, Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer denied knowledge of such manual prepared by CRIG.

Sensing that the defence counsel was going to probe further to prove the existence of such a manual, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, Director of Public Prosecution, rose on her feet and prayed the court to stop counsel from asking more questions on the manual.

Her objection was also premised on the fact that the questions “will not lead anywhere”.

But lawyer Nutifafa argued why he should be allowed to elicit the truth from the witness.

“He is a very competent witness and My Lord, this is the investigator who is supposed to have seen all documents relevant to the Lithovit liquid fertilizer in respect of which we are in court. His failure to have thoroughly investigated this matter does not mean that those documents go away or did not exist,” he argued.

The trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court, sitting with additional responsibility at the High Court disagreed with the prosecution and subsequently overruled the objection.

The defence counsel, therefore, pointed out to the witness that the CRIG manual which is not in evidence indicated the number of litres of Lithovit required to be applied to a hectare of a cocoa farm.

It was further put to the witness that the best times of application, the number of applications required per year and the application intervals were all stated by CRIG as relates to the Lithovit liquid fertilizer in the training manual.

Nevertheless, Chief Insp. Prempeh Mercer was resolute, insisting that the investigation team never came across the manual.

“My Lord, the team did not come across any such document and so cannot comment on the contents of the document,” the witness told the court.

Meanwhile, the trial investigator admitted that based on investigations, board approval at COCOBOD was done by the board and not an individual.

Read excerpts of the cross-examination on Monday, March 29, 2021

Q: Sir, as part of your investigations did you find out how many members were on the board of Ghana Cocobod between 2014 and 2016.

A: Yes My Lord. Because we had the board minutes but I cannot say the exact number of those on the board.

Q: Sir, did you find out when the board was inaugurated.

A: The answer is no, My Lord.

Q: Now did you find out how the consolidated budget for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 was approved by the board.

A: No My Lord. But My Lord, respectfully I wish to state that every investigation is premised on something. My Lord, the investigation that the CID and for that matter, FFU took over to investigate was on the Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer in powdered form that A2 had introduced to Cocobod, which Cocobod forwarded to CRIG for testing. My Lord, even though the final report which the lead Scientist forwarded to Cocobod at that time was forged by him and projected unto mature cocoa. That saw A2 and A3 supplying liquid fertilizer which was not tested to Cocobod. That was the basis for our investigation. So, My Lord, our investigation was not on the board inauguration of Cocobod and budget allocation.

Q: Sir, did you as part of your investigations find out how the procurement plans for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 were approved by the Board of Ghana Cocobod.

A: No My Lord.

Q: And did you find out how board decisions were made at Cocobod over the relevant period.

A: My Lord, that is also no.

Q: But you knew from your investigations that board approval at Cocobod was done by the board but not an individual. That is true.

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: Sir, did you find out how many types of fertilizers Cocobod procured between 2014 and 2016.

A: My Lord, our investigation was on Lithovit foliar fertilizer

Q: You told this court on the 22nd of March, 2021 that the Lithovit supplied by the 3rd accused person was distributed nationwide to farmers in the sixty CHED cocoa-growing Districts.

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: Sir, did your investigations reveal how many acres of cocoa farms we had in those sixty CHED Districts.

A: No My Lord.

Q: Sir, by your evidence the total quantity of the Lithovit supplied by A3 to Cocobod was 2.4 million litres. Is that correct?

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: And this was for 2014, 2015 and 2016, is that correct.

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: Now did you find out how many litres of Lithovit was required for an acre.
A: No My Lord.

Q: When you told this honourable court that the Lithovit was distributed nationwide to farmers in the sixty CHED cocoa-growing Districts, you have absolutely no basis for saying that.

A: My Lord, that is not correct. My Lord, because the head of CHED at the time Dr. Francis Baah, had told Police during interrogation that under his watch no farmer had come to complain that he or she did not receive the share of the Lithovit supplied and on that basis I am saying so

Q: I am putting it to you that if you carried out your investigation properly, you would have found out that 2.4 million litres of Lithovit would be woefully inadequate to apply to cocoa trees in the sixty CHED cocoa-growing Districts even for one year.

A: My Lord, that is also not correct. My Lord, because farmers do not apply only one agrochemical to their cocoa farms.

Q: Sir, as part of your investigation did you come across a training manual prepared by CRIG for training users on the Lithovit.
A: No My Lord.

Q: Sir, as part of CRIG’s introduction of Lithovit to the farmers. CRIG had prepared a detailed training manual on matters relating to the application of Lithovit liquid fertilizer.

A: My Lord, that is also not correct because CRIG did not test any Lithovit liquid fertilizer for which a manual will be prepared on that.

Prosecution: My Lord, this kind of cross-examination that is repetitive and seeks to elicit answers that the witness has already provided should not be encouraged. The witness had stated that he did not see any training manual so further questions on the content of this supposed training manual which is not in evidence will not lead anywhere and My Lord, such question should be stopped by the court. Most grateful.

Nutifafa: My Lord, the witness in answering the last question did not express any difficulty due to the fact that he had not seen the training manual. In fact, he gave reasons why what had been put to him could not have been in the CRIG documentation. He is a very competent witness and My Lord, this is the investigator who is supposed to have seen all documents relevant to the Lithovit liquid fertilizer in respect of which we are in court. His failure to have thoroughly investigated this matter does not mean that those documents go away or did not exist. My Lord, he is the appropriate person to confront with these documents. My Lord had it not been for this intervention of the question in respect of that document. My Lord, we are not wasting the court’s time. The prosecution had taken as much time as was deemed appropriate to lay out their case against the 2nd and 3rd accused persons. And My Lord, we believe that it is only fair that they also be afforded sufficient time to put their case across. And as the DDP has conceded the accused persons are allowed to put their cases through a Prosecution witness during cross-examination and we do not believe that accusation of time-wasting is a fair one.

By Court: Upon hearing the DDP and Counsel for the 2nd and 3rd Accused persons. it is trite law that in examining a witness concerning a document or writing it is not necessary to show or read or disclose any part of the document or writing to the witness as stipulated in Section 74 (1) of the Evidence Act 1975 NRCD 323. In the circumstances, it is conceded that the witness had denied the existence of the training manual. However, Counsel for the 2nd and 3rd accused persons has a right to put across the case of his clients to PW7 to admit or to deny. Consequently, the objection is overruled.

Q: Sir, you see in that training manual CRIG indicated the number of litres of Lithovit required to be applied to a hectare of a cocoa farm. I am putting that to you.

A: My Lord, the team never came across any such document and for that matter cannot comment on its content.

Q: I put it to you further that in that training manual the best times of application, the number of applications required per year and the application intervals have all been stated by CRIG as relates to the Lithovit liquid fertilizer.

A; My Lord, the team did not come across any such document and so cannot comment on the contents of the document.

Q: Sir, while you served at the Drug Law Enforcement Unit, COP Frank Adu Poku was your Regional Commander. Is that correct?

A: He was not the only Regional commander when I was there but he was one of the Regional Commanders who came whiles I was there.

Q: You told the court on the 1st of March, 2021 that investigators are duty-bound to find the truth. Is that correct?

A: Yes My Lord.

Q: Now Sir, the alleged conflicting statements made by Al and A2 in respect of the GHC25,000.00 means that the actual ownership or purpose of the GHC25,000.00 is not known to you.

A: My Lord, that is not correct.

Q: Sir, what is the total monetary value of the contracts in respect of which we are in court.

A: My Lord, USS64.200.000 million.

Former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Mr. Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges including willfully causing financial loss to the state and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000 self-recognisance bail each.

The prosecution closed the state’s case against the accused persons after counsel for the 2nd and 3rd Accused ended cross-examination of the seventh prosecution witness, Chief Insp. Thomas Prempeh Mercer.

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