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General News of Monday, 15 October 2018

Source: Kessbenfm.com

Lithovit Fertilizer went through due process at CRIG - A-G’s witness

Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, the first prosecution witness in the case involving Dr. Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Company Limited, on Friday, October 12, 2018, told an Accra High Court that he and his colleague scientists at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) flouted an alleged verbal directive from the former COCOBOD CEO, and ensured that Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, went through every due process before its certification and purchase by the board.

His latest revelation is contrary to what he told the same court during his evidence-in-chief on Monday, July 16, 2018 that Dr. Opuni, side stepped all laid down procedures in testing fertilizers and contracted Agricult Ghana Limited owned by Alhaji Seidu Agongo.

Led in evidence by Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson regarding the supply of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, Dr. Amoah, explained a committee responsible for testing the fertilizer, was simply obeying a verbal policy decision introduced by Dr. Opuni, when he assumed office as CEO, in recommending the fertilizer for use.

However, on Friday, Dr. Amoah, told the court presided by Justice Clement Hoenyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge sitting as additional High Court Judge that he and his colleague scientists, decided to flout Dr. Opuni’s allege “verbal directive” and took the agro product through due process by setting up multiple sites in testing the Lithovit Fertilizer.

CRIG, he insisted did not adhere to the then COCOBOD CEO’s directive to shorten the testing period for the cocoa fertilizer. Dr. Opuni, has denied issuing any verbal directive.

Last Friday, Benson Nutsukpui, who is lawyer for Mr. Agongo and Agricult, during cross-examination, got Dr.Amoah to establish his personal belief and pride in the system at CRIG in testing of chemicals.

He acknowledgedCRIG as a renowned institute with an effective and efficient system, adding its human resources were also very capable.

Dr. Amoah told the court that he, indeed, referred the Lithovit sample to the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM); a body he personally set up to be responsible for the testing and evaluation of all agro chemicals and machines presented to CRIG by COCOBOD.

Dr. Amoah, said CTCM worked on the Lithovit Fertilizer sample and prepared a certificate for his signature.

The former Executive Director of CRIG, also affirmed that, in his statement to the police in January 2018, he indicated that this was the same process through which all chemicals and machines, including Duapa and Lithovit passed.

Dr. Amoah, further explained that what he told the police was that, in order not to compromise the test period, they could have more replication in place.

This means that in order not to shorten the test period, they could have more test locations so that at any particular time, the results they get could be averaged to get the actual effect of the fertilizer.

He added that, they adopted this approach because the directive given by Dr. Opuni to reduce the test period was not acceptable to the scientists.

Last July, Dr. Amoah said Dr. Opuni, had argued that the range of Agro Chemicals in the system that farmers could access was very narrow and that has led to the high cost of chemicals. This, he said, Dr. Opuni, blamed on the long testing period of fertilizer.

According to the former CRIG Director, the committee relied on Dr. Opuni’s directive in issuing its report, despite not going through the required period.

Asked how he heard of this directive by Dr. Opuni, the state's first witness said he met the former CEO at COCOBOD, where he communicated it to him. Dr. Amoah, told the court, although he made his disagreement obvious, Dr. Opuni maintained his stance.

Dr. Opuni according to the witness, paid a working visit to CRIG, where he raised the issue in the presence of scientists at CRIG who disagreed with the directive.

Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo, are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretence, willfully causing financial loss of GH¢271. 3 million to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

According to the charges, the fertilizers were manufactured without registration, thereby, flouting the Plants and Fertilizer Act 2010.

The Attorney General also claims the fertiliser was not effective when it was applied to cocoa plants. But both Dr. Opuni and Mr Agongo, have pleaded not guilty and each granted self-recognisance bail of GH¢300,000.00.

On Friday, Lawyer Nutsukpui, insisted that the meeting Dr. Opuni held with scientists of the CRIG, was mainly to discuss the exhibition of CRIG products in China and not the reduction of the testing period for fertilizers.

Mr Nutsukpui, put it to Dr. Amoah that, nothing but the exhibition in China was the centre of discussions at the meeting and mentioned James Kofi Kutsoatsi, Dr. Francis Baah, Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED), Andres Yaw Akrofi, attended as plants pathologist, Alex A Afrifa as Soil Scientist., Dr. Richard Adu, attended the meeting as an entomologist with he; Dr. Amoah, Preesent as CRIG boss.

But Dr. Amoah, who is the first prosecution witness in the case, disagreed saying other thing were also discussed, including Dr. Opuni’s allege verbal directive to reduce the testing period of fertilizers that would be used on cocoa farms.

During cross-examination, Mr Nutsukpui told Dr. Amoah that the topic for discussion between Dr. Opuni and the scientists was not the reduction of the testing period of fertilizers, a claim the witness refuted, saying shortly after the meeting in Cocoa House in Accra, he defiantly called a meeting at Tafo in the Eastern Region, where he and other scientists at CRIG decided to do multiple sites testing.

Multiple sites testing, Dr. Amoah, said is also credible scientific method used to achieve the results a longer scientific testing would have achieved.

According to counsel, the topic for discussion at one of such meetings was the exhibition of CRIG's products at a fair in China and not the reduction of the testing period for fertilizers.

The case continues today.

On Wednesday, Lawyer Nutsukpui, told the court that Agricult Ghana Limited, has in its custody several letters from Dr. Amoah’s office dating back to 2013, when Lithovit Fertilizer was submitted to CRIG for testing. These letters he said, described the agro chemical liquid and not powder as claimed by Dr. Amoah in his evidence-in-chief.

Lawyer Nutsukpui, also revealed that Agricult, has in its possession letters dated 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, in which CRIG, regularly called for retesting and re-certification of Lithovit liquid fertilizer.He described these letters as generic bearing the same content, but different dates.

Lawyer Nutsukpi, produced, one of the letters dated 2017 signed on behalf of Dr. Amoah by Rev. Father E.O.K. Oddoye, in his capacity as the Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, in which the chemical described Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer as liquid.

Dr. Amoah, in a caution statement given to the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), stated that, Dr. Francis Baah of CHED, a division of COCOBOD, had affirmed that the lithovit fertilizer was in liquid form and not solid or powdery.