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General News of Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Opuni's case: Summon doctor treating sick witness to testify – Justice Honyenuga told

Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga

Evelyn Keelson, the Chief State Attorney, has asked the High Court presided over by Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga to order the doctor who issued an excuse duty to a witness, in the ongoing trial of Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo to testify in court.

She said the presence of the medical doctor would allow the court to know the medical records of the witness.

The witness, Samuel Torbi, a farmer from Assin Fosu, was on May 17 admitted to the Ridge Hospital, Accra, for an undisclosed ailment but was discharged on May 20, according to the lead counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe.

The court on Monday, May 23 was informed that the witness has been given a medical excuse duty for one week.

But the Chief State Attorney didn’t seem convinced about the true health status of the witness because the excuse duty did not state “what is wrong with the witness.”

“My Lord, it is our submission that in order for this court to effectively manage the conduct of this case, it would be necessary for the court to order the medical officer who is attending to DW2 and who has issued this excuse duty to appear before the court on the next adjourned date to give further and better particulars to the court as to the ailment for which DW2 is being asked by him to be excused by this court,” Evelyn Keelson prayed to the court.

But the trial judge, Justice Honyenuga, Justice of the Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court judge, did not buy into that call.

He said, hauling the doctor before the court would further delay the case that has dragged on for over four years.

“Consequently, although the suggestion to invite the doctor treating DW2 is laudable, I think it will only occasion more delay in the trial of this four-year-old criminal case. In the circumstances, this case stands adjourned to Wednesday 25th May 2022 at 11 am for the next witness of the first accused to testify," he added.

At the previous sitting, a suggestion by lawyer Codjoe to disclose the witness’ ailment to the court in chambers was ignored. The court in the last sitting was also informed that the doctors said they can only furnish the court with what was actually wrong with the witness only on request.

But the counsel for the second and third accused persons, Nutifafa Nutsukpui, has received a copy of the excuse duty, “which on its face does look regular to us but we will abide by any directives the court may give in respect of the said excuse duty.”

Meanwhile, Justice Honyenuga, expressed his desire to throw away the evidence of the second witness in due course.

“It is my candid opinion that to enable this court to effectively deal with this case and to avoid further delay, I will order that the first accused produces his next witness at the next adjourned date.

“The DW2 can be allowed to recover and at any time that he recovers, he could be recalled for further cross-examination.

“But there is a proviso that this court has the power to expunge the evidence of DW2 at the appropriate time,” Justice Honyenuga explained

Background

The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, are facing over 25 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

State prosecutors have accused the two of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271 million to the state in a series of transactions involving the said fertiliser.

It has been the case of the prosecution that the state did not get value for money when COCOBOD procured Lithovit liquid fertilizer, but this has vehemently been contested by the witness.

The witness, Samuel Torbi, who is the chairman of Cocoa cooperative in Assin Fosu in the Central Region, has been testifying about the efficacy of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer, a product he called “messiah”, which application he said helped him to double his cocoa beans, and also showed evidence of how his production declined seasons that he applied other fertilizers.

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