Opuni’s Trial Judge Rejects Another Vital Document

The Accra High Court, hearing the criminal case against ex-COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman, Alhaji Seidu Agongo, on Wednesday, stunk the defense team when it rejected another vital document which supports their case that Lithovic Fertilizer, which is at the heart of the trial, had at all material times been in a liquid form, and not a greyish powdery substances as claimed by the prosecution.

The document dated November 20, 2014, was authored by Dr. K Opoku-Ameyaw, then a Deputy Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to the Managing Director of Agricult Limited, a fertilizer manufacturing company, reminding it of CRIG’s policy of renewing certificates for all recommended pesticides, spraying machines and fertilizers, including “Lithovic Liquid Fertilizer”.

Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw in his 2014 letter said “the cost of the activities for the re-assessment and evaluation exercise is estimated at One hundred and twenty-nine thousand, eight hundred and forty-nine Ghana Cedis, fifty pesewas (GH¢129,849.50) and we should be grateful for your kind contribution of 5.0% (GH¢649.50) in respect of Lithovic Liquid Fertilizer”.

The document titled “renewal of CRIG certificate for pesticides, fertilizers and spraying machines for January-December 2015”, was filed in court by both COCOBOD and CRIG upon demand from the defense team for more documents on the case.

Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, wanted to tender the document during cross-examination of Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the third prosecution witness to support their case that, the Lithovit Fertilizer, had always been liquid, but the prosecution led by a senior state attorney, Asiamah Sampong, objected to the tendering of the document and the trial judge, shockingly upheld the objection.

Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw, who had since retired from CRIG, in his capacity as the chairman of the Committee for Testing of Chemicals and Machines (CTCM), had written to Agricult, saying “we wish to remind you of the policy of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana to renew certificates for all recommended pesticides, fertilizer and spraying machines on annual basis. This policy is to ensure that the efficacy and performance of product(s) supplied at all times remain the same as the original product recommended”.

Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw, who the witness reveals currently lives in Koforidua in the Eastern Region, stated in the document bearing his signature that “….a rapid re-assessment and evaluation of the pesticides, fertilizers and spraying machines is required as basis for renewal of the certificates”.

He added that “the re-evolution exercise will cover samples collected from the depots or warehouses, markets and farmers, and will assess storability, packaging and labeling of product. Efficacy and performance of the products will be re-assessed in the laboratory, CRIG experimental plots, and through information gathered from end users and other stakeholders”.

Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw in his 2014 letter concluded “The cost of the activities for the re-assessment and evaluation exercise is estimated at One hundred and twenty-nine thousand, eight hundred and forty-nine Ghana Cedis, fifty pesewas (GH¢129,849.50) and we should be grateful for your kind contribution of 5.0% (GH¢649.50) in respect of Lithovil Liquid Fertilizer”.

But Justice Clemence Honyenugah, rejected the document saying after “having heard the objections by DPP and the argument by defense counsel, for the admissibility of this document, sufficient foundation should have been laid. The witness should have been asked if he is familiar with the signature of Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw, who is on retirement. Further, I think if the witness had answered in the affirmative that he is familiar with the signature of the retiree, then it could have been granted.

The Court of Appeal judge, sitting with additional responsibility as a high court judge went on to say “…also PW3 is not the successor of Dr. Opoku-Ameyaw.

I must state that documents being ordered to be filed in this court, does not mean it can be tended without question” adding “the matter of Zamrama vs. Segbedzi is irrelevant to this case. It can only be relevant in civil trial and therefore irrelevant.

He further stated that “now with the document being official document as per section 106 of the evidence act, I am not convinced since its relevance is dependent on the admissibility of the document.I will therefore uphold the objection and reject the document”.

Mr Codjoe, had argued that the letter was an official document from CRIG and that witness can answer questions on it, but the judge, stated that sufficient foundation ought to have been laid by the defense counsel before the document could be tendered, insisting that the authority counsel relied on was only applicable in a civil trial and not in criminal trial.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah during evidence –in chief had claimed during their investigation into procurements of the fertilizers and agrochemical, they had “…… requested for the MSDS because the report that had been submitted by three scientists described the product as greyish powder, but documents at Cocobod indicated that barely 9 months after submission of the product for testing, specifically on the 25th of February, 2014 the Chief Executive had written a letter to Agricult Ghana Ltd. requesting the company to quote for 700,000 litres of liquid Lithovit Fertilizer and on the next day 26th of February, 2014 Agricult had quoted in a letter to Cocobod that a litre of the Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer was US$27.50. Then on the 5th of March, 2014 Cocobod awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Ltd to supply 700,000 litres of the Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer at a total cost of US$19,250,000. Then in 2015, the Chief Executive also awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Ltd. to supply 1,000,000 litres of the Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer at a total cost of US$ 27,500,000, and then in 2016 the Chief Executive also order from Agricult 700,000 litres of Lithovit Fertilizer at a total cost of US$19,250,000 and then in the end of 2016 had also order 1,000,000 litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer from the same company at a total cost of US$27,500,000 but there was no record at Cocoboard indicating that any of such Liquid Lithovit Fertilizer had been tested by CRIG that is why we requested for the MSDMS”.

But under cross examination on Wednesday, he sought to run away from his earlier claim, saying “my lord the MSDS accompanying the first sample that was sent to CRIG referred that the product was powder and also the evaluation report also indicated that it was powder, whereas there was no report indicating that it was liquid and so there was no need for renewal letter”.

Questioned on why he did not carry out extensive and thorough investigation if he believed the certificate of renewal for Lithovit Fertilizer signed by Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, former head of CRIG, was wrongful by asking for basic and fundamental documents on lithovit for 2014,2015 and 2016, he answered “my lord the committee thought that the MSDS and the evaluation report was the most important which these two has shown the product was powder from the first sample that was sent”.

Q: Dr, should I take it that it is only today that you have seen this writing in spite of the fact that you conducted investigation on lithovit.

Ans: my lord no, but the committee was interested in knowing whether the letter written on 15th of May to CRIG was worked on by the appropriate people and the minutes here shows that the right people were made to work on it.

Q: Dr, you invited Dr. Amoah who this letter was addressed to the Adu-Ampomah committee, isn’t it?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: you also invited Mr Akrofi, who also appeared before the committee. He is number three on the list.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: you also invited number four,the head of soil science division who was Mr. A AAfrifa.isn’t it?

Ans; yes my Lord

Q: And number five is Dr.Arthur which your committee stated worked on the product.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: But you didn’t invite the chairman of the CTCM who is number two and executive director.

Ans: no my lord. The committee did not find it necessary to invite the chairman of the CTCM. Mr. Akrofi was not invited because of lithovit. The committee called scientists who worked on lithovit but MrAkrofi appeared before the committee on a different product precisely fungicides which he has worked on

Q: Dr. if you say the committee didn’t find it necessary to invite the chairman of the CTCM who is minuted as number two on the letter, you as committee would ask for the identity of the chairman of the CTCM.

Ans: my lord the committee was interested in the scientists who worked on the product.

Q: Did DrAmoah worked on lithovit?

Ans: no my lord he didn’t work on it but he was the director who the final report was minuted to.

Q: Dr.if as you claimed that your investigation also concerned the renewal of certificate of lithovit after 2014, you would have definitely called for all files on renewal of lithovit.

Ans: No the committee didn’t see the need to call for files. The committee called for the certificate.

Q: don’t you think it is very basic and elementary is deemed to be aware that renewal is done yearly.

Ans: my lord the MSDS accompanying the first sample that was sent to CRIGreferred that the product was powder and also the evaluation report also indicated that it was powder whereas there was no report indicating that it was liquid and so there was no need for renewal letter.

Q: so do I understand you to mean the committee didn’t call for any renewal letters from 2014 to 2016?

Ans: No my lord, there was no need because no report has indicated there was any liquid product.

Q:don’t you think you would have done extensive and thorough investigation if you had ask for basic and fundamental documents on lithovit for 2014,2015 and 2016 when you believed the renewal was wrongful.

Ans: my lord the committee thought that the MSDS and the evaluation report was the most important which these two has shown the product was powder from the first sample that was sent

Q: in fact Dr, if you had requested for all correspondence concerning lithovit,you would have known that in CRIG,they asked for the renewal of lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Ans: my lord, the committee did not want to go into a wild goose chase because there was no document to show that CRIG can ever work on lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Q:Dr ,contrary to your theory of wild goose chase,the directors of CRIG and CHED which are all divisions of cocoa board which was under you has filed documents on 11th June 2018 addressed to third accused asking it to pay for the re assessment and evaluation of lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Ans: No my lord. the committee found that the first product that was sent to CRIG was powder as shown on the MSDS and evaluation report that formed the basis of the first certificate of which all other certificate will be based on the first sample. The product was powder from beginning so there was no need.

Q: Dr on 19th December 2018,the executive directors of CRIG and CHED filed this same letter which CRIG being a scientific division which tested lithovit referred to the product as lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Ans: my lord I haven’t seen any letter

Q: Dr. in your time as an employee of CRIG,you knew Dr. Opoku Ameyaw as a senior officer of CRIG.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: Dr. Opuku Ameyaw is presently not at CRIG. isn’t it?

Ans: yes my Lord

The case resumes on July 17, 2019

Source:theheraldghana.com