Dr Frankli Manu Amoah
The Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG), Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah has reiterated that the institute never tested any liquid Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer hence no certification was given for that.
Dr. Amoah who is the first prosecution witness in the trial of former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, Seidu Agongo stated that CRIG tested a powdery Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer in 2013 and issued a certificate to that effect.
He said any other form of Lithovit on the Ghanaian market never received any certification from CRIG and was not recommended to COCOBOD for purchase.
The form and nature of the Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer has always been a bone of contention between the prosecution and the defence lawyers.
While the defence lawyers maintain that CRIG tested and issued certificate for a liquid Lithovit Fertilizer, the prosecution and the first witness have insisted that CRIG tested a powdery, greyish Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer and issued a certificate for that. They say any other form of Lithovit fertilizer on the market was fake.
At yesterday’s proceeding, private legal practitioner, Samuel Codjoe who is the lead counsel for Dr. Opuni put it to the witness that all foliar fertilizers are liquid while granular fertilizers are solid in form.
But the witness, Dr. Amoah discounted that suggestion, saying foliar fertilizer could be solid which is mixed with water at the point of application as in the case of Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer which was tested and recommended by CRIG in 2014.
“The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) accompanying the sample of Lithovit fertilizer from Germany brought to CRIG for testing clearly stated that the Lithovit was a greyish fine powder, non-hazardous and odourless”.
The lawyer then suggested that because foliar fertilizers are liquid and not solid, that explains why at the time CRIG was going to renew the 2015 and 2016 certificates for Lithovit they bought Lithovit liquid fertilizers from the open market.
But Dr. Amoah insisted that CRIG never received any liquid fertilizer and hence in 2015 and 2016 the institute could not re-evaluate a fertilizer that has not been tested.
He identified the difference between the certificate issued in 2014 which identifies the product as Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer while the 2015 and 2016 certificate quote the product as Agricult Lithovit.
“The certificates issued for 2015 and 2016 say Agricult Lithovit which is different from the certificate issued in 2014 which covers the test that was carried out and the report written on it indicating the nature, the form and the mode of application. My Lord, I told this court on Monday that I have never sighted any report on Agricult Lithovit”, the witness said.
“The trademark of Ron the Lithovit foliar fertilizer that CRIG tested in 2013 has been patented as being powdery and not liquid. And my Lord, with the patent, nobody has the right to bring in another product called Lithovit in another form. My Lord, I wish to state that if COCOBOD wanted to buy Agricult Lithovit foliar fertilizer they should have brought it to CRIG for testing”, Dr. Amoah added.
The witness who was under cross examination for close to five hours also rebuffed claims by Dr. Opuni’s lawyer that all the scientists at CRIG who worked on Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer confirmed it to be liquid except him.
He said the sample of Lithovit brought to CRIG and addressed to him as the Executive Director, was powdery which was worked on and the report submitted to him which was forwarded to COCOBOD clearly stated that the Lithovit tested by CRIG was powdery.
“So I am surprised that Mr. Afrifa (a Soil Scientist at CRIG) who submitted the report that Lithovit was a fine greyish powdery will go and state elsewhere that the Lithovit which came to CRIG was liquid”.
Mr. Codjoe bombarded the witness with a tirade of questions and Dr. Amoah tried to answer them to the best of his knowledge.
The lawyer then diverted into procurement procedures at COCOBOD and how purchases are done after the COCOBOD receives a recommendation. But the witness’ answer to most of the question was “I wouldn’t know” as he admitted he has little knowledge about procurement processes at COCOBOD.
Mr. Codjoe then ended his cross examination, paving way for Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for Seidu Agongo to also cross-examine the witness.
Mr. Nutsukpui asked the witness questions about the transition that took place at COCOBOD last year and how some old staff of COCOBOD appeared before a committee about the operations of COCOBOD.
The court was taken by surprise when it turned out that one Rev. Father D. EOK Oddye, a Deputy Executive Director at CRIG signed a letter on behalf of Dr. Amoah asking Agricult Ghana Limited to make a payment of GH₵3,000 for renewal of certificate for Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer.
Although Dr. Amoah admitted the letter exists, he said Dr. Oddye who is an animal scientist thought he could replace Foliar with liquid but later apologised when he realised he had committed a mistake.
Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo 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 false pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
Hearing continues tomorrow.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak