Thursday, 30 May

COCOBOD trial: 'We went through full rigours of testing, processes for Lithovit certification, renewal' – Witness pooh-poohs 1st & 2nd state witnesses' claims

Dr Stephen Opuni

A former Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Gilbert Anim Kwapong, has disputed claims by Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, who was the first prosecution witness in the ongoing GHS217-million Ghana Cocoa Board financial loss case that the unit, under Dr Kwapong, did not go through the required processes before, firstly, certifying, and, subsequently, renewing the certificate of Agricult Ghana Limited's Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser.

Under cross-examination by Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the lead counsel for businessman Seidu Agongo (second accused person) and his company Agricult Ghana Limited (third accused person), Dr Kwapong told the Accra High Court presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh that to the contrary, all the required processes were gone through before the certification of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser.

In court on last week Thursday, Mr Nustukpui quoted Dr Amoah as having testified thus on the recertification of the agrochemical: "My Lord, I cannot confirm if CRIG went through their processes before issuing these certificates since I was not in the system. And more so, my Lord, this certificate was different from what was issued in 2015. This certificate of Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser with the trademark R on it has been tampered with by the mother company Zeobita GMB from Germany, the original product…”

Mr Nustukpui then put it to Dr Kwapong, one of the witnesses of Dr Stephen Opuni's (the first accused person), if Dr Amoah's assertion was true.

Dr Kwapong responded: "My Lord, I was the Executive Director from September 2014, and from that date, we went through the full processes before renewal. My Lord, I signed two certificates for Lithovit, one in 2015 and the other in 2016. The 2015 certificate, as I mentioned here, previously came to me as an original certificate, and 2016 was for a renewal. My Lord, for the first time, I’m hearing about a certificate issued in 2014. I’m yet to see that certificate."

After informing the witness that Dr Amoah signed the 2014 certificate, Mr Nutsukpui proceeded with another quote from the prosecution witness's testimony of 10 October 2018, when he told the court: “And, my Lord, the certificate issued by Dr Anim Kwapong in 2015 and 2016 simply said Agricult Lithovit, and it did not state it was a liquid fertiliser. And, my Lord, there is no evidence at CRIG that indicated that Agricult Lithovit has been tested at CRIG or re-evaluated.”

Mr Nutsukpui then followed up with a question to Dr Kwapong: "The certificate you issued in 2015 and 2016, did you have any doubt that it was issued for a liquid fertiliser?" to which the witness answered: "My Lord, I don’t have any doubt at all."

Asked if Dr Amoah's testimony, that there was "no evidence at CRIG that indicated Lithovit was ever tested by CRIG or re-evaluated," was the case, Dr Kwapong refuted: "My Lord, it is not true that there is no evidence. We went through the full rigours of testing, per the information made available by the CTCM and also I have mentioned that I did exercise due diligence before signing any certificate that was brought to my desk. I must add that my secretary worked with Dr Amoah, and did not bring anything contrary to my attention. And also, we have always known the product as Lithovit, and it has always been a liquid product."

At the same sitting, Mr Nustukpui made references to the November 2018 testimony of the second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, who was a research scientist at CRIG, and played a key role in the testing of Lithovit in 2013, thus: "My Lord, after submitting my report to Mr Afrifa, no re-evaluation was carried out by the Soil Science Division of CRIG."

"This was in an answer to a question by the prosecution if there was any re-evaluation prior to the 2017 evaluation," Mr Nustukpui explained.

However, Dr Kwapong said: "My Lord, that statement cannot be correct because, my Lord, we have the CODAPEC/HITECH report of 2015 and 2016, which was submitted to COCOBOD, which I also used in signing other certificates."

He said prior to 2017, the CTCM at CRIG went through the proper procedures and brought the certificates to his table, adding that the certificate he signed for Lithovit also came to him through the CTCM.

Dr Kwapong, therefore, said it cannot be correct when Dr Arthur said from 2014, no re-evaluation was done at CRIG on Lithovit.

He told the court that the components and synthetics on the report were information from the CTCM's secretary who prepared the certificates.

"So that it is never a personal act of the Director of CRIG, is that correct?" Mr Nustukpui enquired, to which Dr Kwapong answered: "My Lord, that is correct".

Dr Kwapong, however, agreed with Dr Arthur's testimony that "CRIG has no strict policy that all fertilisers are tested for a period of four years and that testing was based on protocol."

"My Lord, that statement is true and I have explained that here," Dr Kwapong stressed.

The witness agreed with Mr Nutsukpui that "any other position that because a fertiliser has not been tested for three or four years, a strict law of COCOBOD has been broken, cannot be true".