It has emerged in court that one of the farmers who allegedly drank liquid lithovit fertiliser on his farm because he ran out of drinking water is actually a board member of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
The state’s witness in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD boss, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah, told the court that two farmers, Emmanuel Obeng and Nana Obeng-Akrofi, revealed to him that due to the alleged ineffectiveness of the lithovit fertiliser, they sometimes resorted to drinking the fertiliser when they ran out of water on their farms.
Dr. Adu Ampomah added that when this complaint was made to him during their preliminary investigations, he directed both farmers to formally lodge a complaint with the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO).
In court on Thursday, 6 February 2020, Dr Adu Ampomah admitted under cross examination that the report from the Ghana Standards Authority on the testing of the lithovit sample revealed a 14.6% urea content. This, he said, will definitely make the fertiliser possess a urine-like smell, and admitted he could never drink urea. But when counsel for Seidu Agongo, Nutifafa Nutsukpui who was holding brief for lead counsel, Benson Nutsukpui, asked Dr. Adu Ampomah’s professional opinion as a scientist of great repute whether it is possible for someone to drink a compound or solution which has 14.6% urea as water, Dr. Adu Ampomah said it was not in his capacity to judge.
Even though Dr. Adu Ampomah maintains Nana Obeng Akrofi and Emmanuel Obeng told him they drank the fertiliser as water, same was not captured in the statements both farmers gave to EOCO.
Mr Nutsukpui disclosed that per the statement Nana Obeng Akrofi gave EOCO, his complaint was that he used to get 50 bags of cocoa from a 10-acre farm but having applied lithovit he got only 52. As such he did not find lithovit as effective as the COCOBOD extension officers had claimed. Emmanuel Obeng in his statement also told EOCO that lithovit liquid fertiliser was very good for both young and old cocoa.
Nana Obeng Akrofi per information available to Class News claims to own cocoa farms at Amonum, Akakom, and Abomosu all in the Eastern Region. He is also the Eastern Regional Chief Farmer of the Ghana Cocoa Coffee and Shea nut Farmers Association (COCOSHE) and the Farmers’ representative on the Board of Directors of COCOBOD.
The Board you will recall was inaugurated on 28 March 2017 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House chaired by a former Water, Works and Housing Minister under the John Kufour administration, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman.
Nana Obeng Akrofi gave his statement to EOCO on the 20th of April 2017, about a month after he was sworn in as a board member of COCOBOD.
Here are excerpts of the hearing….
Q. How many farmers are known to you to have drank the lithovit liquid fertilizer?
A. My lord, 2 farmers known to me
Q. What are the names of these farmers?
A. One is Nana Obeng and the other one I have forgotten the name
Q. Is it Nana Obeng Akrofi?
A. Yes my lord
Q. And will the second one be Emmanuel Obeng?
A. I don't recollect but it is possible
Q. These two farmers gave statement to EOCO. That is correct.
Q. Nana Obeng Akrofi gave his statement on the 20th of April 2017. Do you recollect?
A. My lord I wouldn’t know
Q. And Mr Emmanuel Obeng gave his statement to EOCO on 3rd may 2017. Are you aware sir?
A. No my lord, I don't know of the dates.
Q. Sir, none of these individuals ever told you that they drank lithovit liquid fertilizer. I am putting that to you!
A. My lord, they did and I directed them to EOCO
Q. Nana Obeng Akrofi’s only complain per the statement he gave EOCO was that he used to get 50 bags of cocoa from a 10 acre farm but having applied lithovit he got only 52. As such he didn't find lithovit as effective as the COCOBOD extension officers had claimed. I am putting that to you.
A. My lord, when he came to me he said lithovit was so ineffective that when they go to farm and there is no water, they could drink some and I said they should rather go and talk to EOCO.
Q. Sir you see, Emmanuel Obeng in fact told EOCO in his statement that lithovit liquid fertilizer was very good for both young and old cocoa. I am putting that to you.
A. No my lord. Otherwise I wouldn't have directed them to EOCO
Q. No farmer ever told you or any officer of CRIG or EOCO for that matter that they drank lithovit liquid fertilizer on their farms. I am putting that to you
A. My lord they did and that is I why I directed them to EOCO
Q. Sir, you had procured these two individuals to do your bidding but unknown to you they spoke the truth. I am putting that to you
A. No my lord
Q. From your experience as a scientist, can you drink urea?
A. No my lord
Q. The test result that you saw from GSA which you referred to in hour evidence in chief of the 20th of May 2019, had 14.6% as the value for urea found in the sample lithovit liquid fertilizer that according to you EOCO had submitted for testing.
A. Yes my lord
Q. And again from your science background, urea generates an offensive smell or pungent smell. That is true?
A. My lord urea smells like urine
Q. And you want the honourable court to believe this is what your farmers had been drinking on their farms?
A. My lord that is what they told me and that is the reason why I asked them to report to EOCO
Q. Again as a scientist of great repute is it possible for someone to drink a compound or solution which has 14.6% urea as water?
A. My lord that is what they told me
Q. Now sir, I am putting it to you that it is scientifically impossible to drink that much urea as water and survive to come and tell you the story
A. My lord, as I have said, I am not in a capacity to judge.
Q. Did you think that EOCO had the capacity to judge what they told you which is why you sent them there?
A. I thought EOCO could further investigate by consulting relevant authorities
Q. Sir is Nana Obeng Akrofi still on the board of COCOBOD?
A. Yes my lord
Q. When did he become a board member of COCOBOD?
A. Somewhere in 2017 when the new COCOBOD board was constituted
Q. You took office as deputy Chief Executive A&QC in Feb 2017
A. Yes my lord
Q. Relative to when you took office, about what time was the new board constituted?
A. I can't recollect my lord
Q. Might it be before or after you took office?
A. I can't recollect. I have forgotten
Q. But for all purposes, he was a board member before he told you about drinking lithovit liquid fertilizer. That is so?
A. I don't think so. I don't recollect
Q. You recollect when you told him to go to EOCO. Do you?
A. Yes my lord. That was during the preliminary investigation period
Q. Do you recollect what this period was?
A. This was right after the transition. Februaryish
Q. When did the current Chief Executive take office?
A. Around the same time. February 2017
Q. Was there a ceremony to inaugurate the new board?
Q. And this ceremony was also around the same time that the chief executive and the deputies took office. That is correct
A. This was after
Q. For how long do you recall that the new management operated without the board of directors?
A. I don't recall but it didn't take more than two months. I can't recollect it
Q. Sir you see, Nana Obeng Akrofi was sitting on the board of COCOBOD before he wrote this statement to EOCO on the 20th of April 2017. I am suggesting that to you
A. I don't know
Q. Your investigations did not reveal any user complaint in respect of lithovit liquid fertilizer from any of the units or divisions of COCOBOD. That is correct
A. My lord, the best and only way to test for the efficacy were either CRIG to test or GSA to test but in this occasion,.......
Nobody had complained apart from the farmers. But for COCOBOD to ascertain the efficacy, its either CRIG or GSA who tests but in this situation since CRIG was implicated, that is why the samples were sent through EOCO to GSA to test
Q. The only recorded complaint about lithovit liquid fertilizer anywhere was in the statement you procured Nana Obeng Akrofi, a board member of COCOBOD to go and make at EOCO. I am putting that to you
A. No my lord and I will add that the GSA report indicated that the product had negligible proportions of the active ingredients