An Accra High Court hearing the trial of former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr. Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo, Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited for causing financial loss to the state has been told that farmers were told the controversial Lithovit fertilizer would double their yields on application when the product was being introduced to them.
Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, the seventh prosecution witness who stated this indicated that the fertilizer however, did not yield the expected results.
The witness while under cross-examination told the court that during investigation of the case, it became necessary to speak to farmers who had used the product and one them was Nana Obeng Akrofi who was the Chairman of the Eastern Region Cocoa Farmers, Coffee and Shea Nut Association who stated that the Lithovit that was introduced to them by CRIG to double their yields at the end of the season produced nothing.
He then went on to tell the court about the focus of the investigation into the matter and stated that the fertilizer that was introduced to COCOBOD by Seidu Agongo as well as the one that was forwarded to CRIG for testing and certification was powdered.
“Our investigation was not on complaints made by farmers to CRIG as to whether the Lithovit liquid fertilizer COCOBOD procured from A2 (Agongo) and A3 (Agricult) is good or bad. But my Lord, our investigation was on the fact that A3 and its Chief Executive, A2 introduced to COCOBOD in May 2013 that they have an agrochemical named Lithovit foliar fertilizer in powdered form which when applied to cocoa produces more yield. My Lord, it is on this basis that COCOBOD forwarded the sample Lithovit foliar fertilizer on the 15 of May 2013 for testing. My Lord, the final report that was forwarded to COCOBOD also indicated that the Lithovit foliar fertilizer was powdered. My Lord, so our investigation was not on the farmers but on the testing of the Lithovit and what was supplied”, the Chief Inspector told the court.
He continued that “however, it became necessary in the course of investigations to speak to two farmers which was just insignificant due to the number of cocoa farmers that we have in Ghana. My Lord, one of them is the exhibit that counsel tendered through me and the other is the statement which is not in the court which is the statement of the then Eastern Regional Best farmer, Nana Obeng Akrofi who was also the Chairman of the Eastern Region Cocoa Farmers, Coffee and Shea nut Association who also stated that the Lithovit that was introduced to them by CRIG to double their yield at the end of the season produced nothing. And my Lord, I’m saying so to state our facts on the investigations we conducted.”
“I am putting it to you that what Nana Obeng Akrofi did not say what you attributed to him in respect of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer but what he did say was that he used to harvest 50 bags of cocoa from his 10-acre farm but after the application of Lithovit liquid fertilizer he harvested only 52 bags of the cocoa from the same acre farm. That is correct?”, Mr. Nutsukpui further put it to the witness.
“No my Lord, I am saying so because according to Nana Akrofi the Lithovit introduced to them was to double the yield but it did not turn out to be so”, the witnesses responded.
Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited 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.
The two are also being tried over the purchase and supply of Lithovit fertilizer which the state said was done in contravention of several laws.
The main issue in the ongoing trial is whether the Lithovit foliar fertilizer that was tested and certified by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was powder or liquid in form and its efficacy.
While witnesses of the prosecution have all insisted that the product that was tested and certified was powder in form, there are records pointing to the fact that COCOBOD under the management of Dr. Opuni procured Lithovit liquid fertilizer which was never tested by CRIG.