Ex-COCOBOD staff extols lithovit fertilizer’s virtues to Justice Honyenuga

A retired chief technical assistant at the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) at Assin Fosu in the Central Region, has testified to the efficacy of lithovit liquid fertilizer, saying almost all the farms that it was used on, had flashy leaves, produced a lot of flowers and cherelles and pods.

Samuel Tsatsu Adigler, disclosed that the beneficiary farmers, were all praising the Lithovit [fertiliser] for efficient result”.

His testimony was made when he took the stand as the fifth defence witness for former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) Stephen Opuni, the first accused person who is standing trial along with businessman, Seidu Agongo.

The two accused are facing a GHC271 million financial loss case in connection with the procurement of the fertiliser from Agricult, Mr Agongo’s company by state-owned cocoa company.

Mr Adigler, told Justice Clemence Honyenuga’s court on Monday, June 27, 2022 that: “As the general supervisor, I had the chance of visiting some of the farms that were sprayed with Lithovit and, in honesty, almost all the farms visited had flashy leaves, produced a lot of flowers and cherelles and pods and the beneficiary farmers were all praising the Lithovit [fertiliser] for efficient result”.

“Before I left Assin Fosu, our management team also came around in April 2015 for farm visits and the results we saw were all worthy of praise”, he told the court while being led in evidence by Dr Opuni’s lawyer, Mr Sam Cudjoe.

“The leaves of the trees were flashy”, he stressed, crediting it to the use of Lithovit liquid fertiliser.

“It is as a result of the efficiency of the Lithovit. This is because, according to the farmers, that had not been the first fertiliser they applied on the farm, therefore, any change on the ground is as a result of the application of the Lithovit fertiliser”.

Mr Adigler, who said he was among a CHED management team from the Accra head office that visited the farms sprayed with Lithovit fertiliser, said: “As usual, in all their tour duties, they write a report to the effect of their findings on the field…”

He said the report, which he “chanced” upon and “read when I was transferred to Adabokrom in 2015, said – “If my memory will serves me right” – that “they confirmed what we saw at Assin Fosu”.

The case has been adjourned today Wednesday, 29 June 2022.

Just a few weeks ago, a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cocobod, Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum, told the same court that not a single farmer ever complained about any agrochemical, including Lithovit, procured by the company.

Put to him by Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpi, counsel for Mr Agongo and Agricult, as to whether he received any complaints from farmers about any agrochemical that Cocobod purchased during his tenure as board chair, Mr Ohene Agyekum, the fourth witness for Dr Opuni, said: “My Lord, during the time, I, personally – and I can speak for my board members also – never received a single complaint from any farmer from a farming group”.

Several witnesses from both the prosecution and defence sides have also made similar testimonies to the court in the four-year-long trial.

The second prosecution witness in the case, Dr Alfred Arthur, while under cross-examination by Mr Benson Nutsukpui, the counsel for Mr Agongo on Wednesday, 17 April 2019, affirmed that in 2014, 2015 and 2016 when Agricult’s lithovit liquid fertiliser was distributed to farmers in the cocoa regions, no complaint ever came to either Cocobod or the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) regarding the use of the product.

According to him, in the 3-year period, no farmer even mentioned the product, nor did any office or officer of Cocobod lodge any complaint against the product.

Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are each on a GHS300,000 self-recognisance bail.

Below are excerpts of Mr Nutsupui’s cross-examination of Dr Alfred Arthur:

Q. Dr Arthur, while working at CRIG during 2014, 2015 and 2016, did it come to your knowledge that Lithovit was being distributed to farmers in the cocoa growing regions?
A. No my lord.

Q. And while working in the cocoa fields on your operations in 5 of the 6 cocoa regions, it did not come to your knowledge that Lithovit fertiliser was distributed to farmers?

A. No…but in terms of cocoa regions, we have 7… Western North and Western South.

Q. Indeed, Dr Arthur, your operations covered both Western North and South.

A. Yes my lord.

Q. It is true that throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016, there was no complaint from you in respect of Lithovit.

A. Yes…during those periods, as I have already told the court, there was no re-evaluation of Lithovit foliar fertiliser.

Q. It is your position that during these 3 years, you never saw the product Lithovit Liquid fertiliser on any of your field visits.

A. Yes my lord.

Q. Your attention was never drawn to the product by any farmer in the three-year period.

A. Yes my lord.

Q. So, the first time you had an opportunity to discuss or comment on the Lithovit fertiliser that was supplied by Agricult was at the police station.

A. It was EOCO on July 4, 2017. That’s when I saw Agricult Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser plus 5% Urea. On the bottle was indicated 1litre indicating that the product is a liquid substance, so, I told the officers that the Lithovit fertiliser that I worked on in July 2013 was in a powdery form from Germany.

Q. So, in the 3 years, materials were supplied on Lithovit. You, Dr Arthur never complained about the product.

A. No…I never saw the product during the periods under review.

Q. Tell this honourable court if you know, again, in the 3 years, there is no correspondence from CRIG complaining about the product.

A. Not that I know of.

Q. Do you know of any complaint from any office or officer of COCOBOD on the product in the material years of 2014, 2015 and 2016?

A. No my lord.

Q. And there is also no complaint from the procurement department on the product for the 3 years.

A. No my lord.

Q. As an officer of CRIG, and at your meetings, has any complaint from any farmer in relation to Lithovit been brought to your attention as officers of CRIG?

A. No my lord.

Also, under cross-examination in April 2022 by Mr Nutsukpui, Dr Opuni’s first defence witness, Mr Charles Tetteh Dodoo, told the court that not a single farmer ever complained about lithovit liquid fertiliser.

“For a fact, between 2014 and 2016, when you served on the board, there was no farmer complaint or adverse performance against Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser that came to the attention of the board. That is correct?” Mr. Nutsukpui asked.

“Yes, my Lord,” Mr. Dodoo responded.

Still in early April 2022, Mr Dodoo told the court that lithovit liquid fertiliser was recommended for procurement by revered scientists from CRIG, whose integrity and expertise were never, for once, questioned by the Board and management of the Ghana Cocoa Board.

Under cross-examination on Monday, 11 April 2022 by Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Agongo and Agricult Company Limited, who are the Second and Third Accused Persons in the case, Mr Dodoo, who is Dr Opuni’s first defence witness, told the court: “There was not any single instance where an adverse report was made on Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser which would have informed the ETC’s approval of further purchases of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser over the years”.

Also, asked by Mr Nutsukpui: “Sir, what will be your reaction if it was suggested that in buying and paying for Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, Cocobod paid for a worthless product for which it received no value?” the witness answered: “My Lord, I will treat it with the contempt that it deserves”.

Read excerpts of the cross-examination below:

Q. And when Cocobod is procuring for the season, it procures the agrochemicals that are determined by the scientist as required for application for that particular season. That is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord but I want to add that more specifically by the CODAPEC HI-TECH Unit.

Q. You told this court that the CODAPEC HI-TECH Unit was made up of scientists from CRIG. Is that correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. And it is these scientists that determined the agrochemicals, including fertilisers and their prices which Cocobod must procure for any particular season.

A. Yes, my Lord, up to 2013/2014 financial year.

Q. Now, these scientists are the only persons who will determine the suitability of an agrochemicals including fertilisers on use on cocoa.

A. Yes, my Lord, in conjunction with CRIG.

Q. Now, this determination of suitability of agrochemicals for use on cocoa is not made by the Board or Management of Cocobod; that is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. While you served on the Board between 2014 and 2015, the Board had no reason to doubt the integrity of these scientists?

A. No, my Lord, the Board had no reasons to doubt the integrity of these scientists.

Q. As a result, the Board will not question a recommendation made by these scientists to procure particular agrochemicals; that is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. And, sir, because of the process of recommendation by the scientists, no individual board member or individual member of management could have gotten Cocobod to procure a particular fertiliser outside of these recommended by the scientists. Is that correct?

A. No, my Lord, nothing of that to my knowledge.

Q. And, in fact, Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser got recommended by the scientists for procurement, as far as you are aware. That is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Now, sir, it was suggested in this court by PW7 on the 1st of March 2021 that when both the ETC, on which you served as well as the Board approved the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, they did not know what they were doing. What do you say to that?

A. My Lord, this assertion is not correct and it is an affront to the members of the ETC. If I may go further, CRIG has inspectors who follow up to the field and report on the performance of the various agrochemicals being applied on the field. There was not any single instance where an adverse report was made on Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser which would have informed the ETC’s approval of further purchases of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser over the years.

Q. Now, sir, from 2014 to 2016, would you remember whether the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was bought by Cocobod and applied by the farmers in all of the cocoa seasons of those years?

A. My Lord, any time Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was procured, I have personally signed letters to haulage companies for the distribution of Lihovit Liquid Fertilisers from various warehouses to the district offices and they have been utilised.

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