19th July 2024

Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, chair of the body that investigated the anomalies surrounding the purchase of large volumes of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser from Agricult Ghana Limited, yesterday told the Accra high court that they had to rely on Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to conduct test on the fertiliser after the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was implicated and, potentially, compromised in the case.

He said, normally, COCOBOD would depend on CRIG to test fertilisers and agrochemicals after which its report would then be relied upon to make decisions.

However, he said, this was not the case.

“In this situation, since CRIG was implicated, samples were sent through the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to the GSA for testing,” he said while answering questions under cross-examination as a witness for the state in the ongoing prosecution of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, COCOBOD’s former chief executive.

Test

The test from the GSA found that the active ingredients in the fertiliser were only in negligible qualities. Instead of the 70 per cent of calcium carbonate content in a counterfeit sample of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser, only 0.06 per cent of the chemical was detected in what was procured from Agricult Ghana Limited. Similarly, only 0.86 per cent of magnesium carbonate was detected, instead of the expected four per cent.

Interferences and directives to change the testing processes and protocols at CRIG, during the Opuni era, meant that the fake fertiliser would for years go undetected.

One such change to the protocols of CRIG caused field testing by scientists and technical officers to be ceased. The other was a directive which asked scientists at CRIG not to subject all new fertilisers and agrochemicals to the full rigour of proper scientific testing, if the fertilisers and agrochemicals were supposedly similar to ones already on the market.

The implication was that such fertilisers and agrochemicals would not be tested in the field on cocoa plants at different stages of development over a period of months, which had been the norm in the history of CRIG, to establish plants’ responses to every particular product.

Farmers call unheeded

He said in addition to the interferences, farmer complaints were also ignored. Several cocoa farmers complained about the inefficacy of the Lithovit Foliar fertiliser which was supplied to them.

“Some farmers complained that, the liquid [Lithovit] fertilizer was like water and that when they go to their farms and there is no water, they could drink some.”

This question of the inefficacy of the fertiliser supplied by Agricult Ghana Limited is in part the basis of the present lawsuit against Dr Stephen Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo, the owner of Agricult Ghana Limited.

The two men are facing 27 criminal charges. They are accused of defrauding by false pretences, money laundering, corruption by a public officer, acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act and causing financial loss to the state, to the tune of GH¢271.3m.

The case has been adjourned to Tuesday February 11 2020 for cross-examination to continue.

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