High Court shoots down Opuni’s application to stay proceedings

The Land Court 2 of the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, has shot down an application by Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), to stay proceedings and to set aside the court’s orders on May 27, 2024.

The application sought to challenge the orders of the court that Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr Opuni (A1) and the prosecution have four hours each to cross examine Rev. Fr. Dr. Emmanuel Okpoti Oddoye.

Mr. Codjoe filed an application to challenge the order before the same court, but the hearing of the motion was shifted to June 12, 2024.
His Lordship Aboagye Tandoh, however, abridged the time of hearing the application to Monday, June 3, 2024 which he subsequently dismissed because it lacked merit.
According to the court, it is not how long hours of cross examination that matters, but the quality of the evidence adduced.

The judge said allotting time to parties is not alien to the practice of the law. The court further stated that long cross-examination will exhaust the witness and it will deter subpoenaed witnesses from accepting the invitation to testify.
The court also held that long cross-examination leads to repetition of questions and facts already before the court.

The judge also spoke about the six years that the case has been dragging on in court. After dismissing the motion, the court allotted Dr Opuni’s time to continue with the cross examination of the witness to the prosecution.

Samuel Codjoe, in his submission, stated that the court erred by ordering that his cross-examination should be conducted in a space of four hours.
His argument was that Dr. Oddoye was a critical witness to the ongoing trial, therefore, the defence must be offered necessary resources to put their case across.

To him, the court’s order, dated May 27, 2024 in which he gave A1 four hours to complete the cross examination of DW4/A2/A3 was unconstitutional and should be set aside.
Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited, urged the court to grant the prayer of A1.

The prosecution, led by Evelyn Keelson, Chief State Attorney (CSA), opposed to the application, stating that the court was demanded by law to manage proceedings.
She prayed the court to dismiss the application, as four hours to complete cross examination was enough.

Dr. Opuni is accused, together with Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited, for purchasing and supplying adulterated lithovit fertiliser, causing the country to lose some GH¢271.3 million.

Cross examination by Stella Ohene Appiah, Principal State Attorney (PSA)

Q. Rev., You are an animal scientist and not a crop scientist that is so?
A. That is so.

Q. From September 2013 to August 2014, you were on sabbatical leave, is that so?
A. That is so.

Q. And in Exhibit 143, in your statement to the police, you stated that you were not present when lithovit was submitted to CRIG for testing?
A. That is correct.

Q. And it is correct that you were not involved with the testing of lithovit?
A. That is so.

Q. You have also stated in your statement Ex 143 that the records at COCOBOD show that the lithovit that was submitted for testing was a powder and not liquid?
A. That is so.

Q. You have also stated that there is no evidence that the 10 Kg of lithovit fertiliser requested for was ever brought or received by CRIG. That is so?
A. That is so.

Q. Please have a look at Exhibit 18. That is the disciplinary proceedings against Dr Arthur, which you chaired have nothing to do with lithovit fertiliser, is that so?
A. That is so.

Q. And the main issue for the hearing was that the testing of Cocoa Nti fertiliser has not gone through the proper procedure that is passing the fertiliser through COCOBOD to CRIG. Is that correct?

A. That is not quite correct. If I may explain. Cocoa Nti was submitted to CRIG in the normal way. However, the report on Cocoa Nti was ready in six months because Dr Arthur claimed he had received a similar unnamed fertilizer from the same company a few years back. My lord, Cocoa Nti was officially submitted to CRIG in March 2016 and the report was ready by the end of September 2016. Dr Arthur had received an earlier fertiliser in 2013.

Q. Your committee recommended a strong worded warning to Dr Arthur as part of your recommendations?
A. That is so.

Q. The suspension which was meted out to Dr Arthur was a unilateral decision taken by Dr Anim Kwapong?
A. That is not so. My lord, as per minute 2 on the letter which forms part of Exhibit 18, Dr Anim Kwapong varied the punishment suggested by the disciplinary committee in consultation of the then DCE A&QC in the person of Dr Francis Oppong.

Q. I’m putting it to you that it was Dr AnimKwapong who made that recommendation to Dr Oppong?
A. I was not privy to that discussion so I cannot say exclusively.

Q. By the time Dr Arthur was brought back to the Soil Science Division, he had fully served his suspension period is that not so?
A. That is so.

Q. Please take a look at Exhibit 41. Rev Oddoye the kind of test that would be conducted on any fertiliser would depend on the request the company submitting the fertiliser will make, is that not so?
A. If counsel could clarify the question.

Q. Rev Oddoye the kind of test that would be conducted on any fertiliser would depend on the request the company submitting the fertiliser will make to COCOBOD, is that not so?

A. If my memory serves me right. The letter requesting CRIG to test any chemical would come from DCE A&QC COCOBOD who would have received the sample and any accompanied documents from the company. Usually in that letter, the DCE A&QC will simply state that the chemical was to be tested on cocoa.

Q. Reverend the kind of test conducted on a fertiliser would be stated on the report issued to COCOBOD, is that not so?
A. That is so.

Q. So when you look at Exhibit B1. Please look at the executive summary and read the first four lines
A: reading: “…”

Q. Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser was submitted to CRIG to be evaluated for its suitability for cocoa production is that not so?
A. That is so.

Q. Exhibit 41. Please read.
A. Reading “…”

Q. Omnifest Cocoa Aduane was submitted to CRIG for laboratory confirmation of its nutrients. Is that not so?
A. That is so.

Q. The two fertilisers, therefore, could not be treated the same way?
A. I’m not sure I understand what counsel means.

Q. The two fertilisers…
A. As per the Exhibits – Exhibit 41 was requesting for verification of nutrient contents and the other, Exhibit B1 was requesting for test on cocoa.

Q. So the period of testing cannot be the same for both fertilisers, you will agree with me?
A. The circumstances surrounding the testing of the two fertilisers were a little different. Although I was not present when lithovit was submitted, it went through a standard test for seedlings for six months after the content was verified in the laboratory.
In the case of Omni Cocoa Aduane, Soil Science Division decided to carry out only a laboratory verification.

Indeed, CRIG management initially wrote to COCOBOD to deny any knowledge of fertiliser trials that had been done earlier.
Subsequently, the Soil Science Division of CRIG, were able to prove that some earlier trials that had been carried out using a fertiliser formulation similar to the Omni Cocoa Aduane and so the report was allowed to stand.

Q. Omnifest cocoa Aduane requested for laboratory verification of its nutrients while Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser requested for evaluation for its suitability for cocoa production. it therefore stands that the length of time for testing these fertilisers cannot be the same?

Mr. Nutsukpui: Objection. The question was asked two minutes ago.

Court: Reframe your question

Q. So Rev. You will agree with me that the depending on the type of testing required, CRIG would determine the length of time the testing will take?
A. Length of test may varied under exceptional circumstances. In this particular circumstances in Exhibit A requesting test of lithovit, the letter is from COCOBOD.

Exhibit 41 the letter from COCOBOD is not attached. This letter is seven years old and I cannot remember the exact circumstances. I was looking at 3rd paragraph of the letter forwarding the report (Exhibit 41) which suggests that initially CRIG may have written to COCOBOD to ask questions about that particular request.

Q. You will agree with me that the length of time required to do laboratory verification of nutrients in a fertiliser will not be the same as the length of time required to test suitability of a fertiliser on cocoa from nursery stage to maturity. You will agree with me?
A. I agree in principle.

Q. Please turn to Exhibit B1 again. Exhibit B1 is the CRIG test report on the lithovit test report. You have no personal knowledge of the content of Exhibit B1, is that not so?
A. If you can explain my personal knowledge.

Q. Have you read the content of Exhibit B1?
A. Yes.

Q. You have no knowledge of how Exhibit B1 was generated?
A. It is a bit confusing. I was not there but I know how the report is generated. Even though I was not present, the report was generated by scientists who did the evaluation.

Q. And that is the only test report on Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser at COCOBOD?
A. My lord, the report I read at CRIG….if it’s CRIG then it is yes.

Case adjourned to Wednesday


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