Opuni trial: there is no proof that lithovit is unfit for cocoa production -Witness

Jerome Abgesi Dogbatse, a Senior Research Scientist at Soil Science Division of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) has agreed that there is no proof that Lithovit foliar fertiliser is unfit for cocoa production.

He has also agreed that it was never the position of the scientific team who re-evaluated fertilisers that lithovit was unfit for cocoa or harmful to humans and animals.
According to him, the team was not under any undue influence, which sought to interfere with its work, with respect to the re-evaluation of lithovit liquid fertiliser and others.

Mr. Abgesi Dogbatse told the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, on Monday that Dr Alfred Arthur, 2nd Prosecution Witness (PW2), who was his senior at the Soil Science Division, did not question the re-evaluation report that gave way for the renewal of lithovit liquid fertiliser certificate in 2016.

Jerome is third Defense Witness (DW3) for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited.
He agreed to the statement above under cross examination by Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

Dr Opuni is a former Chief Executive of COCOBOD and he is facing criminal charges; such defrauding by false pretence, contravention of Public Procurement Act, corruption of public officer and money laundering.

Dr Opuni allegedly authorised the purchase of lithovit foliar fertiliser from businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult at a cost of GH¢271.3 million when the product was not fully tested.

Cross examination 

Q: PW3, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah in his evidence in chief before this Court informed the Court that he was a member of the transitional team on cocoa. You appeared before that committee, the transitional team on cocoa. Didn’t you?

A: No. I did not.
Q: To your knowledge, did your bosses at CRIG appear before this transitional team?
A: I have no knowledge of that.
Q: Would it surprise you that Dr. Francis Baah together with Dr. Anim Kwapong, they all state that they all appeared before this transitional team of cocoa of which Dr. Adu Ampomah was a member?

A: I would not be surprised.
Q: When you appeared before the Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah committee, whose report is Exhibit H, you were informed that the Ghana Standard Authority conducted a test on the efficacy of lithovit. Is that not so?

A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: Can you have a look at Exhibit H on page 104. (Witness is shown Exhibit H) and can you confirm that this test was based on a request from EOCO for this test to be conducted?
A: The letter is signed by C.E Frimpong, Director of Testing Division, Ghana Standard Board addressed to the Acting Executive Director EOCO, subject: Analytical Report. This letter indicate a submission of report for analysis of a sample. I don’t see any indication on this letter showing that EOCO requested for this test.

Q: Can you please turn to the next page and confirm that the name of the agency or entity which submitted the request for testing is the EOCO office represented by Prosper Akresi?
A: Yes. On this page that is correct.
Q: So you would agree with me that the agency that requested the report for testing is EOCO?
A: Yes. Per this page, that is correct.

Q: You can also confirm that CRIG as the scientific institution of COCOBOD, which is involved in the testing of fertilisers was not involved in this test?
A: There is no indication from this test report that CRIG was involved in the test at Ghana Standard Authority.
Q: As at May 2017, when this report came out, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, (PW3) was the Deputy Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control of Cocobod. That is the case. Is that not so?

A: Yes. That is the case.
Q: And as at that date May, Dr. Franklin Amoah (PW1) had returned to CRIG as the Executive Director and head of CRIG. That is the position?
A: Yes. That is correct.

Q: On page 110 of Exhibit H, you also have a report dated 16th May, 2017, from the Department of Chemistry, University of Ghana and as can be seen from the report, this also came from a request from EOCO?

A: The covering letter signed by Dr. Louis Doamekpor of the Department of Chemistry, University of Ghana, indicates EOCO requested for the analysis.
Q: Come back to the Ghana Standard Authority’s recommendation. As a member of a team of scientists and specifically a re-evaluation team, not you personally, the evaluation team findings when the team re-evaluated lithovit liquid fertiliser is contrary to the recommendations by the Ghana Standards Board as contained in page 2. You can confirm that?

A: These are laboratory analysis which was carried out at Ghana Standard Board. The role I played in the evaluation team was not to conduct laboratory analysis hence I cannot compare what Ghana Standard Authority laboratory analysis with a role I did not play in terms of laboratory analysis at CRIG.

Q: When your team conducted the field test on lithovit by way of re-evaluation, the farmers that your team contacted were full of praise for lithovit liquid fertilizer as a good fertilizer. That is the position?

A: Yes. There were no adverse comments by farmers on lithovit liquid fertilizer an indication that it is good.
Q: And, therefore, it was never the position of the team who conducted this evaluation test which led to the renewal of the certificate for lithovit liquid fertilizer that it was unfit for use as a fertilizer for cocoa?

A: Yes.
Q: In the teams’ findings on the effect of lithovit liquid fertiliser, there was no finding that lithovit liquid fertilisers are harmful to human and or animals. Is that the position?

A: Yes.
Q: There were also no findings that lithovit liquid fertilizer was hazardous to water?
A: The remit of the evaluation team does not cover water or water bodies in the course of work so we did not evaluate or assess that.
Q: But your team got samples of this lithovit on the open market to conduct their test. That is the position?

A: Yes.
Q: And your team when they got this sample of lithovit liquid fertilizer, it did not have a strong smell of ammonia, if you can remember?
A: Yes. So it was not reported.
Q: So your team also got some of the samples of this lithovit from the farmers who were using it?
A: Yes.

Q: And you can confirm that your team was informed by the farmers that they like lithovit liquid fertiliser?
A: Yes.
Q: As a Soil Scientist and a Scientist as such, I am suggesting to you that these characteristics of lithovit that was observed by your team namely the re-evaluation team is to the effect that the lithovit liquid fertiliser is a good fertiliser for cocoa?
A: Can the characteristics be specific because no characteristics were mentioned in the question.

Q: I am putting it to you that when your team conducted a re-evaluation of lithovit liquid fertiliser, their findings was to the effect that it was a good fertilizer and that the certificate should be renewed for another year?

A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: As you can see from this Ghana Standard Authority this report dated 5th May, 2017 is after your team’s re-evaluation of lithovit which took place in 2016?
A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: With the University of Ghana Chemistry Department report that is also dated 16th May, 2017 and also came after your team’s prior re-evaluation findings on lithovit in 2016. That is the position?

A: Yes.
Q: In your team’s findings during the re-evaluation exercise of lithovit liquid fertilizer, your team did not make any findings to the effect that the quantity of lithovit in the sample re-evaluated was small and therefore was not effective when mixed with water to spray on cocoa?

A: There cannot be quantity of lithovit in the fertilizer. I guess counsel is talking about the active ingredient because there is nothing like lithovit in the lithovit liquid fertilizer sample.
Q: I am putting it to you that the active ingredient found by your team in the lithovit sample that it re-evaluated is to the effect that it is a good fertilizer when mixed with water in the correct quantities and good for cocoa?

A: Yes.
Q: I have Exhibit 133 and this Exhibit 133 is another Ghana Standard Authority test dated 26th July, 2017 and this time it states that lithovit is a fertilizer. Is that not the case?

A: I cannot see.
Q: Can you confirm from the 3rd page of Exhibit 133 that the same Ghana Standards Authority now confirm that the sample they now tested is a fertilizer?
A: From the Exhibit 133, the test conducted for identification of sample indicates that the sample is a fertilizer.

Q: Having been part of the team which conducted the re-evaluation of lithovit, you can confirm to this Court that you had different divisions of CRIG who all came together to form the team to conduct the lithovit re-evaluation leading to the renewal of the certificate. That is so?

A: Yes. We have different teams composed of a scientist from the Soil Science Division, Entomology division and Pathology division on each of the different teams.
Q: Your institution, i.e. CRIG, together with CHED all report to the Deputy C.E Agronomy and Quality Control in Cocobod. That is the position?

A: Yes.
Q: When CRIG does its re-evaluation for the renewal of fertilisers, its findings on this re-evaluation will definitely be recorded and submitted as a report which would be sent to the CTCM, which is the body in charge of renewals of certificates. That is the position?
A: Yes.

Q: Can you have a look at Exhibit 138 and it is a report by CHED on its field visits, which involved amongst others the observation of the various fertilizers with respect to their effects on cocoa in the areas visited. On page 3 of the report under sub heading 4, you have the sub heading as a potential crop?

A: Yes. In Exhibit 138, a report on field visit in the regions by CHED dated April 2015, on page 3 as the 4th bullet point on potential crop?
Q: You can confirm that on bullet point 4, the report is specific that “the general observation across all the regions and districts visited was that young cocoa farms (4 to 12 years) were laden with flowers, cherelles and pods. Is that there?

A: Yes that is there in the report.
Q: You can further confirm that the report is to further effect “the situation was more dramatic where the farms have been sprayed with foliar fertilizers especially lithovit.” Is that not it?

A: Yes.
Q: And you can further confirm that the report is explicit that “the effect of lithovit on young cocoa has prompted many farmers to indicate that that is their fertilizer of choice. They do not want the granular fertilizer”. That is so?

A: Yes that is in the report.
Q: The report further states that “this observation justifies management decisions to measure young farms for their foliar fertilizer application. That is stated there?

A: Yes.
Q: Turn to page 7. On page 7, CHED makes it recommendations on the basis on the field visits and on page 8, it recommends “the additional foliar fertilizers especially lithovit which farmers have shown preference for could be purchased to augment the 700,000 litre purchased to ensure that all bearing young cocoa farms are fertilized so that the country could maximize its cocoa output. That is there?

A: Yes.
Q: Turn to page 13 of this report and confirm the fact that the CHED team made visits in the Brong Ahafo Region and they also visited some farms. That is stated there?

A: Yes.
Q: Under clause 2 bullet point 3, it states that one of the purpose was to monitor performance of farms sprayed with lithovit liquid fertilizer for preliminary assessment of the effect of the chemical on yield?

A: Yes. It is stated in there.
Q: What is the correlation between the performance of fertilizer and yield on cocoa? If you can explain it to the court?
A: If the fertilizer is good, there is a positive linear relationship with regards to yield but if it is not good, there is a negative or inverse linear relationship.

Q: You can confirm as a scientist in the Soil Science Division of CRIG that from this CHED report, CHED undertook an exercise to monitor the effect of lithovit liquid fertilizer on yield of cocoa from this report. That is so?
A: Yes. That is correct with regards with to the CHED report.

Q: On page 16 of this report, you can confirm under the heading monitoring of performance of farms sprayed with lithovit liquid fertilizer that “the team made stop over at some of the farms within the districts which were applied with lithovit liquid fertilizer. The farms were observed to be carrying heavy loads of matured pods with signs of flowers developing. This is part of monitoring on yield?
A: Yes but with a correction. What I see here is lithovit foliar fertilizer not lithovit liquid fertilizer.

Q: But you can confirm that the report is explicit if you read from the 6th line of the 1st paragraph “some of the farmers who were met on the farm attested to the fact that there had been massive increases in their cocoa yield due to the application of the lithovit liquid fertilizer?”

A: Yes. It is in there in the report.
Q: From this report by CHED, i.e. Exhibit 138, COCOBOD as an institution has scientific basis from monitoring the effect of the use of lithovit liquid fertilizer by farmers with respect to yield?

A: Yes. The monitoring report by CHED provides that evidence on the efficacy of lithovit with regards to cocoa yield.
Q: This report which is dated April, 2015 is the evidence that as at 2015, Cocobod had scientific basis with respect to the positive effect of lithovit on cocoa yield?
A: Yes. Cocobod has evidence on the positive effect of lithovit on cocoa yield from the CHED report in 2015.

Q: You have in your hands Exhibit 5, which is a letter from CRIG dated July 2017, for the renewal of lithovit liquid fertilizer
A: Yes. The Exhibit 5 which is a letter signed by Rev. Father E. O. K Oddoye, subject matter renewal of CRIG certificate for pesticides, fertilizer and spraying machines for 2018 addressed to the managing Director, Agricult Limited?

Q: So as at 2017, when the Dr. Yaw AduAmpomah committee was set up in October, 2017 to investigate the testing of lithovit liquid fertilizer on yield, Cocobod had abundant evidence that lithovit liquid fertilizer was effective on yield of cocoa?
A: Yes.

Q: Exhibit 35 is the statement of Dr. Yaw AduAmpomah (PW3), which is dated 2nd February, 2018 and on page 2 from the 10th line from the bottom, he states that the full test cycle of lithovit fertilizer was not gone through and therefore its efficacy could not be guaranteed. I am suggesting to you that in the face of the findings of Exhibit 138, which is the CHED report, this statement cannot be true?

A: The full testing cycle as said by Dr. Yaw AduAmpomah is best known to him. I do not understand what he meant by full cycle. However, from what I have read with regards to the testing and certification of lithovit went through a protocol designed by the scientists involved in the testing and then also a protocol for re-evaluation of the product which I was involved.

Q: If you turn to the next page of his statement, from line 11 from the bottom, he states that EOCO submitted samples to the Ghana Standards Authority who tested the lithovit and found it not to be effective but as you sit here, you can confirm by Exhibit 133 which is the later Ghana Standard Authority testing that the later test in July, 2017 is explicit that lithovit is a fertilizer?

A: Yes. The letter from Ghana Standard Authority on page 3 says that the sample is a fertilizer.

Q: You can confirm that for the re-evaluation team to re-evaluate a fertilizer to determine whether active ingredient in the original fertilizer submitted for testing by CRIG is the same as what the farmers are using, a part of the re-evaluating team’s function would be to conduct a laboratory test on the sample taken from the farmers or from the open market to test the efficacy of the active ingredient in the sample. That is so?

A: The laboratory analysis is conducted so as to determine whether the original sample is the same as samples collected from the farmers or bought in the open market contains the same active ingredient in terms of quantities and mineral composition but not to determine efficacy of the product.

Q: During your team’s re-evaluation of lithovit liquid fertilizer, this laboratory aspect was done by another part of the team before the certificate was renewed for lithovit as this is a necessary aspect of the re-evaluation process?

A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: As at the time Dr. Yaw Adu Ampomah, (PW3) set up the Adu Ampomah committee, he was the head and or reporting person who had oversight on the work of CHED and CRIG by virtue of his position as the Deputy C.E Agronomy and Quality Control of Cocobod?

A: Yes.
Q: I am putting it to you that there was enough material by way of the efficacy of lithovit liquid fertilizer on cocoa before the committee i.e. Dr. Yaw Adu Ampomah committee sought to investigate the efficacy of lithovit on yield?

A: Yes.
Q: You know Dr. Gilbert Anim Kwapong. He was the Executive Director of CRIG at the time you did your re-evaluation on lithovit?

A: Yes.
Q: In his evidence in this Court, he confirmed your evidence that lithovit was evaluated. You are aware of that?
A: I cannot speak to that.
Q: Before a certificate for a fertilizer is issued to an applicant company, it is the CTCM in CRIG which is the body which will recommend that the certificate be issued. Is that the position?

A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: And before a certificate is issued by the CTCM, the applicant company would have to apply even after an approval of CRIG’s recommendation for the issue of certificate had been made to COCOBOD?

A: Yes. That is correct.
Q: Dr. Anim Kwapong states that he on his own and also the other executive directors to his knowledge abide by the decision of the CTCM when it comes to the issuance of certificate. Is that so?

A: He has said that.
Q: When the re-evaluation team to which you were part of recommended the renewal of the lithovit liquid fertilizer, the team was being professional?

A: Yes.
Q: As you sit here, did you hear of any undue influence brought to bear on the re-evaluation team which sought to interfere with its work with respect to the re-evaluation of lithovit liquid fertilizer?

A: No.
Q: When your team presented its report, it consisted of different functions of the team all put together as one report for the CTCM?

A: Yes.
Q: If you can tell this Court whether you remember the names of some of the Soil Science Division members who were in the CTCM at the time of the re-evaluation?
A: For the Soil Science Division, we were represented by Dr. Alfred Arthur.

Q: And no adverse objection was raised by any of the members of the CTCM including Dr. Alfred Arthur (PW2), with respect to the re-evaluation report on lithovit?
A: Yes there was no adverse report.
Q: This re-evaluation report which the re-evaluation team submitted was not for only lithovit but for other fertilizers?

A: Yes.
Q: Dr. Alfred Arthur (PW2) during this period also conducted further tests on other fertilizers with you as one of the Soil Scientists. That is the position?
A: Yes.
Q: Was Dr. Alfred Arthur also on any re-evaluation team for fertilizers?

A: Yes.
Q: Which of the re-evaluation teams and during what period was Dr. Alfred Arthur on them?

A: For all the time I have spent at CRIG, when there is re-evaluation, scientists from Soil Science Division are attached to join a team so all the re-evaluation work that I have joined the team to undertake, Dr. Alfred Arthur was also on another team for the same period.
Q: Were you a member of the CTCM when your team submitted its report with respect with lithovit liquid fertilizer?

A: No.
Q: Has there been an occasion at CRIG that the CTCM after the submission of a report will ask for further clarification before approving that report?

A: I am not involved in the submission of re-evaluation reports to the CTCM. Team leaders are those who submits the re-evaluation report. However, it is possible the CTCM can ask for clarification if part of the report is not clear to them.
Q: The CTCM of which you are now a member, I am putting it to you does not rubber stamp the reports of the evaluation team but would satisfy itself based on the evidence before approving for a renewal of a certificate?

A: I am not a member of the CTCM. However, the CTCM would satisfy itself before approving a report.
Q: Dr. Alfred Arthur who was your senior colleague at the time you were part of the re-evaluation team which re-evaluated lithovit has never questioned you as to your re-evaluation report?

A: Yes.
Q: You can confirm that during the re-evaluation exercise no external body and specifically it is only the re-evaluation team who worked independent of applicant’s companies with respect to the renewal of certificates including lithovit?
A: Yes.


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