Dr Opuni trial: Witness says powdery fertiliser was tested

Dr. Opuni

Dr. Opuni

A witness in the trial of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and Seidu Agongo, a businessman,  accused of causing GH¢217 million financial loss to the state, yesterday told the Accra High Court that powdery fertiliser was tested and not liquid fertiliser.

The witness, Dr. Franklin Manu, a former Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), who was on a one-and-half year contract,  said the powdery fertiliser tested by the Institute in 2014, could only be dissolved at the time of application.

He said the Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), being referred to had already dissolved “and we did not know the nutrient content in it since we did not test it”.

Dr. Manu said when he was led in evidence by Evelyn Keelson, a principal state attorney, that there was no guarantee that liquid fertiliser is the same as the powdery fertiliser that was tested.

He indicated that the issue of whether the fertiliser CRIG tested was powder or liquid came to his attention when he was invited to lead a committee tasked to investigate the matter.

Dr. Manu said Dr. Opuni directed scientists at CRIG to reduce test period for agro-chemicals from the minimum of two years to six months.

He said although he insisted that reduction of test period was not the standard practice, Dr. Opuni stood his grounds and asked them to do as he said.

Dr. Manu stated that the former COCOBOD boss, invited him to his office shortly after he took office as the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD and asked him to explain the test period on agrochemicals which “I elaborated.”

He said: “Dr. Opuni told me point blank that he is not happy with the long test period.”

He said the result of test carried out on LFF indicated the substance was similar to two other fertiliser-nutrismart and vegimax which CRIG had worked on four years ago.

Dr. Manu said a sample of LFF taken to CRIG was forwarded to Soil Science Division to conduct the test.

According to him, CRIG in a letter of approval of LFF which was to be applied to mature cocoa recommended that 50 grams of the substance and 11 litres of water be applied to crops.

However, Dr Manu submitted that COCOBOD was not obliged to purchase fertilisers based on the  approval of fertiliser by CRIG, adding that it was the sole prerogative of COCOBOD to decide whether to purchase the substance or otherwise.

Dr. Opuni and Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, have denied all 27 charges leveled against them by the state, adding that had since been granted self recognisance bail of GH¢300,000 each.

Hearing continues on July 23.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

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