Opuni trial: Witness ‘hot’ as Cocoa Nti scandal resurfaces in court


Prosecution witness Dr. Alfred Arthur, a soil scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG), appeared uncomfortable as defence counsel in the ongoing Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo trial revisited a subject that got the COCOBOD to sanction him.

Dr. Alfred Arthur, a key witness of the state, was suspended over forgery and was no more going to work at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) at Tafo for circumventing the required procedure in testing fertilizer, and misleading his superiors to recommend the certification of the product.

His suspension follows a probe by COCOBOD in 2016 into the fertilizer in question, the Cocoa Nti, manufactured by Morocco-based OCP Group.

An investigative report which is before the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge, revealed that Dr. Arthur in 2013, travelled with the local suppliers of ‘Cocoa Nti’ granular fertilizer; Enepa Ventures Ltd to visit the Morocco-based manufacturers of the product and upon his return, he quickly prepared a report on the product without proper scientific test on it.

Meanwhile, Dr. Alfred Arthur has been recalled to CRIG at Tafo since 2017 where he works as acting head of the soil department of CRIG.

Interestingly, Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, has gone ahead to purchase some 100,000 bags of the “Cocoa Nti” worth US$3.5 million, using the controversial report by Dr. Arthur and team.

Dr. Arthur has been testifying in the case in which the former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Opuni, and Seidu Agongo, CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for allegedly engaging in acts that incurred financial loss of GH¢271.3m in a series of fertiliser deals.

When the case was called on Monday, February 18, 2019, lawyer Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd, the second and third accused, successfully tendered in evidence the report of the committee that investigated Dr. Arthur as well as other documents, though the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa tried to object to some of the documents being tendered.

This was after Dr. Arthur was made to identify the documents including those signed by him concerning his dealing with Cococa Nti. These were documents filed on behalf of CRIG on November 28, 2018 by the Deputy Director of Legal Affairs at COCOBOD, Johannes Vegba.

The second prosecution witness Dr. Alfred Arthur vehemently denied knowledge of the institution of the Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM) to test new fertilizers at CRIG even after over two years of working with that division of COCOBOD as a scientist.

Excerpts of Monday’s proceedings during cross examination of Dr. Alfred Arthur by Benson Nutsukpi.

Dr. Alfred Arthur

Q: sir, when was the CTCM (Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery) established?

Ans: my Lord, I don’t know when it was established

Q: Dr Amoah established CTCM?

Ans: My Lord, I have no idea.

Q: Dr Anim Kwapong was the executive director who set the adhoc committee to go into the Cocoa Nti complaints?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: Dr Oddoye chaired that committee?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: you appeared before the committee.

Ans: yes my lord

Q: and all proceedings were recorded?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: look at exhibit 17C. what is at the number 7?

Ans: my lord ,the report of the committee chaired by Rev Father Oddoye on investigation into cocoa nti.

Q: And those documents were filed at the court?

Ans: yes my Lord.

Q: look at the document. It is signed by Dr Anim kwapong executive director of CRIG.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: it is stamped from the deputy CEO A and QC and received on 6th December, 2016

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: That letter had a forwarding report attached to it to the deputy CEO A and QC.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: The attached report is signed on every page by Rev father Oddoye.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: That is the disciplinary hearing involving the authors of cocoa nti fertilizer.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: and you were one of the authors of the cocoa nti fertilizer report.

Ans: yes my Lord

Benson Nutsukpui: my lord I want to tender the document through the witness.

Dr. Alfred Arthur was given a copy of the report of the committee which investigated him and his colleagues on the cocoa nti

Q: please go to exhibit 18. Now, you were asked were you aware that samples were to be sent to COCOBOD? Read your answer.

Ans: when I joined CRIG I saw samples coming to CRIG  without recourse to COCOBOD. It was later in 2014 that a meeting was held at the club house that all sample must come through cocoa board

Q: You also told the committee that one may take part in some aspects of the testing but may not take part in the final report.

Ans: That is not correct.

Q: Now on the same page 18,  four lines from the bottom. You were asked if one of the scientists say he did not take part in the research what will be your response?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: read your answer

Ans: one may be part of one activity or the other.

Q: when you were asked how do you go about your report writing what did you say.

Ans: Scientist may write report on his jurisdictions and we collate and compile

Q,: you were asked did you get the approval of deputy CEO A and QC before going on with the test.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: Read your answer.

Ans: my Lord I assumed so by virtue of the email he sent to me.

Q,: You did not give copies of the email from the then deputy CEO A and QC, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah?

Ans: No my lord

Q: did you ?

Ans: no my Lord, I didn’t give the e mail to them.

Q: You were asked, did you inform the CTCM on the receipt of the samples?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: Read your answer.

Ans: my lord, I was not aware of the existence of  CTCM.

Q: Sir, so 2013 when you took the cocoa nti product directly without passing through COCOBOD, you were not aware of CTCM.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: That will be three years of your employment.

Ans: Not exactly

Q: you were employed in 2010

Ans: October

Q,: I’m suggesting to you that the CTCM was established by Dr Amoah after taking office in 2009.

Ans: my Lord, I was employed in October, 2010 so in 2009 when CTCM was established, I was not there.

Q: So you did not know of CTCM after two years of your employment at CRIG.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: You were asked if you prepared the budget for the testing? Were you?

Ans: yes my lord

Q: what was your answer.

Ans: my Lord, I remember telling them I can’t recall.

Q: your answer is on the third line of exhibit 18 page 22. read your answer.

Ans: my Lord I can’t remember. I was on excused duty for some time.

Q: Do you now remember?

Ans: No my lord

The case was adjourned to 25th February, 2019.

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