The Lithovit given to farmers isn’t the same one tested by UG scientists; why charge farmers’ ‘saviour’ Opuni – Witness tells court
A retired chief technical assistant at the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) at Assin Fosu in the Central Region, Mr Samuel Tsatsu-Adigler, has told the court hearing the GHS271-million financial loss case against former Ghana Cocoa Board CEO Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo that he sees no reason why Dr Opuni, who, according to him, was seen as a “saviour” by cocoa farmers for purchasing Lithovit liquid fertiliser for them, should be prosecuted.
Mr Tsatsu-Adigler, who is the fifth witness for Dr Opuni, told the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga on Wednesday, 29 June 2022 that the fertiliser procured by Cocobod during Dr Opuni’s tenure helped farmers to increase their yield “tremendously” and “astronomically”.
Led in his evidence-in-chief by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for Dr Opuni, the witness also told the court that he does not believe the Lithovit fertiliser tested by scientists at the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana and about which a recommendation was made on page 9 of the scientists’ report that it should be investigated before widespread use because they found only a small amount of Lithovit in the sample, was the same Lithovit fertiliser that was distributed to the farmer in the 2014/2015 crop season.
“My lord, I would like to say that I wasn’t there before this said sample was tested”, he noted, “But upon my own observations of the effect of [the] farms sprayed with Lithovit, [the] testimony by some farmers who benefited from the use of Lithovit on their farms, and the report from my CHED management team in 2015, I can confidently say this was not the Lithovit Cocobod supplied to us that was tested”.
Responding to a claim by the third prosecution witness of the state, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, that the fertiliser was not good and even drank by farmers in place of water, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler said: “This is very unfortunate that my former deputy chief officer of agronomy and quality control will say this”.
The witness explained: “Whoever said this is not on the ground; he’s not in contact with our farmers, in that, as I already mentioned, my own observation of farms sprayed at Assin Fosu, 2014/2015; testimony by some of these farmers both at Assin Fosu and Adabokrom; and our own CHED management team report in 2015; all these expressed praises in the usage of the Lithovit fertiliser”.
Asked for his response to assertions by some prosecution witnesses that despite the $65,200,000 spent by Cocobod in procuring Lithovit liquid fertiliser for farmers, there was no significant increase in cocoa yield in Ghana in the 2014/2015 crop season, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler answered: “My lord, farmers have testified that the use of Lithovit fertiliser has increased their yield, improved their income and enhanced their livelihood. Therefore, if somebody knows the need of farmers and given them the right inputs like the Lithovit to bring changes in their lives, I see no reason why such a person, who is a saviour to them, should be charged as such”.
On the prosecution’s insistence that Cocobod was defrauded into procuring the Lithovit fertiliser for $65,200,000, even though its efficacy was questionable and did not have any positive impact on yield, per the arguments of the prosecution team, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler said: “My lord, Lithovit, as I know, was not supplied to all the cocoa regions, for instance, the Western North, which I worked, which is one of the biggest of cocoa-growing regions and, therefore, to use only Lithovit as the measure for [an] increase in production, may be a wrong judgement”.
He added: “My Lord, my division is not involved in purchasing of inputs. Ours is to see to the usage of the inputs and, therefore, I cannot say anything in terms of this”.
When asked what he thought about the prosecution’s case that purchasing Lithovit caused financial loss to the state, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler responded: “I think I answered this question earlier that some farmers have testified that when they used the Lithovit, it increased their yield and, therefore, improved their income from the cocoa harvested and had changed their total livelihood from which some of them said they were able to buy vehicles and put up buildings, therefore, it can’t be said that the purchase of Lithovit by COCOBOD was useless”.
The case has been adjourned to Monday, 4 July 2022.
Dr Opuni, Mr Agongo, who owns Agricult Company Limited – suppliers of Lithovit liquid fertiliser – are being tried for defrauding the state among other charges, with regard to the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser.
They are on self-recogisance bail.
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