COCOBOD’s purchase of untested Cocoa Nti Fertilizer takes centre stage in court

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The ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive and two others has been producing interesting revelations; currently being unpacked in court is how Joseph Boahen Aidoo-led COCOBOD expended state resources to purchase untested Cocoa Nti fertilizer whose certificate was withdrawn by CRIG in 2016.

The certificate for Cocoa Nti granular fertilizer was withdrawn after an ad-hoc committee, chaired by a Deputy Executive Director in Charge of Cocoa, Rev. Father Dr. E.O.K. Oddoye in 2016 on the testing of the fertilizer, found out that the report leading to that certification was forged by a CRIG soil scientist, Dr. Alfred Arthur, together with one Alex Afrifa.

The committee also found him guilty of having an unhealthy relationship with the manufacturers of the product.

Dr. Arthur in 2013, even 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.

The errant scientist was duly suspended by the management of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in 2016 and transferred from its head office in Tafo to a substation at Bunso in the Eastern Region.

Dr. Alfred Arthur’s six-month suspension was however curtailed and brought back to CRIG in January 2017 after the change of government in 2017 as the acting head of the soil department at CRIG.

He later became the state’s second prosecution witness in the ongoing trial.

His testimony follows that of the first prosecution witness Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah who made a comeback to CRIG as the Executive Director in January 2017, and before the third prosecution witness Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who was recalled from retirement back to COCOBOD as a Deputy Chief Executive in February 2017. 

Dr. Arthurs’ shocking early return to CRIG at Tafo was said to have been engineered by Dr. Amoah and Dr. Adu-Ampomah with the tacit blessing of the government to ostensibly prepare him for the prosecution of the former chief executive officer.

In a letter addressed to the deputy CE A and QC and referenced CRIG C31/1/1062 received in that office on 6th December 2016, CRIG withdrew the certification for cocoa nti.

Interestingly, when Dr. Adu-Ampomah was confronted under cross-examination as the third prosecution witness about the withdrawal of the Cocoa Nti certificate, he feigned ignorance.

He was therefore made to read the report of an adhoc committee on cocoa nti fertilizer constituted on 23rd November 2016 which was contained in the handing over notes: “The committee is of the view that the cocoa nti fertilizer should be taken through the usual field test for fertilizers. The initial report on cocoa nti fertilizer submitted to COCOBOD should, therefore, be withdrawn…

“We have no record or evidence that cocoa nti fertilizer was previously submitted to CRIG for testing in any form.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Adu-Ampomah as presented to the court admitted COCOBOD purchased 100,000 bags of cocoa nti granular fertilizer at US$3.150 million through sole-sourcing under Joseph Boahen Aidoo as the Chief Executive in 2018, using another controversial scientific report authored by the same hatchet man Dr. Alfred Arthur.

Before the transaction, there were a number of email correspondences between Dr. Adu-Ampomha and manufacturers of cocoa nti. One of the email correspondences dated April 28, 2013 was to Dr. Yaw Adu Ampomah, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD in-charge of Quality Control and Agronomy, written by El Kanit Abdelmonim of OCP Group of Morocco and copied to Dr. Alfred Arthur.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, was the Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, when COCOBOD received the second controversial scientific report on Cocoa Nti fertilizer in a letter dated March 2, 2018, and on March 5, 2018, a letter was written to PPA to grant approval for the purchase of cocoa nti fertilizer.

The court is yet to unravel how COCOBOD’s application to PPA in 2018 stated that Cocoa Nti was the farmers’ preference even though it was the first time COCOBOD was purchasing the product.

It has yet to also unpacked how the second testing was done, who signed the certificate, when the suppliers of cocoa nti submitted quotations to COCOBOD which formed the basis for the procurement and among others how the budget for the product was generated.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of CRIG who instituted the committee and suspended Dr. Arthur in 2016, Dr. Gilbert Anim Kwapong on Thursday, December 7, 2023, confirmed to the High Court in Accra that he signed the report of the committee and forwarded the same to the Deputy Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD.

Dr. Anin Kwapong, who was answering questions under cross examination by lawyer Benson Nutsukpui, the lead counsel for Alhaji Agongo, said CRIG found the response of Dr. Arthur to the “queries untenable”.

A year before his employment at CRIG in October 2010, the Committee for Testing of Chemicals and Machines had been established by Dr. Amoah in 2009, but almost three years after working with CRIG, Dr. Arthur told the adhoc committee that, as at 2013 that he circumvented the testing process, he was not aware of the existence of the CTCM at CRIG. Indeed Dr. Arthur confirmed his response to the committee when he was cross-examined in 2018 as a witness at the High Court.

“Exhibit 17A, the committee found as a fact that there is no delegation of OCP (Morocco, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Enepa Ventures) paid a visit to COCOBOD to submit a fertilizer sampling for Cocoa Nti, that’s true,” he was asked, and he answered, “My Lord, that is correct”.

He also said the committee “found as a fact” that although Dr. Arthur visited Morocco on the invitation of OCP and Enepa ventures, there was no evidence of COCOBOD officially requesting CRIG to test any fertilizer formulation. 

The committee, he said, also found that the payment for the testing of Cocoa Nti was done in March 2016.

“Sir when you were being interrogated by police you told them that the two errant scientists were dealt with by the CTCM (Committee for Testing of Chemicals and Machines),” lawyer Benson Nutsukpui asked the witness.

“It was the directorate that dealt with the two errant scientists,” he answered.

Dr. Kwapong retired from COCOBOD as the Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of CODAPEC/HiTECH at Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) on 11th December 2022.

The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, have been facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.

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