Key witness schools State Prosecutor at COCOBOD trial

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Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, was hapless when she came face to face with the seventh prosecution witness, Peter Okyere Boateng, who had decades of experience under his belt on issues related to COCOBOD.

It was a sight to behold when the state prosecutor, rather appeared clueless as she strenuously tried to discredit the evidence of the witness, thereby giving him the upper hand to school her on the workings of COCOBOD.

Mr Okyere Boateng, a former Deputy Executive Director of CHED of COCOBOD, has been giving his testimony under crossing-examination at the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, accused of willfully causing financial loss to the state and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016. 

On Wednesday when the case was called by an Accra High Court presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, Stella Ohene Appiah in her attempt to discredit claims by the witness that lithovit performed magic on farms, put it to the witness that lithovit was not the only fertilizer that the farmers used.

But Mr Okyere Boateng, who was in charge of monitoring and evaluation at CHED told the court, “That is not true. We have educated the farmers that, one particular fertilizer is appropriate for one particular farm. No farmer who has been trained by CHED, will mix any type of fertilizer with other fertilizer. The farmers are well educated. This is a technical issue.” 

“I’m putting it to you that, not only Lithovit Liquid fertilizer had been applied by the farmers on their farms, but Sidalco and other granular fertilizers have also been used,” prosecution insisted. 

The witness replied, “Yes. I have said it here, that COCOBOD gives out different types of fertilizers and it’s a fact. But as I just said, each farmer gets a particular fertilizer be it granular or liquid or foliar for a particular farm. So in my report, I even compared performances of farms that have been applied with different types of fertilizers. But none of the farmers will apply more than one fertilizer on a single farm. Let me explain further that, yes, a particular farmer may get more than one particular fertilizer, but they will be meant for different farms.”

The witness had to take time to further educate the prosecution who sounded as if there is a difference between yields and production of cocoa.

“As I said, if you talk about CHED, yes, we don’t compile data on cocoa yield. Which is the same as the production that I have talked about. Yield and production are the same. Though at times we may use yield as a unit area production. As I sit here, I know that, the yield on production that was realized during the period of application of LLF, in 2016/2017 was the second highest production in the history of cocoa production in Ghana up to 2019/2020 and the figure was nine hundred and sixty-nine thousand metric tons.”

On Thursday, November 9, 2023, Stella Ohene Appiah again challenged the witness’ claims that suggested a remarkable difference between fertilizers supplied to farmers and the one the prosecution claimed was tested by the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana.

“So you see, you have no basis for your statement that the product tested by the University of Ghana is not the same used by farmers,” the prosecution said.

Mr. Okyere Boateng stated, “My Lord what I just said was a basis for me to say that. My Lord in July [2022] I gave evidence, what I said was that, the University of Ghana is my alma mater and that it is an institution of academic excellence, but from the observations, I made in the field, particularly in the cocoa farms on which the Lithovit fertilizer was applied and the high commendations given by the farmers on whose farms the fertilizer was applied, I knew that the fertilizer was a very good product, and therefore it wouldn’t be the same product that was taken to the University of Ghana for testing. My Lord, that is what I said, and I did not go challenging the work of the University of Ghana.”

Meanwhile, the test result conducted by the University of Ghana was discredited by the state’s own witness who worked on the product.

Dr. Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum who claimed to have worked on that Lithovit Fertiliser impugned the credibility of the report when he noted in court, under cross-examination, that the report which was tendered in evidence by the prosecution was doctored. 

“No we did not. We did not write those in ink, we did not put in those vertical lines. Our original report did not have those,” the state witness said in October 2020.

Also a sample of lithovit which is in evidence and prosecution claimed was the actual product tested by CRIG of COCOBOD and was also powdery in nature, has since been rejected by state’s star witness Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah

Under cross-examination in November 2019, Dr Adu-Ampomah who is a former Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD told the court that the exhibit by the Attorney General which is supposed to prove that lithovit fertilizer was powder was not the lithovit fertilizer that he asked CRIG to test. 

“My Lord I don’t know where this [exhibit] is coming from,” Dr Adu-Ampomah told the court, adding, “this is not what came in 2013; I don’t know whether this is the sample that you are showing to me”.

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