Lithovit Foliar, the fertiliser which the state alleges was adulterated, for which reason, among others, former CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, and businessman, Seidu Agongo, as well as private supplier AgriCult Company Limited, have been charged for causing financial loss to the state, is still being used by cocoa farmers who find it efficacious, Tamale Central MP Inusah Fuseini has said.
“The same product that they say has been adulterated is in the market, the farmers are buying it”, Mr Fuseini said on Multi TV’s news analysis programme Newsfile on Saturday, 17 March.
The three accused persons are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of GHS217 through three separate fertiliser supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.
The contracts were GHS43.1million (2013/2014 cocoa farming season), GHS75.3million (2014/2015 cocoa farming season) and GHS98.9million (2015/2016 cocoa farming season) totaling GHS217million through sole-sourcing, the state claimed, adding that procurement procedures for sole-sourcing were not followed.
According to the charges, the consignments of Lithovit Foliar were produced locally, contrary to an agreement between COCOBOD and AgriCult Ghana Company Limited that it be sourced from Germany.
Also, the state claims the fertilisers were manufactured without registration, thereby, flouting the Plants and Fertiliser Act 2010.
Dr Opuni is also alleged by the state to have taken a bribe of GHS25,000 from Mr Agongo in October 2014 to facilitate the award of one of the contracts by misrepresenting facts to the Public Procurement Authority.
The state also said the 2014 contract was awarded without any price quotation.
Mr Fuseini, however, has raised a few technical issues about the charges, which, to him, are harbingers of “interesting times” to come.
Apart from Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo, Mr Fuseini said: “I don’t want to mention the third accused because I fail to see how a company can appear in person, in court, because it is an artificial person. In criminal jurisprudence, a company is capable of committing a crime but where it commits it, it commits it through its alter ego – that is the persons, so that is one condition under which the veil is lifted to see those who committed the crime so that they can be held responsible.
“How will the company plead? The first accused will be asked: ‘Guilty or not guilty?’ The second accused will be asked: ‘Guilty or not guilty?’ The third accused person, how will it plead? Or they won’t take his plea? So that is basic,” he pointed out to show host Samson Lardy Anyenini.
The former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources also wondered: “At what point does a contract become a criminal matter?” adding: “That is why the accusation of witch-hunting is coming in. Because even if the contract failed to meet the legitimate expectations of the company, there are remedies under the contract. Now there are motions that the supply had to go through. You can’t supply any chemical to COCOBOD if you don’t have approvals from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (GRIG). Were those approvals obtained? If they were obtained … how can documents, approvals that were given by a renowned cocoa research institution like CRIG by people who have worked and risen up to the professorial level, then conspire or work together to defraud the state? But he [the head of CRIG] has not been charge … but clearly you are saying that that fellow ought not to have given that approval and you are saying that that product was illegal, but someone gave the approval before the product was supplied”.
According to him, all the accused persons cannot be subjected to criminal prosecution if they can prove that they followed due process in getting and executing the contract. “So if the person made a presentation and then supplied and then was paid, how does that become false pretences?” he wondered.
In his view, colleague MP for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong, has now become the “conscience of the NPP” in the sense that: “Anytime he says somebody should be jailed, then we see a charge against that fellow. Now he says that Abeiku Santana should be jailed [for stealing a state car] and we will see a charge sheet in court. We don’t want a trial by media”.
Meanwhile, Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul-Malik Kweku Baako Jr., who also appeared as a guest on the show, said due process must be followed vis-à-vis the prosecution of the three accused persons.
Describing Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo as “nice” people, Mr Baako urged both sides of the political divide to remain calm as the matter is dealt with in a court of competent jurisdiction.
“Due process is due process; they’ll have their day in court, they’ll have their lawyers who’ll be there to defend them, we have seen instances where people have been sent to court and were freed; some were convicted and sentenced, so, I think that we should hold our fire”.
“…Those who are making noise about political witch-hunting, maybe they know something we do not know. Kofi Adams appears to be confident that the charges are frivolous and that Dr Opuni will come out victorious; then he should relax, he shouldn’t be unduly worried.
“I know Dr Opuni quite well, he’s a nice person, I like him; the young businessman, Seidu Agongo, he’s also a very nice person, I know him but we’re not talking about being nice, we are talking the law, so I think that we should just cool down and let the courts decide on this matter”, Mr Baako noted.