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Trial of Opuni: State gags Own Witness from Speaking to Key Document

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A court sitting today, in the ongoing trial of the former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, over charges of willfully causing financial loss to the state through the purchase and distribution of fake fertilizer, recorded another dramatic performance by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, who last year objected to the tendering of crucial documents from its own witness, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), today virtually gagged prosecution witness from speaking to the documents.

Dr. Alfred Arthur, of the Soil Science Division of CRIG, was willing and able to speak to issues concerning the document which crucially proves that the Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer (LFF), whose form is the main bone of contention, was liquid and not powdery as the state is claiming.

However, after Dr. Arthur had confirmed that the document he was holding was indeed from CRIG and its content showed that the fertilizer was liquid, Mrs. Obuobisa abruptly stood up and objected to her own witness answering to those issues under cross-examination. According to her, the witness had not authored the document even though Dr. Arthur is a specialist scientist from CRIG.

Following from there, the woman who is carving a reputation as a guerilla tactician in the Opuni case objected to that crucial document being the subject of the State’s witness’ cross-examination because the document has not been properly tendered in evidence.

Mrs. Yvonne Obuobisa’s objection, which was partially upheld by Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor of the High Court in Accra has left many wondering why the state has developed a certain attitude towards documents that emerge from COCOBOD itself.

In the beginning of the case, the Attorney General herself, Gloria Akuffo had tried to deny the defense team, of Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo, documents that were needed for them to be able to argue from a position of knowledge. It took a court order for the State to do the needful and furnish them with the appropriate documents.

Eventually, when the document came it was realized that parts of it had curiously been tampered with. CRIG has since said it has set up a committee to investigate how the documents became compromised.

Last year, Mrs. Obuobisa had vehemently rejected to the tendering of documents from CRIG, which CRIG itself had filed at the court’s registry. Her objection had however been overruled by but Mr. Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, who had presided over that hearing.

The defense team have said that the CRIG document is crucial to the vindication of Dr. Opuni, Mr. Seidu Agongo, CEO of Zeera Group Ghana Ltd, who are facing 27 counts, including willfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretense, money laundering and corruption of a public officer. The accused persons have denied all the charges.

Today, Dr. Alfred Arthur was presented with documents from CRIG, which included handing-over notes, letters, field tests and invoices, evidential that at all material times the correspondence among Agricult, CRIG and COCOBOD had shown that the LFF was liquid in nature and not powdery as the state is claiming.

Dr. Arthur, as the scientist who had tested the fertilizer, had begun answering questions under cross-examination

when the DPP suddenly stood and objected to her witness speaking to the issue. According to Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the document had not been tendered in evidence properly.

Justice Baffuor has since adjourned the case to the 6th of February, 2019.

Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa
Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa


Ghana News Online

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