Court grants Dr Opuni and Agongo GH¢300,000 bail

Dr. Stephen Opuni

A Land Division of the High Court on Monday granted a self-recognisance bail to Dr Stephen Opuni together with his accomplice Mr Seidu Agongo in the sum of GH¢300,000 on 27 charges including causing financial loss to the State.

The accused who pleaded not guilty, were also directed by the court to deposit their passports with the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.

The court presided over by Justice Clemence Hornyenuga, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court Judge asked the accused to report to the CID anytime they want to travel outside the country.

He also asked the Director-General to submit a 48-hour report of any activity of the accused to the registrar of the court.

The Attorney-General Ms Gloria Akuffo who led the prosecution asked that the bail conditions should be set commensurate with the GH¢25,000 bribery allegation.

However, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, legal counsel for Dr Opuni told the court that his client was a family and businessman, who had employed over 5,000 people and would endeavour to be available to the court in the trial process.

Presenting the facts the Attorney-General said Seidu Agongo, Acting on behalf of Agricult Ghana Limited submitted to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), fertilizer for testing.

She said the testing was supposed to be in two phases; applied to seedlings and applied to matured plants for at least two planting seasons.

She said testing was carried out for only first phase after which a report recommending its use was given without second phase testing.

“Investigations revealed that the former COCOBOD CEO wrote to CRIG asking that they shorten the testing period and subsequently also wrote to Seidu that his fertilizer had been certified for use on cocoa after which a certificate was issued by CRIG,” she added.

The A-G said Agricult Ghana Limited despite not applying for renewal of the certificate for 2015 and 2016 as required by law, upon the instance of Dr Opuni had his license renewed and went ahead to further supply the fertilizer without any testing.

The Prosecution said Dr Opuni, then, applied to the Public Procurement Authority for approval for Agricult Ghana Limited to be sole sourced to procure 700,000 litres of the fertilizer although conditions for single sourcing had not been satisfied.

She said in that letter, Dr. Opuni stated the price as $19,250,000 and the nature of the product was captured as liquid despite it being powdery form.

The AG further told the court that as at the time of writing to PPA Agricult had not written to COCOBOD stating the price as is required by law.

The PPA then wrote to the COCOBOD CEO requesting for value for money analysis.

Ms Akuffo said Dr Opuni did not provide this but rather misrepresented to PPA that in compliance with advice from PPA Board in 2008, Agricult Ghana Limited had been pre-qualified for the supply of the fertilizer although he knew this was not true.

On that basis, the PPA board approved COCOBOD’s request for single sourcing of 700,000 litres of the fertilizer.

The A-G said in 2014, Dr Opuni once again wrote to PPA requesting approval to hand Agricult a contract to supply a liquid form of fertilizer through sole sourcing even though conditions had not been met.

“The PPA approved this request. Dr. Opuni then put in another request which was also approved,” she added.

In November 2015, the PPA approved the application for another sole sourcing procurement to this effect three separate agreements were signed and executed by Seidu Agongo’s Agricult Ghana Limited.

Investigations, she said had revealed that the contracts were executed, when the company did not have a valid certificate to supply the fertilizer.

“Whereas the material safety data sheet accompanying the fertilizer that was originally submitted to CRIG for testing described the substance as powdery, Dr. Opuni in requesting quotations for supply and delivery under the three contracts referred to the fertilizer as liquid and quoted in litres,” the AG said.

She said when the products arrived in Ghana, COCOBOD was required to notify CRIG for testing to ensure it corresponded with what was tested by CRIG but no such testing was carried out.

In 2017, COCOBOD carried out an audit into testing of fertilizers after which it referred the matter for criminal investigations, the investigations, the AG said established that the product supplied by Agricult Ghana Limited was different from the sample submitted to CRIG for testing.

Further tests revealed variously that the fertilizer supplied had been adulterated and did not meet the specified standard and that the product could not be used as nutrient on Cocoa and also the test indicated that the fertilizer could be harmful to humans and animals.

She said even though COCOBOD had spent a sum of $55million on the fertilizer, COCOBOD’s records show there was no significant increase in the Cocoa yield during the period.

According to the AG investigations showed that Seidu deposited an amount GH¢25,000 into the personal account of Dr Opuni to influence the award of contracts.

It has been established that between 2014 and 2016, contrary to law, Seidu and Agricult manufactured fertilizer in commercial quantities when it had not been registered by the Ministry for Food and Agriculture to do so.

Some officials from the NDC were in court to sympathise with Dr Opuni among them includes Kofi Adams, Julius Debrah, Elisabeth ofosu Adjare, Asiedu Nketia and Kojo Bonsu among others. 

The Case has been adjourned to April 11, 16, 17, 24 and 30 for commencement of the trial.

Source: GNA

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