AG’s Witness Fumbles Under Cross-Examination In Opuni Case

Dr. Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum Dr. Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum

Dr. Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum, a part-time lecturer at the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana, who is the state's 5th witness in the case involving former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo, is reeling under hefty punches from the defense counsel, as they punch holes into his evidence.

Dr. Osei-Twum, 69, appeared in court on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 to give account of what he knows regarding an analytic test of lithovit fertilizer (which is at the centre of the trial).

Dr. Osei-Twum, giving his evidence in chief led by Mrs. Evelyn Keelson, the Chief State Attorney, said in April 2017, the Department had a request from the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to analyze a sample of the Lithovit Fertiliser for analysis, ostensibly to determine the efficacy or otherwise of the product.

Dr. Osei-Twum, noted that he and a lead scientist at the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana, Professor Augustine Kwame Donkor, wrote the report which has been admitted into evidence before the court. He added that the Head of the Chemistry Department, Dr. Luis Doamekpor, signed the report before it was forwarded to EOCO.

His stance, however, shifted during cross-examination by counsel for Seidu Agongo, Nutifafa Nutsukpui. When asked whether he indeed wrote the report, Dr. Osei-Twum, said he and his other colleague (Prof. Donkor) gathered data and formatted the data. He, however, admitted that he personally did not write the report as that was done by a secretary in the department.

When quizzed on whether he reviewed the report before it was signed and sent, he responded in the affirmative.

Mr Agongo's lawyer, then referred him to the Background Text of the report which captured exactly what EOCO needed to be done on the sample and why.

Dr. Osei-Twum maintained that he had no idea the reason the analysis was due to an ongoing investigation into alleged procurement breaches at COCOBOD.

Here are excerpts;

Q. You told this court Professor Donkor and yourself did write the report on which you have just testified

A. We prepared the report

Q. So when you say you prepared the report, is that different from writing the report

A. Yes

Q. Please tell the court what your preparation of the report means

A. We put together the data, we formatted the data the way the report should be written

Q. So who in fact wrote this report?

A. We have a secretary in the department who writes the report for us

Q. Did you review this report?

A. Completely

Lawyer for Dr. Opuni, Sam Cudjoe, challenged Dr. Osei-Twum's participation in the compilation of the analytic report as he asked: "From the report what shows that you worked on it since there is no indication that you worked on the report?"

In his response, Dr. Osei-Twum, said even though there is nothing to show that he and Prof Donkor worked on the sample, there is documentation that shows that the Chemistry Department worked on the report and submitted it.

This is what ensued between them:

Q. I am putting it to you that if you had worked on the sample personally, you would have given a police statement

A. At the time we analyzed the sample we were dealing with EOCO. EOCO never indicated to us that it had anything to do with criminality. We were only asked to analyze the sample

Q. Did you download the MSDS or you got it from EOCO?

A. We got a copy from EOCO

Q. You were untruthful to this court when you told this court that EOCO never briefed you about any criminality concerning the procurement of lithovit

A. My lord I am chemist, not a lawyer, I have nothing to do with the law. Prof Donkor and myself didn't sit down to discuss the criminality associated with the sample that EOCO submitted to us so I have not lied to the court.

Q. I am putting it to you that EOCO briefed the department of chemistry about the fact that it was conducting investigation into the procurement of lithovit and it wanted the department to test the lithovit fertilizer

A. If EOCO briefed anyone, it would have been my head of department and I am not aware.

Earlier, Dr Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum, had said that the Lithovit liquid fertilizer submitted for analysis was dilute.

"We concluded that the solution was very dilute," he said.

He said the sample was a liquid sample of Lithovit fertilizer in a plastic bottle and that in May the same year, they carried out the analysis.

He said per the terms, they were to determine the constituents available in the sample and to find out how much of each was in the sample.

He said the Department was also to tell EOCO, whether the sample presented was fertilizer or not.

DrOsei-Twum said they prepared the sample by treating it with acid and submitted it to what was called acidic absorption spectroscopy and the rest was to calculate to find out how much of its constituents were present.

Mrs Keelson asked the witness to tell the court, the outcome of the analysis and the witness said "we found calcium carbonate at 3.22 per cent, magnesium carbonate at 0.48 per cent, while other compounds are very low in amounts."

The Prosecution presented a document for the witness to identify, which the witness said it was the report submitted to EOCO.

The State Attorney, asked the witness, who at the Department conducted the analysis and Dr. Osei-Twum, said the lead analysts were Professor Augustine Kwame Donkor and himself and was signed by Dr Louis Doamekpor, Head of the Department.

Asked to explain page six of the report, the witness said the first column on the left was labelled parameter and they were supposed to determine the constituents of Lithovit for which they conducted the literature.

"Later on we obtained the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that confirmed what we have found in the literature," he said.

Explaining further, Dr. Osei-Twum, who is an Associate Professor at the University of Ghana, said the results indicated that all the constituents in percentages were very low.

He said looking at page 8 of the report, Lithovit was a nano-fertilizer and was used as an alternative to conventional fertilizer on vegetables, citrus, cotton and rice farms.

"Sample brought to the Department by EOCO was identified as Lithovit fertilizer," he added.

He said the application of Lithovit on Cocoa farms from nursery to the growth and yield stages, remained experimental, because currently there was no evidence for its application on Cocoa plants.

The Lecturer, said per their recommendation, preliminary investigations should be conducted before widespread use.

He said since Lithovit was base, it was advisable to avoid acidic soil, hence the pH of all soil in the Cocoa growing area should be determined prior to the use of lithovit.

He said the composition on the MSDS had Calcium carbonate as 84.5 per cent but their analysis had Calcium carbonate as 3. 22 per cent, while magnesium carbonate was 4. 6 per cent and their test results was 0.48 per cent.

The witness ended his evidence in chief as Mr Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, cross-examined him.

Mr Cudjoe asked the witness, whether he knew the accused person, but he answered in the negative.

Asked, whether the sample tested by the Department had any connection with the first accused person, Dr. Opuni, but the witness said, "l do not know him."

"Did A1 give you the sample, which your Department tested?" Mr Cudjoe asked, but the witness told the Court that he had never met the accused person or any of his representatives.

The Counsel enquired from the witness, whether he was a permanent staff of the Department and he answered in the affirmative.

Mr Cudjoe said the witness had passed the retirement age and could not still be at post, but the witness said the testing was done by them and he was still a permanent staff, but currently, he was a part-time lecturer.

He asked the witness, whether EOCO, briefed him before the testing, but he said he was not briefed.

The Counsel pointed to the witness that the Department was briefed on the investigation EOCO was conducting, but the witness said if the Department had been briefed, then whoever might have been briefed should be the Head of the Department.

Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, asked the witness, whether he and one Prof Donkor wrote the report and he said they prepared the report.

He asked the witness to tell the court, what he meant by preparing the report and the witness said they put together the data, formatted the data and prepared the data in a way the report should be written.

Asked, who wrote the report, the witness said the Department had a secretary, who wrote reports for scientists.

Whether the witness reviewed the report, he answered in the affirmative.

The Counsel asked the witness, whether he knew that apart from Cocoa, COCOBOD regulated other crops but the witness answered in the negative.

Dr. Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo, are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

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

The trial was adjourned to October 27, 2020, for further cross-examination by Mr Nutsukpui.