By Gordon Asare-Bediako
The Defence in the ongoing trial of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive of COCOBOD and Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited today suffered the biggest blow yet, when the court rejected their attempt to tender into evidence the report written by the committee set up by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to investigate a missing document which the defence says is germane to their case.
Benson Nutsukpui, the lawyer for Mr Seidu Agongo, asked to tender the committees’ final report on its investigation into evidence through Dr Alfred Arthur, who is the Acting Head of the Soil Science Division at CRIG and a witness for the Prosecution.
The Prosecution, led by Mrs Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) objected the tendering, saying that the investigative committee was not set up by an order of the court. Its investigation was to locate a missing document which has nothing to do with the substantive matters of the trial.
She added that the report by its nature is only a hearsay statement under section 116 of evidence act because it was written by persons other than Dr Alfred Arthur. He was also not part of the committee nor called to testify before it, hence, he doesn’t know about the work of the committee and cannot be asked to speak on matters contained in the report.
The DPP concluded her objection by saying that the Defence had failed to establish enough foundation to tender the report into evidence.
Justice Clemence Honyenugah, the presiding judge, agreed with and upheld the objection raised by the Prosecution, thereby rejecting that report which the Defence sought to tender into evidence.
He said it is indeed the case that the CRIG committee, whose report is in contention, was not set up by a court order but by CRIG and it will be unfair for it to be admitted through Dr Alfred Arthur. What the defence should have done was to tender the report into evidence through one of the three members of the committee so that the Prosecution will have a fair opportunity to cross-examine that committee member.
He ended by saying that the fact that a document had been filled before the court did not mean they could be admitted into evidence without regard to the rules on how to properly do so. I’ll allow the objection, he said, and decline to allow the tendered through Dr Alfred Arthur. The objection is therefore upheld.
The missing document in question, which warranted the formation of a committee at CRIG is a letter, supposedly written by CRIG and sent to Agricult Ghana Limited to partner with CRIG in providing a training programme for farmers and extension officers on the use of Lithovit fertiliser.
The main issue of contention between the two sides in the trial is whether the fertilizer used for the training programme was the same one tested in 2013 by Dr Alfred Arthur, and more importantly, whether it was liquid or powdery in form.
The defence has maintained that, that singular missing document will prove that the fertilizer in question is liquid despite the testimony given by Dr Alfred Arthur that what he tested was in powdery form.
After months of investigations, the CRIG committee concluded that the supposed document could not be found and filled its final report at the court.
Meanwhile, the court had had to adjourn sitting on a number of occasions at the request of the defence on grounds they (the defence) were waiting for the committee to finish its work, which they argued is key to their case, only to have the court today reject the report.