Ghana Cocoa Research Institute Scientist Testifies in Fertiliser Fraud Trial

Jerome Agbesi Dogbatse, a Senior Research Scientist, testified in an Accra High Court that he did not work on the trial, delivery, and testing of Cocoa Nti fertiliser in 2013, 2014, or 2015. Dogbatse's testimony came amid the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, who face 27 charges including fraud and corruption.

author-image
Aqsa Younas Rana
New Update
Ghana Cocoa Research Institute Scientist Testifies in Fertiliser Fraud Trial

Ghana Cocoa Research Institute Scientist Testifies in Fertiliser Fraud Trial

Jerome Agbesi Dogbatse, a Senior Research Scientist at the Soil Science Division of Ghana's Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG), testified in an Accra High Court on May 13, 2024 that he did not work on the trial, delivered, testing of Cocoa Nti fertiliser in 2013, 2014, or 2015. Dogbatse's testimony came amid the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, who face 27 charges including fraud, corruption, and money laundering related to a GH¢271.3 million cocoa fertiliser case.

Why this matters: The trial's outcome may have significant implications for Ghana's cocoa industry, which is a crucial sector of the country's economy. Furthermore, the case highlights the importance of ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of public funds and resources.

Dogbatse, a subpoenaed witness for Seidu Agongo, stated that he was not employed by CRIG at the time the alleged sample of Cocoa Nti was delivered for testing. He claimed his only involvement was reviewing the scientific report on the fertiliser in November 2013, and that his signature was on the report because it was the norm at CRIG for all scientists in the division to sign test reports, whether they participated or not.

The court also heard testimony that Dr. Alfred Arthur, a key Prosecution witness, had apologized for acting on a verbal communication to produce a test report on Cocoa Nti without instruction from COCOBOD. "We are sorry and subsequently apologise to have assumed that the verbal communication between the Deputy Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control office in 2013 was sufficient to allow the testing to be done," Dr. Arthur stated in Exhibit 17E, paragraph 4.

Dogbatse further testified that a delegation from OCP Morocco, MOFA, and ENAPA Ventures had visited CRIG in 2013 with a proposal to submit a fertiliser sample for testing, but this was not the standard procedure for submitting fertilisers for testing at the institute. The trial also involves accusations that Dr. Opuni, who assumed office as COCOBOD CEO in 2014, told scientists to shorten the testing period for fertilisers. However, Dr. Francis Baah, Director of Research at COCOBOD, denied that Dr. Opuni organized any meeting with scientists on this subject.

Both Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are currently on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each. As the high-profile trial continues, Dogbatse's testimony sheds light on the complex inner workings and procedures of Ghana's cocoa industry research institutions that are central to the case.

Key Takeaways

  • Jerome Dogbatse, a CRIG scientist, denies testing Cocoa Nti fertiliser in 2013-2015.
  • Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo face 27 charges, including fraud and corruption, related to cocoa fertiliser case.
  • Case outcome may impact Ghana's cocoa industry, a crucial sector of the country's economy.
  • Witnesses testify on irregularities in testing procedures and verbal communications.
  • Both defendants have pleaded not guilty and are on GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.