Opuni Trial: Lithovit Fertilizer Diluted – Witness
An Associate Professor at the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana (UG) has stated at the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo that the liquid Lithovit fertilizer that was tested by the department was “very, very dilute”.
Dr. Emmanuel Yaw Osei-Twum, who is the fifth prosecution witness in the case, said that their tests revealed some very sharp contradiction in the nutrient content of the Lithovit fertilizer as stated by the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that accompanied it and those found in the liquid Lithovit that was tested by the Chemistry Department.
He told the court that all the parameters—components in the liquid fertilizer that was tested were all very low.
The witness also told the court that based on the test result, they concluded that “Lithovit is a nano-fertilizer and this is used as an alternative to conventional fertilizers. It is used on vegetables, citrus, cotton, and rice farms.”
He said this led the department to recommend that “the Lithovit found in the sample we tested was very small and that it might compromise the outcome of its application.”
Dr. Opuni and Alhaji Agongo are before an Accra High Court for causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH₵217,370,289.22.
The two are facing a total of 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretense, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The nature and form Lithovit fertilizer tested at Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG) and what was purchased by COCOBOD for distribution to farmers has been a 'battle' between the prosecution led by Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa, Director of Public Prosecution and the defence teams .
While the defence claims the fertilizer tested was liquid in form, the prosecution maintains that it was a powdered fertilizer that was tested at CRIG and subsequently recommended to COCOBOD.
Dr. Osei-Twum led in evidence by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, and Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, told the court that in April 2017 the department got a request from the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to analyse a sample for them.
He said the sample which was liquid was labelled with EOCO sample number with the name Lithovit.
The witness told the court that the analysis was carried out in May 2017 by one Prof. Augustine Kwame Donkor and himself.
He said they were to determine the constituents and to find out how much of each was in the sample. “We were also to tell EOCO whether the sample was fertilizer.”
“We prepared the sample by treating it with acid and then submitted it for what we call atomic absorption spectroscopy. The rest was calculating to find out how much of each constituent was present,” he told the court.
Dr. Osei-Twum told the court that “we said the material identified to be Lithovit, the application on cocoa farms from nursery, growth, and yield stages remains experimental because currently there is no evidence in the literature for the application of Lithovit on cocoa plants.”
Dr. Osei-Twum was asked to compare the nutrient content of the fertilizer as stated on the MSDS and the result of the test they conducted on the sample that was submitted to them for testing and he said there was sharp contradictions between the two.
He did the comparison using the European Commission data safety sheet which provides the chemical composition and safety associated with the fertilizer.
Per the document, the calcium carbonate content of the Lithovit fertilizer is supposed to be 84.5 per cent but the tested sample had a calcium carbonate content of 3.22 per cent, according to the witness.
“The composition from the MSDs indicates that calcium carbonate should 84.5 per cent. Our analysis gave calcium carbonate concentration as 3.22 per cent. Magnesium carbonate from the MSDS is 4.6 per cent. We found the amount to be 0.48 per cent. Iron from the MSDS should be 0.75 per cent and we found 0.012 per cent.”
He said, “Manganese supposed to be 166 milligrams per kilogramme from the MsDs we got 0.001 per cent or 8.919 milligrams per kilogrammes. We also found other elements such as Nickel that was 0.003 per cent. We got Zinc of 0.0003. There was some lead of 0.001 per cent. Basically, these were the elements or compounds we found and they were all very low in concentration.”
Dr. Osei Twum also told the court that the team after their test recommended that “the Lithovit found in the sample we tested was very small and that it might compromise the outcome of its application. We went on to say that preliminary investigation should be conducted before widespread use. We also recommended that since Lithovit is basic, it is therefore, advisable to avoid acidic soils. Hence the pH of all soils in the cocoa growing areas should be determined prior to the use of the Lithovit.”
The witness is expected to go through cross-examination on October 27.
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