Ghanaian News

Former Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, and the Chief Executive of Agricult Limited, Seidu Agongo, will appear before the Accra High Court Monday, to answer to 27 counts of various charges.

The charges include willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption and defrauding by false pretence.

Dr Stephen Opuni is said to be the main brain behind the award of contracts totalling about $512 million during the transition period.

Dr Opuni, appointed on November 30, 2013, to head COCOCBOD, is alleged to have mismanaged the cocoa sector during four-year tenure.

He was one the first government appointees to be sacked by Akufo-Addo administration and was once headed the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).

He was relieved of his post at the FDA on January 12, 2017, barely a week after the Akufo-Addo regime took office.

It is alleged that Dr Opuni awarded contracts to Mr Agongo’s company to import fertiliser although he knew Agricult Limited was in no position to execute the contract.

Background

The state, led by Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo, claims that Dr Opuni connived with CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, Mr Agongo to secure GHS43.1million worth of fertilizer contract even when the two knew the terms and conditions could not be met.

The fertilisers were to be imported from Germany for onward distribution to farmers for the 2013/2014 cocoa farming season.

But the fertilisers were produced locally by Mr Agongo's company contrary to the terms of the agreement.

The state observed the clandestine strategy was carried out in the subsequent farming seasons resulting in a major contract costing GHS75.3million in 2015.

Investigations into contracts signed by Dr Opuni started three days after the inauguration of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in January last year.

In February 2017, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) froze the assets of Dr Opuni as part of investigations into his tenure as CEO of COCOBOD.

His passport was seized and was subsequently invited by the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) where he reportedly endured some six-long hours of questioning on a wide range of issues, including alleged massive corruption in the cocoa sector.

In March 2017, the government cancelled a contract worth GH¢255 million awarded by the John Mahama administration for the supply of farm inputs to cocoa farmers upon the advice of the newly inaugurated Board of Ghana Cocoa Board chaired by Hackman Owusu Agyemang.

The contract was for the supply of pesticides, weedicides, fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers throughout the country.

However, it was later detected that six companies involved in the supply of the chemicals all belong to one person, necessitating the abrogation, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang revealed.

Witch-hunting

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), the governing party that appointed Dr Opuni in 2013 says it will rally behind Dr Opuni.

Describing the charges against Dr Opuni as made-up, Kofi Adams, National Organiser of the NDC said NDC executives and farmers whose lives have been impacted by the work of the former COCOBOD CEO will rise to his defence.

Mr Adams said the former COCOBOD CEO has done nothing wrong to deserve the treatment being meted out to him by the current government.

“Why didn’t the Board report any wrongdoing when it approved those contracts?” the NDC Organiser asked, adding the government is hunting for people to blame for its inefficiency.

No witch-hunting

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General has said her office is not witch-hunting any member of the opposition NDC.

Gloria Akuffo said she is only executing her mandate as stipulated by the laws of the state.

“By the time we finish the hearing, we will know if I am witch-hunting or that they [27 charges] are justifiable,” the Attorney-General counters.