The docket on the case in which Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana COCOBOD and Mr Seidu Agongo, the Managing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, a fertiliser manufacturing company, are standing trial for causing financial loss to the state in fertiliser deal is yet to be assigned to a new judge.
This came to light yesterday when the accused and their counsel went to court to find out whether a new judge had been appointed.
The registrar of the Accra High Court (Criminal Division one) who briefed the accused, said he would inquired from the Chief Justice (CJ), Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah and inform them accordingly.
On March 1, Justice Clement Jackson Honyenugah, the trial judge, referred the case to the Chief Justice to be reassigned to a new judge.
On February 23, the Deputy Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, asked Justice Honyenugah to refer the docket to the CJ, noting that the judge would not be able to finish trial of the accused due to limited time.
According to the AG, “it is practically impossible to conclude” the matter in the extremely limited time available.”
In the circumstance “we respectfully pray that my lord refers this matter to the Chief Justice to be reconstituted,” Mr Tuah-Yeboah, told the court on February 23.
Following that, the judge adjourned the case to March 1, to rule on the suggestion of the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
“As submitted through the Deputy AG, to the Chief Justice, due to the limited time at my disposal accorded me to continue to hear this case, it is crystal clear that it is impossible for me to conclude and determine this case. In the circumstance, I will uphold the submission of the Attorney General under section 105 of the Court Act, 1993, Act 459.
It is hereby ordered that the pendency of this case be reported to the Chief Justice for his directions. Accordingly, the registrar of this court is to carry out this order forthwith,” the judge said.
Justice Honyenugah retired last year, but he was granted a six-month extension by the CJ, to conclude the trial. The six months would be up in March.
The trial of Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo suffered a number of adjournments due to disagreements over comments allegedly made by the trial judge, and deemed by accused as prejudicial and biased.
The accused appealed against several rulings given by the judge at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
In 2021, the Supreme Court by a majority decision ordered the judge to stop conducting proceedings over a possible bias against accused, but the decision was overturned by an enhanced panel in a review motion brought by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame.
In March 2018, the AG charged Dr Opuni and Agongo, for causing financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.
The two have been charged with 27 counts, including allegedly engaging in illegalities leading to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers.
Dr Opuni is also accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.