Coronavirus in court pushes Opuni case into another adjournment
The trial of a former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, charged for causing financial loss to the state, has been adjourned.
A letter from the court registry, copied to the Justices and Attorney General, has said there are suspected cases of COVID-19 at one of the counsel’s office.
The Accra High Court adjourned the case to October 6, 2020, for cross-examination.
On Thursday, the legal representation, accused persons and patrons of the court were seated as early as 9am for proceedings to begin.
But after the legal introduction, the presiding judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah, asked the Principal State Attorney if she had received a letter from the court.
To which, the PSA, Stella Ohene Appiah, responded in the negative.
Justice Honyenugah then read details of the letter to the court.
“By court, there is a letter from the administrator that there are suspected cases of of COVID-19 at the top management level of Mr Nutsukpui’s firm.
“But cross-examination will not be adjourned. Counsel for the accused person will have to complete his examination on October 6, 7, and 8 respectively.
“I will not go more than October 8, 2020,” he added.
Both counsel then wished Justice Honyenugah a ‘peaceful and restful vacation.’
At the last sitting, hearing was adjourned to enable Counsel for Seidu Agongo produce medical evidence of his being in isolation following a suspected COVID-19 case.
In March 2018, the A-G charged the former CEO of Ghana COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Seidu Agongo, who is the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, for causing financial loss to the state.
The two have been charged with 27 counts, including allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state.
The illegalities led to the distribution of sub-standard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertilizer to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified, as required by law.
Prior to Monday’s hearing, on March 16, the court dismissed a motion seeking the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah to recuse himself from continuing with the trial, alleging he made certain comments on a different forum.
On February 18, this year, Justice Honyenugah, who is also the Paramount Chief of Nyagbo Traditional Area, showered President Akufo-Addo with his sterling performance.
“We wish to congratulate you on the excellent manner in which you are governing this dear country of ours. It is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians will consider giving you another term, Torgbui Nyagasi [Justice Honyenuga] had said.
Lawyers for Dr Opuni, contended that statement by the judge even in his capacity as a traditional leader, was a clear indication of support for the president.
The motion was seeking the trial judge, who was a Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, to stop the trial and refer the matter to the Chief Justice for reassignment.
The court in its ruling dismissing the application said the allegations raised on his comments were non-judicial and do not touch on the instant case.