Dr. Stephen Opuni
Information reaching DAILY GUIDE indicates that Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the immediate past Chief Executive of Ghana Cocobod, has been invited by the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) for questioning.
The embattled former Cocobod boss was reportedly summoned and appeared before EOCO on Friday after a said botched attempt to travel out of the country through the Kotoka International Airport.
Dr. Opuni’s passport is said to have been seized by the security agencies as he was quizzed by officials of the anti-graft body on a wide range of issues, including alleged massive corruption in the cocoa sector.
Although officials at EOCO were tight-lipped when DAILY GUIDE contacted them, deep throat sources insist the former Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) boss was ‘freed’ late Friday with the option to be recalled for further questioning.
It is unclear what the crux of the over six hours grilling was, but the source claims it is in connection with the rot at the Cocobod where he had been the CEO for about four years.
A source described the rot as very ‘awful,’ as contracts were reportedly awarded without laid down regulations and fertilizers purportedly smuggled to neigbouring countries for individuals’ interest.
However, earlier attempts by DAILY GUIDE to get official corroboration of the story proved futile as EOCO officials, including its head, Justice Tsar, would not speak.
An EOCO staff who only gave her name as Betty told the paper that she “does not know” that Dr. Opuni had been at EOCO, neither would she assist this reporter to seek clarity from her bosses as she claimed they were locked up in a meeting.
On January 12, 2017, government ordered Dr. Opuni to vacate his post and hand over to Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister-designate for Food and Agriculture.
His dismissal was hailed by workers at the Cocobod as well as NDC activists who believe he is arrogant and corrupt, with some workers suffering dismissals for being tagged as New Patriotic Party (NPP) sympathisers.
Already, unionized workers in the cocoa industry are calling for investigations into alleged dubious deals by the sacked CEO.
The Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) and the General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) alleged that Dr. Opuni sold some of the cash crops and kept the proceeds.
According to them, such deals had cost the country in excess of $10 million, adding that the monies could have been used to develop the country.
Kingsley Nkansah, General Secretary of GAWU, in April last year, disclosed at a meeting with journalists that “thousands of tonnes of cocoa are sold by the management of Cocobod which is hidden from the government and for which no proper accounts are maintained either. This is known as Special Sample Residue.”
He continued, “The Special Sample Residue is done by drawing an average of 0.3kg of cocoa beans from each bag taken over and sold by the Cocoa Marketing Company. So for every 1,000 tonnes of cocoa, they [management] get on the average 4.6875 tonnes, an equivalent of 75 bags.”
The workers said information on the deal was passed on to a former Employment and Labour Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, and the former Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, on the underhand dealings at Cocobod, as well as the former Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), but all to no avail.
The unions also alleged that Opuni offered an illegal contract to a former employee called Harrison Idris Hassan, who was the past chairman of Cocobod Local Union, at its head office and Supreme Consultative Council, to transact cocoa business, even though he was not qualified.
Workers who questioned the credibility and the rationale behind the formation of the in-house union were allegedly victimized through transfers to distant locations.
The workers added that the issue of transfers had gravely affected union leaders and other clerical staff members, hence the appeal for investigations into the saga.
But Chairman of the Supreme Consultative Council of Cocobod, Harrison Idris Hassan, who had also been accused of wrongdoing, addressing the media on Thursday in Accra on behalf of members of the newly-formed Cocoa Industry Workers Union (CIWU), said the report that cocoa workers had called for a probe into the allegations raised against Dr. Opuni in particular and the management of Cocobod in general, could not be true.
“We are not part of what is alleged by ICU and GAWU,” Mr. Idris said, protecting Opuni’s reign of terror at Cocobod which epitomized dismissals and transfers.
According to him, ICU and GAWU just want to gain the attention of the incoming CEO of Cocobod and to create division between staff and their CEO-to-be.”
On the allegations made by GAWU that “thousands of tonnes of cocoa are sold by the management of Cocobod which is hidden from the government and for which no proper accounts are maintained either,” the Chairman of the Supreme Consultative Council declined to comment because according to him, “It’s a matter for management to speak to.”
Opuni was promoted from FDA where his reign of terror was cut short crippling pharmaceutical companies that he suspected the owners are not sympathetic to the cause of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
One company that suffered massive assaults in the hands of Opuni was Tobinco Pharmaceutical Company.
One of his lackeys, a certain Delese Mimi Darko, who is said be an NDC woman, is allegedly lobbying to be appointed FDA boss using her father’s connection.
Other people Dr Opuni purportedly used to harass pharmaceutical companies were Thomas Amedzro, Nathaniel Nkrumah and Asante Boateng.
The current FDA boss, Hudu Mogtari, husband of Joyce Bawa-Mogtari, John Mahama’s Campaign Communication Director and former deputy Minister of Transport, is on his way out.
By Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson