A former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, has sued The Ghanaian Observer newspaper and the Despite Group of Companies, operators of Peace FM, for defamation.
Dr Opuni is seeking general and exemplary damages of GHS10,000,000.00 (Ten million Ghana Cedis), as stated in a writ dated 28 February 2019 that he filed at the High Court.
The Ghanaian Observer had published a story with the headline: ‘COCOBOD FLOORS OPUNI, SEIDU AGONGO – Saves Almost $50m In Shady Fertiliser Deal’. The publication said: “The [arbitral] Tribunal ruled that the two 2015 contracts and 2016 contracts executed with [one of the companies of Seidu Agongo] arose out of a ‘fundamentally fraudulent report’ generated by an officer of CRIG, Dr Afrifa (the Chief Scientist), in collusion with Dr Opuni … and intended to unjustly enrich themselves”.
The same story was published on the online news portal of Peace FM.
Dr Opuni rejected the accusations and described them as “totally false and evil”, noting that what has been attributed to the Tribunal is not only mischievous but a total fabrication.
He stated that contrary to the content of the defamatory publications against him, the Tribunal, in fact, “dismissed [the] allegations of fraud or corruption” and found no “compelling evidence of collusion to commit fraudulent or illegal acts”.
In his statement of claim, Dr Opuni stated that he has never engaged in any corrupt act or colluded with anyone to defraud the state during his tenure as the CEO of COCOBOD, adding that the false publications by the defendants were designed to cause, and did, in fact, cause him embarrassment, public ridicule and odium.
He added that the defendants were “unpardonably reckless and malicious” in their conduct with no regard for the truth in a well-orchestrated campaign to prejudice his right to a fair trial in the ongoing criminal case against him and Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ltd.
Dr Opuni is also seeking a retraction and an apology and an injunction against the defendants from ever publishing such malicious falsehoods against him.