Retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga has conceded that the six weeks excuse notice given to the former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni on medical grounds was proper and necessary.
The judge came to this conclusion after hearing the convincing account of the medical director who issued the notice.
Dr. Stephen Opuni on September 23 had four surgeries on his left eye and was advised by the medical expert not to engage in any activity that would put stress on his eye for at least six weeks to enable the eye to properly heal.
He was warned of the dire consequences if he fails to adhere strictly to the doctor’s advice, including going blind.
When the case was called on October 11, his lawyers prayed to the court to excuse him for that reason, but it was rejected by Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson.
The Chief State Attorney who advocated for a virtual trial of the accused also demanded that the medical director should be hauled before the court to justify the excuse notice, which the judge agreed to.
The retired judge therefore directed the Registrar of the Court to ensure that the doctor is served with the order for him to tell the court about the medical records of Dr. Opuni.
The medical director was therefore in court on Monday 17th October, 2022 and took the court through how Dr. Opuni was referred to his facility and the retinal operations conducted on him.
The court admitted into evidence the medical folder of Dr. Opuni as well as two different Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) test results.
In justifying the necessity of the six weeks excuse notice, the medical director recounted the precarious state Dr. Opuni finds himself.
“He was given post operative advice for the six weeks excuse duty, the first 14 days of the six weeks he had to stay head down because of the gas component. A few days after the operation, he developed high intraocular pressure on the operated left eye and severe photophobia.”
According to him, the intraocular pressure was managed with glaucoma medication, and he was advised to wear dark glasses and avoid light. He has to go for weekly check up for the intraocular pressure to be managed.
Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson later suggested, during cross examination, that once Dr. Opuni was able to visit the clinic every week he could attend to other duties as well and by extension availing himself for the ongoing trial which sits four times in a week.
The medical director who is an opthalmologist (an eye surgeon) with several decades of experience reiterated:
“Unfortunately Dr. Opuni developed high pressure in the operated eye after a week which if not managed properly the eye can become blind. The whole eye can become like stone, so for that reason he was asked to come every week for us to control the eye pressure.”
According to the medical expert, patients who undergo retinal operations need a maximum of six months to completely heal.
“The healing process of epiretinal membrane is between three and six months. Anybody here can check the healing process online.”
The medical director whose facility gets referrals from the Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin etc went on to admonish patients to adhere strictly to post operative advice.
He recalled how a Gambian patient he treated went strolling at a beach even after six weeks but nearly got him blind after exposure to stress.
Justice Honyenuga then asked the medical director if Dr. Opuni can attend court after the expiration of the six weeks notice.
“My lord, it will all depend on the way the healing of the retinal is going. At the end of the six weeks we will repeat the OCT test to confirm the healing process. Just by observation with the naked eye you can’t tell if the eye is healed. But the way it is going now we are on a good path,” the medical director underscored
Justice Clemence Honyenuga therefore ruled that after hearing the evidence of the medical director and the cross examination by Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson, “it is my candid opinion that this court grants the six weeks excuse notice “.
The retired judge also admitted, “I had wanted to do virtual for him (Dr. Opuni) to observe the proceedings but I am constrained after hearing the medical director”.
He therefore adjourned hearing to 7th November 2022.
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, have been facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.
Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga who is hearing the case retired from the Supreme Court in September 2022, but has been given “limited time” by the Chief Justice to dispose of the case he has been in charge since its inception with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.