Liberia Tree Trading Company, LTTC/HOLDER of Ricks Toweh Woes deepen

Gbe Doru Community Forest

The Chiefs, Elders and People of Doru Chiefdom in Lower Nimba County are said to be sour over recent ruling handed down by the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Nimba County in the case; Doru Chiefdom Community Assembly, Inc., represented by the Community Forest (Chiefdom) vs the Liberia Tree Trading Company, LTTC/HOLDER of former District #6 Representative Ricks Toweh.

The 8th Judicial Court in Saniquellie City, on Monday, October 14, 2019, ruled that Mr. T. Sisco Gbotoe illegally represented the Doru Chiefdom Community Assembly, Inc., in Court because he (Mr. Gbortoe) is not the legitimate Chief Officer of the Doru Community Forest.

However, the Chiefs, Elders and People of Doru Chiefdom told newsmen briefly following the ruling that they are dissatisfied and see contradictions in the legal proceedings of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court that their community Forest Assembly was wrongfully represented in Court by Mr. T. Sisco Gbortoe.

Under the gavel of Judge Yamie Gbeisay, the 8th Judicial Circuit Court of Nimba County during its March term of Court ruled in favor of the people of Doru Chiefdom thus confirming the legitimate status of Mr. T. Sisco Gbortoe as Chief Officer of the Community Forest Assembly.

According to the people of Doru Chiefdom, Supreme Court ruling of August 12, 2019, by Justice-In-Chambers, His Honor, Joseph N. Nagbe, duly recognized and legitimized the status of Mr. T. Sisco Gbortoe, the Doru Chiefdom Community Forest Assembly Chief Officer to the case. How then, under the gravel of Judge James N. Gilayneneh could the 8th Judicial Court in Nimba County which is a subordinate Court, fail to adhere to the High Court’s ruling of authorizing arbitration; they wondered.

“There was no need for the Monday, October 14, 2019 ruling of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court to focus its judgement on the status of Mr. T. Cisco Gbortoe because what was before the Honorable Court was not Sisco Gbortoe but arbitration which could have been called by any citizen of Doru Chiefdom. The Chiefs lamented.

The Chiefs and Elders said Hon. Ricks Toweh, former Representative of District #6 in Nimba County and President of LTTC/HOLDER owes the people of Doru Chiefdom in the county arrears amounting to about Eight Hundred and Twenty Thousand United States Dollars (USD$825,000) for his company – Liberia Tree Trading Company’s (LTTC) operations in the forest since 2010. The Chiefs see former Representative Toweh’s actions as denying them their due benefits for extractive activities in their forest on the one hand, and on the other hand, refusing to relinquish operations in the forest and turn it over to them to engage other potential bidders for business.

The Chiefs, Elders and People of Doru Chiefdom further noted that since the legal agreement was signed in 2010, Liberia Tree Trading Company, LTTC/HOLDER has not begun logging a single tree in their forest thus breaching every clause within the 2010 agreement.

By the Community Forest Agreement signed between Liberia Tree Trading Company, LTTC/HOLDER on December 3, 2010, and the Doru people, Government of Liberia has 45% of revenue accrued from the operations of the forest by LTTC/HOLDER, while the Chiefdom owns the remaining 55%. So, with the 9-year stalemate in payment by former Representative Toweh, the Chiefs and Elders have also termed his action as counterproductive to revenue collection by the Liberia Revenue Authority, thus undermining government’s quest to deliver on development and basic social services for the citizenry.

It was agreed that logging operations upon the signing of all relevant documents with the land government agencies and the issuance of logging permit by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in keeping with the community rights law of 2009, the LTTC/HOLDER shall pay US$2.50 per hectare annually to the Doru Chiefdom representing land rental for the use of the 36,700 forest land.

According to the legal agreement, “It is also agreed that the LTTC/HOLDER and/or its affiliates in its third year of logging operations, shall commence the construction of one clinic, and one school (elementary and a high schools) at an estimated cost of Eighty Five Thousand United States Dollars (USD$85,000); that is, Fifty Thousand United States Dollars (USD$50,000), for the high school, while Thirty Five Thousand United States Dollars (USD$35,000) shall be used for the construction of the elementary school. However, the full completion of second clinic and schools shall take place during the sixth year of the logging operations.”

It is also agreed that during the third year of completion, LTTC/HOLDER, and/or its affiliates, shall complete the construction works and commence the construction of five pit-latrines in areas to be designated by the owners. It shall also as part of its Royalty Payment, construct five hand pumps within towns and villages to be designated by the owners; all of which former Representative Ricks Toweh and partners have yet to do after nine years of holding on the forest while the Forestry Development Authority or FDA sits on the fence and look at the suffering masses. As mentioned in the document, they have not done a single thing against all of these legal agreements”, the Chiefs said.

In emphatic tone, the Doru Chiefs and Elders said, they are craving the fatherly intervention of the President of the Republic of Liberia, H. E. George Manneh Weah into their plight.

In 2010, the LTTC/HOLDER and the people of Doru Chiefdom, through the Chiefdom’s Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) entered into a community forest agreement for the duration of 25 years which they (Chiefs) believe is bogus and contravenes the community Land rights law of 2009. According to Forest Management Experts, this could only be possible if FDA and the LTTC/HOLDER are in cohort to bend the Forest Management Law of Liberia.

In the face of this dispute, several communications have been written to the LTTC’s CEO, Toweh and FDA under the signature of the Chief Officer of the Community Forest Management of Doru Chiefdom, Mr. T. Sisco Gbortoe, urging the company to adhere to all of the agreements entered into by them (the Forest Community and him (Hon. Ricks Toweh).

The Forest Community Assembly, Inc. also said due to the failure of the company to comply with the agreement, they are now demanding the company to vacate the forest since the people of the operational areas are yet to benefit from the past nine years of operations of LTTC in Doru Chiefdom.

The Chiefs, Elders and People of Doru affirmed that they have complained the entity to the FDA and other relevant government institutions through written communications about the non-compliant posture of the company since its operations started in the area but FDA in particular has been tightlipped on the mater.

They further disclosed that the chiefdom has finalized all necessary papers work to terminate the agreement between the people of Doru Chiefdom and the company since in fact the eight Judicial Court in the County is bent on thwarting the laws.

The Doru Forest commences at the confluence of the Gwen Creek and the Cestos River, thence a line runs along the Cestos River in the northern direction for 61,757 meters to the point on international consultant capital (ICC) southern boundary line; thence a line runs 88 degree west for 15,980 meters to the point on the Gwen Creek; thence a line runs along the Gwen Creek in southern direction for 30,114 meters to the point of commencement, embracing 35,000 hectare of primary forest and no more.

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About Cholo Brooks 12612 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.