Independent Forest Monitoring Report (IFM) by a European Union (EU) Non State Actors (EU-NSA) sponsored project has found Delta Timber Company (DTC) of infamous Liberian logger Gabriel Doe in unwarranted infractions including illegal logging and non compliance to social agreement, says Program Manager of the EU-NSA Project.
Gabriel Doe has been old hands in the logging business. He became very active in the business during the regime of former President Charles Taylor. In its 2017 report (Holding the line-All Liberia’s large logging contracts are illegal, threatening the country’s EU, Norwegian, and EITI reform programmes, page 19), international watch dog, Global Witness said Gabriel Doe, as the then head of Cavalla Timber Company, was placed on a UN Travel Ban list because he was an “Adviser” to former President Charles Taylor.
As the local saying goes, that monkey cannot leave his black hand behind. So it was on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 when a forest assessment report released by a local civil society organization, Volunteer To Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIDA) accused Delta Timber Company of Gabriel Doe of persistent violations of the Liberian forestry law despite many attempts by community to stop him.
It can be recalled that in May 2016, Numopoh Community and Delta Timber Company singed a Community Forest Management Contract for Delta to manage the community forest-with provision to build roads, clinics, provide scholarship and other social obligations to the community.
According to the report, since the signing of the agreement, the company has not fulfilled any of its commitment to the community as enshrined in the contract. The refusal of the company to comply with the agreement prompted community members to address a letter to FDA calling for intervention by that regulatory body; the report is quoted as saying.
However and despite call by the community, the report said FDA did nothing to address the issues, which according to the Program Manger of VOSIEDA; Abraham Billy compelled them to launch a probe into the community’s complaints.
Billy said GPS findings found Delta Timber Company guilty of the offenses, especially the illegal logging. “Analysis of GPS coordinates confirms that the company is operating outside of the forest allotted to it, also findings from our report indicate that Delta has been engaged in unwholesome practices at the detriment of the community”, he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Abraham Billy has blamed the constant violation of the Liberian Forestry Law by DTC on weak political will and lack of effective monitoring of the forest operations.
“Evidences gathered by this study show that FDA as a regulatory body has done less to monitor the agreement between the company and the community, as required by laws. According to him, interviews with staff of FDA indicate that the authority lacks the capacity (mainly manpower and logistics) to effectively monitor forest contracts.
This and many other lapses, he said, have encouraged the companies to exploit the forest and deny communities their rights and benefits. He told a group of civil society members that the assessment confirmed allegation that DTC has deliberately invaded two forests that are outside of the permitted area.
According to him, although enough awareness has been crated around these violations including the official launch of the report, the company is reported to still be in the community forests prospecting (identifying) tree species to be harvested.
The lackadaisical attitudes on the part of the company, Mr. Billy noted, prompted the community to unanimously put halt to all logging activities of DTC in their forest until due diligence is exhibited. In addition to stopping the company from operating in their forests, he said the community has decided to take court action against the management of DTC.
In their recommendations, VOSIDA urged FDA to call for immediate review of the Numopoh Forest agreement with DTC and that FDA and other relevant government institutions should take proactive action in addressing the conflict situation before it gets out of hand.
The report also recommended that FDA punish DTC for the fragrant violations of the forest laws. “FDA should revoke the license of DTC until it complies with the Numopoh community by negotiating a proper Commercial Use Contract, and arrears owes (land rental and cubic meter fees); FDA should enforce the forest laws and regulations to ensure all parties benefit from the forest resources,” the report said.
Launching the report, the Chairman of the NGO Coalition, Mr. Richard Hoff, urged the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to act on such report of forest violation. Hoff also called on the media and the Liberian public to stand up in advocating against all acts of violation within the forestry sector.
“The government must act on these reports accordingly. These reports are not intended to antagonize the government, rather it is intended to help the government solve some problems that it doesn’t know about,” Hoff added.
However, when contacted by journalists immediately following the launching of the report, the General Manager of Delta Timber Company, Gabriel Doe, denied ever violating any forestry law or any rights as indicated by the civil society group.
Although Doe denied violating community’s rights, he confirmed to journalists that there have been lots of complaints against his company by community dwellers; but FDA has not seen any magnitude in those complaints filed against the company.