Depletion of Liberia’s Forest and Revenue Loss Blamed On Weak Enforcement of Regulations – A Call For FDA’s Timely Intervention

By Ezekiel Geeplay, Forest and Environmental Reporter-

GREENVILLE – An independent investigation on the operations of logging companies in Sinoe County has established that three companies are in breach of the forestry law of Liberia, as thousands of logs have been abandoned after being cut down.

Mandra Forestry Liberia Limited, Reuben Light Forestry and Atlanta Resources Limited are the logging companies that have a huge quantity of abandoned logs which were previously piled up for shipment to the port city of Greenville.

Chapter 5, section 5.1 of Liberia’s Forestry Law mandates logging companies to replant every log that is cut down. The Law specifically spells out penalties for the misuse of forest resources, and also spells out regulatory powers, which include the payment of stumpage fees to the Forestry Development Authority, FDA.  

Despite these efforts to preserve the forest resources, some concession companies continue to use the poor implementation of the Forestry Law as an excuse not to pay stumpage fees into government’s coffers. As a result, there is inadequate generation of revenue which is having an adverse effect on surrounding community inhabitants.

Oliver C. Clarke is Chairman of the Sawacajuah forest region in Sinoe. He disclosed that their forest royalty fees are yet to be paid by Reuben Light, Mandra, and Geebro logging companies.

“For each log they harvest and mark, the community should benefit from a fee of USD 1.50 (one dollar and fifty cents) in keeping with the forestry law, but the companies are refusing to pay this amount on grounds that they have to sell before payment,” Mr. Clarke revealed.

The Sawacajuah forest executive narrated that several different communications have since been written to the FDA complaining these companies, but there has been no action regarding their plight. He has attributed the situation to poor enforcement of the law by the FDA.

Forest- dependent communities are also concerned about the continuous damage to the forest by logging companies, resulting in hundreds of abandoned logs. The communities are calling on central government through the FDA to either strictly enforce the existing law or craft new policies that will robustly regulate the forest sector.

“We are appealing to the companies to stop cutting down trees when they don’t have use for them. Look at the number of trees that are getting damaged on the ground. Let FDA use the law and deal with them,” said Karmoh Sneh, a senior citizen of Bannah Worteh township.

The Human resource manager of Atlantic Resources Limited, Samuel Jerboe said his company cannot be held liable for abandoned logs.

In an exclusive interview during a tour of Bannah, Mr. Jerboe disclosed that payment for the abandoned logs were made to the FDA.

Jerboe narrated that the logs were abandoned because potential buyers were no longer interested in purchasing them, which was a great loss to his company.

“This is a great loss to us. Our clients are no longer interested in buying after we have used our resources to fell the logs so there is nothing we can do about it. The government should take responsibility by creating job opportunities for the citizens here because we are paying taxes,” Jerboe lamented.

The Atlantic Resources Limited executive said while it’s true that his company has been facing tough financial times, which led to the scale down of its operations nearly a year ago, the company cannot be held liable for abandoned logs because taxes have already been paid to the LRA. However, this is yet to be independently verified.

The other two companies have provided similar explanation for the abandoned logs and are calling for robust action on the part of the government to give authority to community dwellers to take charge of the abandoned logs.

The National Forestry Reform Law of 2006 is aimed at ensuring the sustainable management, conservation, protection and sustainable development of Liberia forest land. It provides for rules on the ownership and use of forest resources, policy and planning in relation to forests, the commercial and

other use of forest resources, contractual aspects of forest resources licenses, relations between neighboring forest areas, environmental protection, protected areas network and wildlife conservation, community rights and forests management, rights of landowners and occupants, public

use of holder infrastructure, trade in forest resources, fiscal provisions, measures for the promotion of

forestry and wildlife activities, dispute resolution, among others.

Liberia is now focused on conservation as it accounts for 40% of the remaining Tropical Rain Forest in West Africa. But many in this sector believe that the reform law is being violated as a result of FDA’s failure to ensure full compliance and implementation.

At Numopoh authorized forest region where Delta Timber Forestry company has been operating, community dwellers continue to suffer what is suspected to be diarrhea and other communicable and water-borne diseases as a result of the lack of safe drinking water. All this is happening due to the absence of hand pumps and other social services for community inhabitants that are captured in the community agreements with the companies.

According to forest employees and local dependents, they are working together to launch a lawsuit against the Delta Timber Forestry Liberia Limited for their just benefits after signing a five – year logging agreement in 2015, although it has been nearly a year since the company stopped operating.

Delta Timber Forestry Liberia Limited is a Liberian- owned company dealing in logging and is managed by investor Gabriel Doe.

When contacted, Mr. Doe refuted the allegations against his company stating that he reserves comments until he is cited by the court.  

Meanwhile, all efforts to get clarification from the FDA on the issue proved fruitless, as the FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryan could not be contacted despite several attempts to reach him. This report is part of the CEMESP/Internews Investigative Reporting Fellowship

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