Banner Image:The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The DayLight/Harry Browne
By Ojuku S. Kangar, Jr
MONROVIA– The Government of Liberia has agreed to pay communities affected by large-scale logging concessions US$200,000, just around a tenth of what they demanded before calling off their protest two weeks ago.
“The government’s action shows commitment. It agreed to immediately pay US$200,000 against the [US$5.5] million arrear, money it collected from logging companies,” said Nora Bowier, the chairperson of the National Benefits Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB), which collects the funds for the communities and oversees its expenditure.
“The government has instructed the Central Bank of Liberia to open a separate account for the money to be deposited. It will not be placed in the government’s consolidated account,” Bowier added.
The government also agreed to compile a report on all arrears due affected communities and said the amount would be included in the 2021/2022 fiscal national budget, according to Andrew Zelemen, the head of secretariat of the National Union of Communities Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC).
The lack of payment of community benefits violates the law. The 2006 National Forestry Law of Liberia mandates 30 percent shares of all land rental fees large-scale logging companies to be paid to communities. 2015 was the last time the government paid some of the money to affected communities, according to NUCFDC.
The government has paid only US$1.6 million (instead of US$8.6 million) from US$27.7 million it has collected from loggers since the law came into force, according to a report by Forest Trends.