Top: The headquarters of the Forestry Development Authority in Whein Town, Paynesville. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
PAYNESVILLE -The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has removed two of its staff responsible for Lofa and River Cess, weeks after reports by The DayLight revealed companies illegally felled trees in the counties, with authorities doing nothing about the offense.
Harris Zeah, the regional forester, whose oversight covers Lofa, Bong and Margibi, and James Flomo, his counterpart for River Cess, Nimba, and Grand Bassa, were also suspended for a month each without pay.
“By directive of the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), you are herewith suspended from work for one month without pay effective July 5, 2022,” the suspension letter, seen by The DayLight, read, misspelling Zeah as “Ziah.”
“Management’s action is predicated upon your consistent failure to meet work-plan objectives, including your failure to adequately and timely address noncompliance issues in Forest Management Contract (FMC) Area ‘A’ and the Bluyeama Community Forest,” the letter added. FMC Area A is a large-scale logging agreement between the Liberian government and the Alpha Logging and Wood Processing Company in Lofa and Gbarpolu.
Zeah is due to report to the headquarters of the FDA in Whein Town, Paynesville on the eighth of next month for his new assignment, according to the communication.
His suspension and replacement come just over a week after an investigation by The DayLight uncovered Sing Africa Plantation Limited, a Singaporean-owned logging company, harvested an estimated US$2.2 million worth of logs outside its contract area in the Bluyeama Community Forest.
That report cited an FDA investigation that found forest rangers knew of the illegal harvesting as early as 2017 but had taken no action against the company.
Flomo received a one-month suspension as Zeah for his alleged failure to address the noncompliance issues in concessions under his control.
“You are to turn over your assigned vehicle and other FDA properties in your possession to the incoming regional forester who will be appointed,” Flomo’s suspension letter read.
That incoming regional forester has been named: Yea Neagor, who served as contract administrator of River Cess County.
“Congratulations to Forester Yei P. Neagor for her elevation to the position of regional forester-region III…,” FDA Managing Director Mike Doryen wrote in a Facebook post, 10 days after Flomo’s removal.
Neagor was cited by The DayLight to have discovered African Wood and Lumber Company did not obtain a permit before harvesting 550 logs in the Gbarsaw & Dorbor Community Forest in River Cess County. She had raised an alarm on the illegal felling months earlier but no actions were taken against the company.
“We are still working on that but the immediate action was to put stop to the company. As we speak that not working and they are not allowed to work,” Flomo had said.
Unauthorized harvesting is an offense in forestry whether “intentionally or negligently.” African Wood is required to pay a fine of twice the total value of the volume of each species of logs illegally harvested as per the world market prices, according to Regulation 118-17 on Confiscated Logs, Timber and Timber Products.
It was unclear whether the FDA has taken any action against African Wood and Sing Africa.