Top: The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has failed numerous times to punish forestry violators. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
By Ralitsa N. Massah
MONROVIA – On Monday, The DayLight published an investigation revealing the illegalities of a logging company named Delta Timber Corporation. The report shows how the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) approved Delta’s contract for a community forest in Sinoe despite a regulation disqualifying its owner, a well-documented wartime logger.
Apart from the illegal approval of Delta’s contract, the story also highlights how the FDA failed to penalize Delta for a string of unlawful activities—illegal logging, abandonment of logs, and prolonged indebtedness to local communities.
However, illegal operations are characteristic of the forestry sector and happen with impunity. Here are seven other times that cases of illegal logging have gone unpunished
Leaked Video Exposes FDA Ranger’s Illegal Logging Operations
In August last year, leaked videos and pictures exposed the illegal logging operation of Varney Marshall, a ranger of the Forestry Development Authority. The video shows an open field of more than a thousand timbers and exposed Marshall’s illegal logging operations, which led to his dismissal.
Marshall was arrested and jailed in an unrelated case—and has not been indicted—but has faced no punishment for his illegal logging operation. He is a candidate for the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in District Two, Bomi County. He has not been sued for economic sabotage, the crime when an FDA staff conducts commercial logging activities.
FDA Fails To Punish Firm For Chain Of Illegal Logging
The Masayaha Logging Company used illegal deals with locals and harvested about 641 cubic meters of expensive, ironwood out of the Worr Community Forest in Grand Bassa, its contract area. The forest covers 35,337 hectares in Compound Number One “B” but the company traveled about 100 kilometers to the Doe Clan in Compound Number One “A” to harvest first-class logs. Harvesting out of contract area is a grave violation in forestry yet the company received no known penalty.
Company Cuts About US$2M Logs Outside Concession
Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited illegally harvested probably 5,693 logs or 32,576 cubic meters of logs in the Bluyeama Community Forest in the Zorzor District on Lofa’s border with Gbarpolu. The harvest took place in a part of the forest not included in its contract with the community. It is worth an estimated US$2.2 million. The company was also involved in the unlawful transportation of logs, a violation of the Regulation on Confiscated Logs, Timber and Timber Products.
Akewa: The Nigerian Company Breaking Liberia’s Logging Laws Unpunished
Akewa Group of Companies, a Nigerian-owned logging company, has repeatedly broken Liberian forestry laws for over a decade. The company has carried on illegal logging in Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Grand Cape Mount.
Akewa even used a fake tax clearance to bid for 49,179 hectares of the Gola Konneh Forest and won the bid. That constituted forgery and perjury, both serious crimes, punishable under Liberia’s forestry law and Penal Code. One of its shareholders established a new company and has a logging contract in Sinoe County, another forestry violation.
Except for a US$1,000 fine, Akewa has not been punished in line with the gravity of its offenses.
Minister Breaks Laws With Shares In Mining and Logging Company
Cllr. Cooper Kruah held on to his five percent shares in Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC), a company actively mining and logging in Nimba, while he served as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. That is a violation of the laws governing the mining and logging industries as well as the Liberian Constitution and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
The FDA breached the Regulation on Bidder Qualifications by approving UFC’s contract with Kruah as one of the company shareholders. It failed to take any actions against the company after its illegalities were unearthed. It remained that way until Kruah was dismissed in March in an unrelated incident.
Deputy Foreign Minister Runs An Illegal Logging Company
Tetra Enterprise Inc. is a logging company run and likely owned by Thelma Comfort Duncan Sawyer, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Administration, according to letters and her lawyer. That violates the Liberian Constitution, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and the National Forestry Reform Law.
Tetra has bearer shares that are held by an unregistered individual, which Liberia’s Business Association Law prohibits. The Company has abandoned 28,039.6 cubic meters of logs and, as of March, it owed locals US$70,574.93.
The company began work in Garwin in the absence of a new agreement, which is against the Community Rights Law of 2009 with Respect to Forest Lands that created community forestry.
Another Company Illegally Cuts 550 Logs in River Cess
The African Wood & Lumber Company illegally harvested 550 logs in the Gbarsaw and Dorbor Community Forest, a violation of the National Forestry Reform Law and the Code of Harvesting Practices. The company had signed a five-year agreement with Gbarsaw & Dorbor Community Forest in 2019 but did not obtain the FDA’s approval to harvest logs. The offense warrants a range of penalties, including a prison term, a fine and cancelation of the company’s contract.
This story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).