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The Media May Have Lost Thousands Over Abandoned Logs

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Top: Burned and decayed logs that were abandoned by African Wood and Lumber Company in Compound Number Two, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Mark Newa

MONROVIA – The Liberian media may have lost up to an estimated US$63,250 over the failure of the Forestry Development Agency (FDA) to auction logs, timber and timber products abandoned by concession companies, according to an investigation by The DayLight.

Nearly every logging company in the country has abandoned logs—Masayaha, International Consultant Capital and Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited, just to name a few. They can be found in large and small-scale concessions, plantations and community forests across the country.  Some are being used for firewood, charcoal, planks and defecation. Others have even been used as an insurance bonds in a lawsuit.

“Logging companies have left [a] huge quantity of assorted round logs unattended or abandoned at various bush landings and log yards over the years…,” an August 2020 FDA report, covering River Cess, Grand Bassa and Nimba, said. A bush landing is where logs are piled after felling, while they are stored in log yards to be transported for export.

“Valuable time species are continuously being harvested by logging companies without first securing sales contracts, only to leave those logs unattended,” the FDA investigators said at the time.

The Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products prescribes penalties for the offense, ranging from fines to forfeiture of forest licenses. But the FDA has not punished any companies or individuals amid plenty of evidence.

Under the regulation, logs are considered abandoned when they are unattended between 15 and 180 working days, depending on their location. It was created in 2017 to replace a previous one, which narrowed the definition of abandonment to logs outside contract areas and without tracking numbers.  It was the country’s response to the demands of the global timber market for legal and sustainable logs.

The current regulation mandates the FDA to make a number of radio announcements and publications in newspapers—from a notice of abandonment to a public auction and to the declaration of the winner of the auction. So far, not a single one has been done in the five years of the regulation.

To arrive at the estimated total loss, The DayLight used US$100 for the average cost of a quarter-page newspaper publication and US$5 for a radio announcement, based on our analysis of advertisement rates. We multiplied those costs by the 22  newspaper publications and 66 radio announcements required by the regulation. And then we added the two products. That gave us US$2,530 the income for the media on a single auctioning process.  Then we multiplied that by 25 incidents of abandoned logs, judging from the cases we have flagged, those reported by the FDA itself and others, to get the US$63,250.  

But there is a possibility that some of these cases would not have made it to public auctioning, as some of the logs had decayed and some could have been redeemed and there could have been no bidder. In the case of redemption, the media would have generated just US$2,500 from all 25 processes. And if no company bided for the woods in all the cases, the media would have generated US$45,750.

The amount could help cash-strapped media institutions meet challenges that have undermined the fourth estate’s role as watchdogs, and promote things like free speech and giving voice to victims of human rights abuses.  

How the media benefits

Some of the logs Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited abandoned at its sawmill in Zorzor, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

When the FDA is notified of suspicion of abandoned logs, the regulation requires it to investigate for seven working days and inform the company or the community leadership of the forest. Logs left in the forest are considered abandoned after 15 working days, and 180 for the ones in log yards.  

If a company or community claims the logs, then the FDA must publish administrative fees it incurred during its investigation—including transportation, storage, and the cost of the publication, for example.

But if no one claims the logs, the agency is required to publish a notification of abandonment in a newspaper for five days and announce the same on local and national radio stations for 14 days.   

Once it finds out that the logs are abandoned, it must announce its findings on national and local radio stations for another 14 days.

If a claimant does not come forward or prove they own the logs, the FDA must publish a notice of abandonment in a newspaper for five days.

Thereafter, the FDA is mandated to seek a court order to auction the logs. When that petition is granted, it is required to publish an auction notice in a newspaper at least once for five days. It must run that same announcement for the same period on national and local radio stations.

The last round of mandatory publication is the announcement of the result of the auction for seven days in a newspaper.

Abandoned Logs Turn Out as Collateral in Illegal Deal

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Top: Some of the logs Sun Yeun/Alma Wood illegally harvested and abandoned in a log yard in MaFalla, Grand Cape Mount County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Varney Kamara

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series on abandoned logs, which highlights the failure of the forestry sector to prevent the waste of much-needed forest resources across the country. 


BONG VILLAGE, Grand Cape Mount – An unlawful deal for a company to purchase a consignment of logs illegally felled and abandoned in a forest in Grand Cape Mount County has stalled after authorities found out the woods are collateral in a lawsuit.  

In 2018, Alma Wood Corporation (Liberia) Limited felled the logs as part of a logging concession the forestry sector calls Timber Sales Contract Area 16 or TSC A16 in the Gola Konneh District. The company’s owners reportedly fled the country, leaving the logs there until the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) canceled the contract last year.

Sun Yeun, the original holder of the contract,  and the community forest development committee (CFDC) of that area, tried to sell the logs to East End Logging Company, owned by former Minister of Justice Benedict Sannoh, earlier this year. But the FDA disapproved the deal because Alma Wood had used the logs as a surety to obtain a US$643,000 loan from Afriland Bank.

The bank had sued Alma Wood after the period of the loan elapsed. El Zein Hassan, the company’s CEO had been arrested but was released on bail, with Sky Insurance Company filing his bond. Hassan would later flee the country and the court ruled that the insurer seize the logs, according to several individuals familiar with the case. (Our own efforts to obtain the court’s file on the case did not materialize. We will update the story with details from the document once we obtain it).

Afriland Bank and Sky Insurance declined to speak on the matter.

The forest where the logs were harvested has been marred by irregularities from the very beginning. Covering 5,000 hectares, TSCs are meant for companies that have at least 51 percent Liberian shareholdings. They were meant to empower Liberians following 14 years of civil war during which time local businesspeople were marginalized by foreign firms that supplied warring factions with arms. But TSC A16 was awarded to Sun Yeun, 98 percent of whose shares are held by a Chinese businessman named Wei Zhang, according to the company’s legal documents.

Also, the subcontract deal between Sun Yeun and Alma Wood was illegal as the latter company’s equity stakes are equally shared between Hassan, a Lebanese and a Radwan Wardwiche, a Senegalese tycoon, according to Alma Wood’s legal documents.

The contract also overstayed its legal timeframe of at most five years, remaining active for more than a decade having been issued in 2009. The board of directors of the FDA had illegally extended the contract alongside 10 others in 2017 but recalled that move in March last year.

Some of the logs Sun Yeun harvested and abandoned in its log yard in Mafala, Grand Cape Mount County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Josephus Banks, Sun Yeun’s CEO and one of two of the company’s Liberian shareholders claims that the company is not majority Chinese-owned but has failed to show any proof. He also argued in an interview with The DayLight, that its subcontract deal with Alma Wood was not illegal.  

The logs in question are abandoned as per law. Depending on their location, logs are abandoned if they are “unattended” between 15 and 180 working days, according to Regulation 116-17 on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products. In this case, the logs are abandoned because they have remained in the forest for over 60 working days.

Banks blames the abandonment of the logs on the FDA.

“FDA contributed to those logs being there today. When Alma Wood’s contract expired, I wrote the FDA informing it about logs being on the lining. FDA delayed and I wanted to sell at the time,” said Banks. Locals also said they informed the FDA about the logs in 2019, with Ruth Varney, its official responsible for the western region, confirming that to The DayLight in a mobile phone interview.  

In April earlier this year, the FDA gave all logging companies operating in the country a month grace period to declare the trees they have felled, even though FDA should have companies’ production and export records.   

“We should be headed for auction this month (June) [in the eastern region] and then the exercise will continue in the northern region and then go down south and western part,” said Mike Doryen, FDA’s Managing Director, in an interview with The DayLight.

“The court is going to make a determination, and that is what we will follow,” Doryen added in reference to the Alma Wood case.

It would have been another violation had the FDA approved East End’s purchase of the abandoned logs. The regulation on abandoned logs requires the FDA to transport the logs to a safe location and reenter them into the government tracking system known in forestry as the chain of custody (CoC). An auction only can take place after a court warrant if no one claims the woods following months of a mandatory, legal notice. If Sun Yeun wants to redeem the logs, it would have to do that within 14 working days of the FDA’s seizure, provide proof of ownership and pay an administrative fee for each of the logs.  Those requirements have yet to be met.

But the case between Alma Wood and Sky Insurance in Monrovia has dashed the hopes of locals, who had wanted the logs sold to get overdue benefits now that TSCs are no more. Sun Yeun owes the villagers here and a nearby concession (TSC A15) a combined US$190,900 for land-related fees, official records show. It also owes affected communities US$3,000 for scholarships and failed to build 10 latrines and one handpump, according to Jaycee Farr, the general secretary of the community forest development committee, which manages villagers’ logging-generated benefits.

“We are happy that people came here to buy the logs. If the logs are sold, the communities will be able to get something as their benefits,” Farr said. “If the government is saying TSCs are canceled, and then companies are owing communities, how will the communities benefit from whatever things they own, or whatever things that have been taken away from them?”

Banks, Sun Yeun’s CEO, refutes Farr’s comments as a “blatant lie.

“Of all the TSCs that were operating in this country, I was the most potent TSC holder. We (Sun Yeun) brought in more than US$5 million worth of equipment, brand new, not used,” he said, even though records of the company show otherwise. The US$190,874.50  his company owes the two communities is the second-highest debt for land rental fees —next to Bulgar and Vincent Timber Company—among former TSC holders, official documents show.   

At an annual meeting of the Liberian government, the European Union and civil society in March, the FDA promised to work with the National Union of Community Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC) to address TSCs’ arrears, according to records of the event.

Doryen said the FDA was committed to that plan. “Yes, we didn’t do that (addressing benefits and other issues) but we will do it now,” Doryen added.

Funding for this story was provided by the Liberia Media Center (LMC). The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over its content.

Logs Left at Sinoe Port and Forest Rot

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Top: Several logs Delta Timber Company left at the Port of Greenville, Sinoe County that have now decayed. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Emmanuel Sherman


GREENVILLE, Sinoe County – Scores of logs at the port of Greenville and a community forest belonging to a logging company have decayed in the southeastern county, despite the company producing perhaps the least number of timber in the industry.  

Delta Timber Corporation produced the timber in the last five years, based on the company’s official harvesting records. It is believed the company took the logs to the port between 2017 and 2018.  

The DayLight reporters saw a grassy field of decayed logs at the port in January, some still showcasing “DTC,” the company’s industry-recognized abbreviation. A few lay in piles, while others spread across the bushy, open field.

Apart from the decayed logs at the port, there are others left unattended in the Numopoh Community Forest, where Delta operates.

“They are many in the forest all over, some in the landing,” said Sam Kandie, head of the community forest leadership.  Landing is the place the logs are gathered and sorted. Kandie said the company last felled a tree in September 2021.

Official records show that Delta produced a total of 1,624.521 cubic meters of logs in the last five years.

But the company exported just 237.178 cubic meters or  41 logs, according to the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).  

Delta Timber Company left scores of logs at the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County that have now rotted. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

That means between 2016 and 2021, Delta abandoned 1,387.343 cubic meters of logs. Logs are abandoned when companies leave them unattended for between three weeks and six months, depending on the locations, according to the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products.

But Delta’s abandoned logs are likely more than the ones The DayLight calculated. A 2018 report by Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) found the company abandoned over 500 logs it harvested outside Numopoh.  Harvesting timber outside a contract area is a violation of the National Forestry Reform Law, and such logs are not captured in FDA’s tracking system.

FDA did not respond to queries on Delta’s abandoned logs. However, recently, it said in a statement it punished companies with abandoned logs without showing any evidence. It said in the statement that it had punished three other companies also operating in the Sinoe area for the same reason.

A pile of Delta Timber Company’s logs at the yard of the Port of Greenville, Sinoe County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Under the abandoned logs regulation, the FDA must petition a court to confiscate and auction logs it deems abandoned. The government loses revenue when logs rot.

Delta Timber Corporation and Numopoh Community Forest signed a five-year logging agreement in May 2016.

The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists (CoFEJ).

Illegal Company Abandons Some 6,000 Logs in River Cess

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Top: A pile of logs in the Garwin Community Forest in River Cess County. The DayLight/Gabriel Dixon


KANGBO TOWN, River Cess – Between 2021 and last year, Tetra Enterprise Inc, an illegitimate Liberian-owned logging company, felled  1,300 trees in the Garwin Community Forest but has removed just a few.

“Tetra harvested 220 logs in 2021 and in 2022 felled additional 1,080 logs,” said Rev. Benison Sarchkoh, head of the community forest’s leadership.

In April, the leadership wrote the company,  giving it an ultimatum to extract and scale the logs felled in the bush before the end of that month.

“Do short hauling to Kangbo Town at [the] proposed camp to clear the logs from the bush before the heavy rains,” Sarchkoh said in the letter, obtained by The DayLight.  Kangbo Town is the headquarters of Tetra Inc. and home to Garwin Community Forest leadership.

Kangbo Town, the headquarters of the Garwin Community Forest’s leadership. The DayLight/Emmanuel Sherman

Sarchkoh said the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) endorsed their request of the community.

Tetra has left more logs in the forest than the number Sarchkoh provided, official data shows. Between 2018 and 2021, Tetra abandoned 28,039.6 cubic meters of logs it harvested in the Garwin Community Forest, according to our analysis of records from the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Industries (LEITI).

We estimated the 28,039.6 cubic meters at  5,000 logs. That, plus the 1,300 logs the company felled between 2021 and last year sum up to about 6,000 logs.

This reporter photographed some of the logs but could not go further due to inaccessibility. 

A Tetra spokesperson attributed the delay in extracting the logs to bad roads. However, William Yeasay said the company had begun extracting the woods to its log yard in Buchanan.

“We have extracted 100 pieces.”

Under the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timbers and Timber Products, logs are abandoned if they are unattended between three weeks and six months, depending on the locations. From all indications, Tetra’s logs are abandoned, having remained in the forest for at least one year.

The penalty for such an offense is a fine equivalent to two times the volume of the logs, according to the regulation.

FDA did not respond to inquiries emailed to it, including whether or not Tetra was authorized to fell more trees in Garwin.

But recently, the agency said it would confiscate and auction abandoned logs across the country to curb the widespread violation. It said it would not award a harvesting certificate to any company that has that problem. To confiscate and auction the abandoned logs, the FDA must petition a circuit court following the publication of public notices, according to the regulation.

Tetra office and proposed camp in Kangbo Town, The Daylight/Gabriel Dixon

Broken promises

Tetra Inc signed a 15-year agreement with Garwin Community Forest on March 18, 2017, to operate in the 36,637-hectare  forest, one of the richest in forest and suitable for commercial.

According to the agreement, the company would sell logs and give back to the community, including fees for land rental, harvesting, scholarships and others.

But in the last two years, the company has not met those legal obligations.

Tetra owes Garwin Community Forest over US$60,000 in land rental, scholarship and supportive fees for other essential projects. It owes villagers land rental for two years of US$50,362 and scholarships fee for one year of US$8,000. It also owes compensation for two government-built clinics of US$3,000, according to the community. Yeasay confirmed the outstanding payments.

Tetra has also not constructed schools, roads, or clinics, based on the agreement. According to the agreement, it should have built and furnished an elementary school in 2019  and a junior school this year. It should have paved a primary road and constructed additional clinics to the ones in the area by now.   

As a result of these things, chiefs and elders of the region lodged a complaint with the Morweh Magisterial Court in Boegeezay Town, asking the judge to halt logging activities there until their agreement was reviewed.

We will revisit the agreement this year,” Sarchkoh told The DayLight.

How Tetra is an Illegal Company

An April investigation by The DayLight revealed Tetra is an illegal company.

The report found that the company has a bearer share, which means it has an unnamed shareholder. Such shares are illegal under the Business Association Law.  

The investigation also revealed Comfort Telma Sawyer, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister runs the company, a violation of the  Liberian Constitution, the National Forestry Reform Law, and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The laws prohibit a conflict of interest involving an official of the government.

The investigation showed indications Sawyer owns Tetra, something corroborated by her lawyer.

Former interim President of the Republic of Liberia Late Dr. Amos Sawyer and his wife Thelma Comfort Sawyer Deputy Foreign Minister. Picture credit: The Liberian embassy in the United States.

This story is a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

Company Abandons Contract, Leaving Debts and Logs In Bassa

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Top: Decayed and burned logs African Wood and Lumber Company harvested from the Marblee and Karblee Community Forest in Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Emmanuel Sherman


Editor’s Note: This story is part of The DayLight’s series on Failed Logging Concessions in Liberia.

COMPOUND NUMBER TWO, Grand Bassa – No one is present at the facility. There are old logging pieces of equipment. Grass has overtaken logs scattered across an open field, with nearly all already decayed. A few still brandish: “AWL,” which stands for African Wood and Lumber Company.  

Owned by an Italian businessman Cesare Colombo, African Wood signed a contract with    Marblee and Karblee Community Forest in July 2019. The deal gave the company the right to harvest trees in a 24,355-hectare forest in Grand Bassa’s Compound Number Two. In exchange, the company would sell the logs and give the community an array of benefits, including fees for harvesting, land rental, and scholarships.

But in the last three years, African Wood has abandoned the contract, leaving behind about a US$100,000 debt, unfulfilled projects and piles of logs, according to the leadership of the community.

“The general feeling is that the people feel bad. Nobody feels good about it,” says Abraham Cooper, the head of the community’s forestry leadership. We regret it deeply.”

“The company ran away overnight,” says Oretha Tay, a cook, who claims the company owes her for a year. A security guard, who asked not to be named over fear of reprisal, backed Tay’s comments.

In the three years of abandonment, African Wood and Lumber owes Marblee and Karblee US$66,289 in land rental, scholarship and harvesting fees. That figure could increase by US$19,740 by August later this year.

Besides, African Wood did not construct any roads as promised in the contract, according to the community leadership. Under the agreement, it should have constructed and maintained four roads in affected communities by now.

The community wrote Colombo in August last year and expressed concerns about the delayed payments. “[The community] is asking the company to please pay this money in this August of 2022. We don’t want any further confusion between the community and the company,” the letter read, citing an earlier row over the payments.

An old truck is parked at African Wood and Lumber Company’s log yard in Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/Emmanuel Sherman

That letter came five months after a previous one in March of that year. “The more you keep the forest without operation, the more royalties such as land rental fees and annual scholarship fees will accumulate,” that letter said. “Our community forest will be left in suspense. We are not prepared to [condone] such.”

A week later, Christopher Beh Bailey, African Wood and Lumber’s regional manager and former Superintendent of Grand Gedeh County replied. Bailey said African Wood “was about to undertake the settlement of the royalties and social obligations.” However, he said it would not pay any fees for 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. He claimed that the government of Liberia had halted all logging activities that year. Bailey declined to comment for this story.

Bailey’s claims are not backed by facts. While the coronavirus pandemic disrupted logging activities nationally, the Liberian government did not halt logging activities. It only imposed partial lockdowns for Monrovia and other parts of the country between March and May.

Moreover, African Wood remained active in Marblee and Karblee while the pandemic raged on. Between 2019 and 2021, it harvested 2,682 logs amounting to 18,175.145 cubic meters in the forest, according to official records.

That volume of logs adds to African Wood’s debt to the community. The community’s leadership puts the cost to an estimated US$40,000, according to the March 2022 letter.

Unlike many in the sector, the contract between African Wood and Marblee and Karblee imbeds development dues into harvesting fees. Under their agreement, the company must pay US$4 for a cubic meter of log.  Of that amount, US$2.25 goes towards community projects.  However, the failure of the company to pay has left affected towns and villages without handpumps, toilets, a school and a clinic.

In another letter in March this year, Cooper called on the FDA to collect its benefits from African Wood and terminate their agreement.

“They breached the contract. So, based on this we want to cancel the contract with the company,” Cooper tells The DayLight in an interview. 

“We the community people don’t have money to go to court because we are looking at FDA to be in the interest of the community. We want a swift answer from FDA,” Cooper adds.  The FDA did not reply to questions The DayLight emailed to the agency.

Abandoned Logs

From 2019 when African Wood felled its first tree in Marblee and Karblee, to 2021, when it ceased operations there, it did not export any of the 2,682 logs it harvested. A good number of the logs in a log yard on the Buchanan highway have decomposed, with some burned. Cooper says there are many logs still in the forest and at another location, a few of which The DayLight photographed.

An abandoned African Wood and Lumber Company campsite in Karblee Clan, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

In Liberian forestry, logs are abandoned if they are unattended for between three weeks to six months, depending on their location according to the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products. In this case, all of African Wood and Lumber’s logs were abandoned latest June last year, according to our analysis of the situation and the regulation.  

The FDA said on Tuesday that it would confiscate and auction abandoned logs across the country to curb the widespread nature of the violation. It would be the first time in more than a decade of forestry reform for the FDA to enforce the regulation. Like communities, the government loses revenue when a company does not export the logs it produces. It loses export royalties and may lose stumpage fees, a percentage of the cost of a volume of logs, depending on the species.

African Wood’s failure in Marblee and Karblee adds to Colombo’s notoriety in the logging industry. In 2020, African Wood and Lumber felled 550 trees in the Gbarsaw and Dorbor Community Forest without authorization. The FDA is yet to punish the company for that violation, one of the gravest in forestry. African Wood also owes affected communities their logging-related fees.

A log African Wood and Lumber Company abandoned in the Marblee and Karblee Community Forest in Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

And the International Capital Consultant (ICC), the company Colombo managed before he purchased Africa Wood and Lumber, owes affected communities in Nimba and River Cess huge debts. It also abandoned over 5,000 logs in that region.

Colombo did not reply to emailed questions. However, speaking about communities’ debts last year in an interview with The DayLight, he defended African Wood over debt criticisms. He said he had invested millions in Liberia’s forestry sector and was “committed to our obligation, and we never undermine the intent of the forestry reform in Liberia.” He has also in the past blamed small-scale loggers or chainsaw millers for not meeting his responsibilities to communities.


This story was produced by the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

Logging Company In Sinoe Abandons Likely 7,000 Logs

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created by dji camera

Top: A drone shot of Mandra`s log yard where hundreds of abandoned logs lay bare in Greenville, Sinoe County. The DayLight/ Derrick Snyder


By Mark B. Newa


GREENVILLE, Sinoe County – Mandra Forestry Liberia, Limited, an Asian company, abandoned an estimated 7,000 logs it harvested between 2019 and 2021,  according to The DayLight’s analysis of official records.

During the period, Mandra produced 6,944 logs but exported none, our analysis of records of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) shows. Mandra harvested the logs in the Sewacajua Community Forest in Sinoe County, where it has operated since 2017.

During the 2019-2020 harvesting season, when the global timber market dipped due to the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war, Mandra harvested over 4,500 logs.

This journalist saw huge heaps of logs at Mandra’s log yard in Greenville in January. A good number of the wood brandishing “Sewacajua,” spread across the quiet field had already decayed. Earthmovers and timber jacks were at different positions.

Under  Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products, logs should be declared abandoned when they remain at a location between 15 (three weeks) and 180 working days (about six months). By this definition, Mandra abandoned all the logs in question latest June last year.

Our calculation did not include trees Mandra cut in 2018, some parts of 2019 and last year. The Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) was unclear on Mandra’s production and export figures covering the period. Moreover, the FDA does not publish these records and did not grant The DayLight’s request for the information, a violation of several provisions of forestry legal frameworks. Subsequently, we obtained the information for this story from elsewhere.

Mandra’s abandoned logs are likely to be higher than 6,944. The company co-operates in two large-scale logging concessions in River Cess and Nimba Counties. The LEITI did not separate Mandra’s Sewacajua figures from the two other concessions. A 2020 investigation report by the FDA found that Mandra and its partner EJ &J Investment Corporation abandoned 65 first-class logs in River Cess.

Mandra Plantations Liberia Limited of the Virgin Islands owns Mandra’s largest shares (99.7 percent), according to its article of incorporation. Sio Kai Sing, a Malaysian, holds 0.1 percent of the shares;  Tea Sin Sing, also a Malaysian, has 0.1 percent; and Tang Kwok Ben, a Hong Konger, holds the remaining 0.1 percent. It signed a 15-year agreement with the Secawajua Community Forest, covering 31,986 hectares in Sinoe’s Seekon, Pyne, Wedjah and Juarzon  Districts.  

A collage of logs Mandra abandoned at its log yard in Greenville, Sinoe County. The DayLight/ James Harding Giahyue
Mandra`s campsite in Secawajua, Sinoe County in 2018. The DayLight/ James Harding Giahyue

Abandoned Logs Regulation

Augustine Johnson, a Liberian who serves as Mandra`s general manager, wrongly claimed that the logs in Greenville were not abandoned because they had a long lifespan and that he had already paid taxes for them.

“Before you talk about abandonment. I am expecting a ship to come to Greenville by the second week in next month to get the logs out,” Johnson told The DayLight in a phone interview.

“Apart from logs that are to be shipped, I can take logs for my own domestic use, I can take logs to saw into pieces and even bring it to Monrovia to…build my campsite. The ones that rot are used for domestic purposes,” Johnson added.  

A former FDA geographic information system (GIS) technician, Johnson’s comments are not backed by facts. Payment of taxes is a requirement to obtain a log-export permit. However, taxes have nothing to do with the abandonment of logs. Rather, abandonment largely depends on the time logs stay at a particular location, according to the regulation. For instance, the woods in Mandra’s log yard in Greenville should have only stayed there for 180 days, the same as the ones Johnson said were at the Port of Greenville. Also, the FDA would have to reenter the logs in question into the FDA log-tracking system called LiberTrace.

Johnson is adamant about his wrong understanding or lack of awareness of the regulation. “The logs been there for over 30 working days doesn`t matter, or been there for I80 days it doesn`t matter. They are all Ekki logs with a huge lifespan,” Johnson said and hung up the phone. He had insisted on educating this reporter, not the other way around.

The FDA did not answer questions The DayLight sent to the agency for comment on this story. This journalist sent the email on March 30 to Managing Director Mike Doryen, copying Joseph Tally, his deputy for operations.

The regulation mandates the FDA to investigate the alleged abandonment of the logs in seven days after notification. Thereafter, it must declare the logs abandoned, petition a court to auction the wood and fine the company involved. If the company claims, it must pay administrative fees and redeem them.  The FDA established the regulation in 2017 after provisions of another regulation proved not enough to prevent the waste of forest resources.

But despite years of notifications, including one from within the agency, the FDA has failed to take any legal, public actions. Last year, it said it would begin the process to auction abandoned logs during the dry season but has not done that. The situation has led to a loss of revenue for the Liberian government—and the media.  

A 2020 FDA investigation found companies were abandoning logs because they were harvesting logs without first finding buyers. It also blamed irregular monitoring, lack of logistics for field officers and poor road networks for the problem.

“Logging contract holders are not doing much to minimize the incidence of abandoned logs,” the report said. “Much needed revenue… has been lost due to the unprecedented abandonment of the assorted round logs…”  

The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

Company Abandons Nearly 600 Logs Amid Illegal Logging Spree

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Top: Logs abandoned by Masayaha Logging Company in Bokay Town, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series on a string of illegal activities by Masayaha Logging Company, which operates in Grand Bassa County.


BOKAY TOWN, Grand Bassa County – Between 2020 and last year, Masayaha Logging Company harvested a number of red hardwoods in a string of illegal operations spanning several villages outside its contract area, the Worr Community Forest.

But while Masayaha was stealing the logs, the Lebanese-owned firm company abandoned 595 logs it harvested between 2019 and 2021, further investigation into its operations shows.  It cut 1,246 logs but exported only 651, according to FDA’s records of the company’s production and export.  

We counted over 200 of the logs on a field next to the Bokay Town market in Compound Number One, Grand Bassa County. Their markings were clear: “MLC” for Masayaha Logging Company. Some of the woods had decayed and bonded with that environment. Some were in ponds with quacking frogs, others overgrown by grass with human feces on them.  

Residents The DayLight interviewed said Masayaha transported some of the logs there two years ago.

“They brought these ones here in 2020,” a seller who does not want to be named over fears of reprisal, said, pointing to a pile of blackened, wet woods.

Under the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products, logs are abandoned if they are left unattended between 15 and 180 working days, depending on their location. In this case, the logs were abandoned latest as of June last year.

Deserted logs are some of the most common violations in the forestry sector. The regulation mandates the FDA to investigate for seven working days after being told of an abandoned log situation. Thereafter, it must seek a court order to auction the woods following months of mandatory public notice.

There is plenty of evidence that the FDA is aware logging companies have abandoned thousands of logs across the country—including Masayaha—but has done nothing in keeping with the regulation.

In August 2020, the agency investigated Masayaha and several other companies operating in Grand Bassa, River Cess and Nimba and found a sea of abandoned logs.   

“Logging contract holders are not doing much to minimize [the] incidence of abandoned logs. Logging companies have left [a] huge quantity of assorted round logs unattended or abandoned at various bush landings and log yards over the years…,” FDA investigators said at the time in an internal report seen by The DayLight. “Valuable time species are continuously being harvested by logging companies without first securing sales contracts, only to leave those logs unattended.” A log yard is an open field where companies keep logs before export.

Logs abandoned by Masayaha Logging Company on a field next to the Bokay Town market in Compound Number One, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

The report said the government of Liberia was losing revenues required for national development.

Alvin Fiske, a local who heads the community forest leadership, said the company executives told him it had not found a buyer for the logs. “Costumers come and buy some and some remain on the ground,” he said.

In June earlier this year, the Managing Director of the FDA Mike Doryen granted a rare interview with The DayLight in which he unlawfully claimed the agency would have auctioned abandoned logs across the country that month.

There were no records the FDA made binding public service announcements on Masayaha’s abandoned logs or a petition from the agency at the circuit court in Buchanan to seize and auction the woods, some three years since the company ditched the first load of the woods.

In addition to its failure to seize and auction the logs, the FDA has not punished Masayaha over the logs. The regulation was created in 2017 to curb the waste of forest resources after a previous regulation proved inadequate in addressing the problem. It was part of Liberia’s response to the global call for the sustainable use of forests amid climate change.  

FDA should have fined the company three times the price set by the agency by the volume of the logs at Bokay Town alone, according to the current regulation.

Our analysis of Masayaha’s production and export records shows that it abandoned 6,814.951 cubic meters of logs between 2019 and last year. Markings on the logs at the Bokay Town market indicate the majority are first-class woods by the FDA’s standard.

Some of the abandoned logs at the Bokay Town market, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

While the company has struggled to export the logs it produced, it has continued to harvest additional logs. The markings on logs at the company’s headquarters in Saul Town, Compound Number One B indicate they were harvested this year and contain some of the first-class species we saw at Bokay Town.

That is a breach of the regulation, which calls on the agency to disapprove of the harvesting or export permits of companies that abandon logs on a large scale.  

It is not the only time the FDA has reneged on punishing Masayaha for a violation. During the same period the firm abandoned the woods, it harvested logs way about 100 kilometers outside its concession, a recent investigation by The DayLight revealed.  

The company had signed illegal agreements with a number of towns in the Doe Clan of Compound Number One A. Several chiefs and elders who helped seal the illegal deals admitted in a dozen of interviews with us. Villagers said the company cut only ekki logs, red hardwoods used for building railroads and bridges.

Masayaha’s production record between 2020 and 2021 seemingly backs that claim. It exported 360 ekki woods during that period, compared to just 17 in the previous term.

Evidence shows that the FDA was also aware of the violation but did not punish the company. Investigators of the leaked FDA report recommended “appropriate” action against Masayaha for that offense. Also, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), a Switzerland-based firm that developed Liberia’s log-tracking system or LiberTrace, also reported the illegal operation.   

The FDA has not sought a court order to confiscate and auction the illegally harvested logs Masayaha cut outside its contract area. It did not fine the company two times and four times the prevailing international price of the volume of logs it harvested in 2020 and last year, respectively, in line with the Regulation on Confiscated Logs, Timbers and Timber Products. 

The agency did not reply to emailed queries for comments on the issue.

Ali Harkous, Masayaha’s owner and CEO also did not respond to The DayLight’s quetions placed to him via WhatsApp.

The Forestry Development Authority has approved Masayaha’s harvest of logs amid its abandonment of 595 logs. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Zahn Dehydugar contributed to this report.

The story is a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

 

Company Abandons ‘over 700’ Logs As FDA Looks on

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Top: Some of the logs Bargor & Bargor/Greenwood abandoned in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County in August 2022. The DayLight/Gabriel M. Dixon


By Gabriel M. Dixon

BOKOMU, Gbarpolu County –  It was a late Thursday evening in July 2019, excitement circled the air in the town of Nyeamah and neighboring villages. Their long-awaited dream of paved roads would soon become a reality years after welcoming a forest concession.

“It was a great thing for us and we were all happy about it,” said John Flomo, a member of the community’s forest leadership.

Bargor & Bargor Enterprise Inc. had struggled with its operations. Now partnering with Greenwood Resource Company, a Liberian-Ivorian firm, brought back life in that part of the Bokomu District. That was, at least, what residents thought.

But the company abandoned over 700 logs in the bush few months after their arrival, dashing the hope of residents.  

“They left them in the bush and they got damaged,” Flomo told The DayLight.  “Each time they (logging company) do something and we tell the FDA, they (FDA) can delay it. So, we look at it that the company is not for us, it is for the government; that’s [the] government that brought them.”

This reporter visited the logging site of Bargor & Bargor and saw scores of decayed logs. Some were lying along a neglected, grassy road in an open field villager said served as the company’s log yard. We climbed a steep hill into a forest and arrived at another place with huge piles of logs camouflaged by undergrowth of trees and grass. A look around the site shows that no one has been there in recent times before our visit, at least for a year. It was difficult to even take photos. My tour guard cleared around some of the logs to help me take photos. Some of the decayed logs still held on to their tags, indicating that they had been tracked by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

Yusuf Konneh and Louis Diomande, the two owners of Greenwood, did not respond to queries for comment on the matter. Efforts to contact Alfred Bargor, the CEO of Bargor & Bargor, did not materialize. His email address has been disabled and his contact number did not ring.

Bargor & Bargor left in the forest in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County in 2021. The DayLight/Henry Gboluma

The companies’ executives could face legal actions, as abandoning logs is an offense. The Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timbers and Timber Products considers woods abandoned when they are left unattended between 15 and 180 working days. Penalties include two times the volume of the logs in question by the legal fees for their stumps. Stumpage fees are calculated based on percentages of the international prices of logs which vary from one class to another. The regulation was formulated to minimize the waste of forest resources and compel legal compliance in the harvesting and shipment of logs.  

The FDA has taken no legal action despite being knowledgeable of the matter. “Currently, 716 logs harvested are in the bush spoiling,” read a 2021 letter the community wrote to the agency’s Managing Director Mike Doryen, seen by the DayLight.  

The law requires the FDA to investigate a complaint or suspicion of abandonment when notified. Afterward, it should have sought a court order to auction the woods after a period of multiple public notices.

Ruth Varney, the forest ranger responsible for the western region, declined to speak on the matter.

In April earlier this year,  FDA asked logging companies to “declare all trees fell in their resources area in LiberTrace consistent with the regulation…” Speaking to The DayLight two months later, Doryen said the agency would have started auctioning abandoned logs countrywide in June 2022. LiberTrace is the system through which the FDA tracks trees from harvest to shipment.

“We… will continue in the northern region and then go down south and western part,” Doryen said at the time. “We are dealing with the issues of abandoned logs in a holistic manner. It is not just TSCs but community forests and forest management contract [areas].”  

That has yet to happen.

Henry Gboluma contributed to this story. It was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

Liberian Loggers Leave Logs in Cape Mount

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Top: Rotten logs in the Gola Konneh District, Grand Cape Mount County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Varney Kamara

ZIMMIDANDAI – A Liberian-owned company has left an unspecified number of logs in a logging concession area in Grand Cape Mount County, community leaders have said.

In 2009, Bulgar & Vincent Timber Company cut trees in a logging concession in the Porkpa District—known in the logging industry as  Timber Sale Contract Area 10 (TSC A-10). However, in 2015, it pulled out of the area, leaving the woods to rot, according to Dao Sheriff, a member of the community’s leadership of the forest in an interview in a town called Zimmidandai.  

“Most of the logs B&V harvested here were left in the bush,” said  Sheriff.  “After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the company returned and cut several logs in 2015, and left this place in the same 2015.”

Sheriff did not say the exact quantity of woods B&V harvested. The company also had some logs in its log yard in the Po River area, according to a July 2017 handwritten letter to the FDA, seen by The DayLight. We could not independently verify the information, as the road to the forest was inaccessible due to years of abandonment and perennial rainfall.

B&V blames the government for the abandonment of the logs.

“We left logs there because the government failed to fix the road. We did not take them out because of this condition,” said Emmanuel Vincent, the CEO of the company, in a phone interview.” “It is the government that failed to do what it is supposed to do.”

That claim is incorrect. It was actually the company’s responsibility to “recondition and maintain roads adjacent [to] the contract area,” according to the agreement.

In June, the FDA announced the auctioning of abandoned logs across the country, including those in TSC A10. “The exercise will continue in the northern region and then go down south and western part,” said  Mike Doryan, FDA’s Managing Director.   

While that exercise has yet to be carried out, it does not apply here legally. Having been harvested in 2015, the FDA cannot obtain a court order to auction the woods under the current Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timbers and Timber Products. The regulation in place when the harvesting was done narrowed the definition of abandonment as only trees cut outside concession and lack tracking number. The current regulation was formulated in 2017 after the previous one proved ineffective in curbing the waste of forest resources.

Legal issues aside, there is no evidence that the FDA has done anything about deserted logs nationwide. The DayLight has investigated several incidents of abandoned logs in this region, the Gola Konneh District next door, and elsewhere in Grand Bassa, Lofa and Nimba. Doryen’s claim to auction the woods in June was unlawful as it takes months of legal formalities to do so.

‘They…damaged our forest’

The agreement between B&V mandates the company to pay US$1 per cubic meter of logs it harvested and US$1.25 for land rental fees. It was required to build schools, clinics, handpumps, and latrines for villagers but it did not deliver them. Its only project, a USD$4,018  guesthouse in Zimmidandai, has not been completed, according to a report released on Wednesday by the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB), which secures communities’ benefits and oversees their expenditure.

Vincent admits being indebted to the community but blames the Ebola epidemic and the coronavirus pandemic. “We lost heavily in that area,” Vincent said. “We left most of our heavy machines in there. Besides, the government restrained our operation because of the outbreaks. How could we have sold logs to pay benefits? We were practically closed down.” The FDA did not return queries for comment on Vincent’s claim but health authorities imposed some restrictions to contain both outbreaks.

It was unclear how much the company owes because the government has not remitted all the money logging companies have paid them for communities. TSC A10 received US$460 last year as part of the overdue payment and could receive twice that sum from the US$401,000 the government paid to communities recently.  

Zimmidandai in Porkpa District, Grand Cape Mount County. The DayLight/James Harding

By the way, that has not changed the gloom aura logging arouses in Zimmidandai.  After years of failure, the government of Liberia finally canceled all 11 TSCs across the country, leaving thousands of United States dollars owed them unpaid and projects unconducted.

The FDA promised to work with the National Union of Community Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC) to address fees owed TSCs. Doryen reechoed that in our interview in June.  However, the two entities have not done any work since the meeting, according to Andrew Zelemen, the national facilitator of the group.    

“They came and damaged our forest and left us with no development,” Sheriff said. “Now, the government has canceled TSCs, and they are gone. All I can say to you is that we are inside it.”

Company Abandons Some 2,500 Logs

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Abandoned logs
A pile of logs abandoned by Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited

Top: Some of the logs Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited abandoned at its sawmill in Zorzor, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue

Editor’s Note: In this second part of a series on Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited, we reveal how the Singaporean logging company abandoned a large number of logs in Lofa and Grand Bassa.    


BALAGWALAZU, Lofa County – Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited, a Singaporean logging company, might have harvested about US$2.2 million worth of logs outside its concession in Bluyeama Community Forest mainly between 2018 and last year.

But it has abandoned about 2,500 logs it cut within that period, including logs the company illegally harvested, further investigation The DayLight conducted into the firm’s operations discovered. Around a fifth of the logs have already decayed.  

Legally, logs are abandoned when they are left unattended between 15 and 180 days, depending on their location and the result of a three-month government-run inquiry. That means even logs Sing Africa felled in December last year, the latest of its production, are abandoned.

Our calculations of the company’s official production and export records between 2019 and last year show that it has 1,426 logs that have not been exported. Having only obtained production and shipment data in volume between 2017 and 2018, we estimated the difference of  10,761 cubic meters to be 1070 logs.  

The logs are scattered at different locations. Most of them are in the company’s sawmill in Balagwalazu, with some in its log yards on the Gbarnga-Lofa highway and in Grand Bassa County.

We counted about 500 woods—several with Sing Africa markings—in a large open field in Buchanan, all of which have already decayed. Their remnants created sponge-like coatings everywhere as if the area were a graveyard for trees. You could take the cawing of birds that pierced the quietude of the deserted area for a eulogy.

“It’s not even good for charcoal now,” said one woman, who did not want to be named due to safety reasons.   

The members of the leadership of Bluyeama Community Forest, who monitor the company and have records of all its operations, corroborated our findings. Gayflorson Korballah, one of Bluyeama’s leaders, pointed out huge piles of logs that had been harvested in 2017 and 2018. Alexander Songu, the head of the leadership, said most of the ones in the log yard had been harvested in 2019.    

We traced some of the logs to the company’s official production records from their tracking numbers.   

Tracking logs is a major component of postwar forestry reform in Liberia. Every tree felled must have an identification number that can be used to track logs from harvest to export.

The illegal logging and the failure of the company to pay the community its benefits have left locals frustrated. Since 2009, villagers have had the right to manage their forests alongside the government. Bluyeama, a 49,444 hectare woodland in the Zorzor District bordering Gbarpolu, was certified in 2011.

Following a difficult relationship with Ecowood, a previous logging company, it signed an agreement with Sing Africa in January 2016. But the company has not lived up to its promises. It owes both the Liberian government and the community US$121,271, according to the record of a meeting of players in the forestry industry on the implementation of Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union official records released in March earlier this year. That is one of the highest debts any company owes in the entire forestry sector.     

Loss of Revenue

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has known about the abandoned-logs issue since, at least, two years ago, evidence shows. In August 2020, an inquest by the agency found that Sing Africa abandoned 675 pieces of ekki wood (Lophira alata), an expensive, first-class log, in Buchanan. It also found that Star Wood—run by the Guptas, the Singaporean family that owns Sing Africa—left 465 logs at that same location.  

Some abandoned logs in a log yard on the Gbarnga-Lofa highway, owned by  Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

“Logging contract holders are not doing much to minimize [the] incident of abandoned logs,” the report, leaked to us,  said at the time. It said companies were harvesting logs without first securing sales contracts.

“Much-needed revenues that the national government requires for national development have been lost due to the unprecedented abandonment of assorted round logs by logging companies,” it added.  

But it was only two months ago that the FDA started to take action. In April, it gave all companies a one-month period to declare the logs they had not shipped. Managing Director Mike Doryen told The DayLight a countrywide auctioning of abandoned logs would have begun at the end of that month, which did not happen.

“[Bluyeama] is an area of concentration for ourselves,” Doryen said. “Those who did not remove their logs as per the stipulated time, the lawyer will now go to the court to seek judicial actions to have the logs confiscated the auctioned.”

Doryen’s timeline for an auction was impossible. It takes several months of court orders and required notices for abandoned logs to be auctioned, according to the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products. There were no records of such order at the circuit courts in Voinjama and Buchanan.   

It was until earlier this month that the FDA began to inquire countrywide about abandoned logs, following three reports by The DayLight on the subject. Harris Zeah, the ranger responsible for Lofa, Bong and Margibi, was suspended and replaced a week after our report of illegal logging in Bluyeama. “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… the Bluyeama Community Forest,” Zeah’s suspension letter read.

Mukesh Gupta, Sing Africa’s CEO and head of the Guptas, denied any wrongdoing, blaming the coronavirus pandemic.  

“We were loading by containers but when the Covid-19 hit, there was no buyer,” Gupta told The DayLight in an interview at the company’s Rehab office in Paynesville. “Covid-19 has damaged us so much. I think I should be supported, given the kind of investments we have made in the community.”  

Though the pandemic shattered supply chains worldwide, especially in the Asian markets Sing Africa exports its logs, the company continued to cut trees. Between 2019 and 2020, it harvested 2,000 logs, according to official records. And while it only exported 189 logs during that time, it added 166 logs the following year. It did not apply for force majeure, a legal recourse companies take to address things like disease outbreaks, conflicts and natural disasters.

“We never cut the trees thinking that they would be abandoned. We cut the trees thinking that Covid-19 would go away soon. We are surprised that Covid-19 has stayed on for long,” Gupta added.

Sing Africa faces millions of United States dollars in fines and could be one of the heaviest in the Liberian logging industry’s history. Abandonment of woods in log yards, sawmills and ports carries a fine of three times the international prices of each class of logs.  

The regulation was created to prevent waste of forest resources and to make sure companies harvest logs sustainably. It replaced an earlier regulation that narrowed the definition of abandonment to logs found outside a concession, lacking tracking barcodes. Its establishment in 2017 came amid a crackdown on illegal logging by importing countries, including the European Union.  

Waste of the logs from Bluyeama adds to the Zorzor region’s forest loss. From 2002 to last year, the district lost 20.6-kilo hectares of humid primary forest, according to Global Forest Watch, which tracks deforestation worldwide. That number is one of the highest among community forests, according to a study by the FDA and the World Resource Institute, a global research charity. Tree cover loss refers to the removal of forest canopy by people or nature.


Zahn Dehydugar of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists contributed to this report.  

The fund for the story was provided by Fern. The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over its content.

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