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Forest Community Rejects Bea Mountain Settlement of US$6.3M Lawsuit  

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Top: Korninga B Authorized Forest Community has sued Bea Mountain Mining Corporation for US$4.3 million in damages for alleged illegal entry and destruction of its woodland. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Esau J. Farr


TUBMANBURG, Bomi County – A community forest in Gbarpolu County has rejected Bea Mountain Mining Corporation’s proposal for a settlement in a US$6.3 million lawsuit against the company.

Bea Mountain proposes to pay the Korninga B Community Forest  US$100,000, a US$65,000 mobile sawmill and a pair of chainsaws, according to the proposed settlement document seen by The DayLight.

Korninga B and Bea Mountain had agreed to the settlement in 2022 but the company pulled out of the arrangement, prompting the community to go to court. Locals filed for US$6.3 million action of damages over Bea Mountain’s alleged unauthorized entry and destruction of the forest.

Under the settlement agreement, seen by The DayLight, Bea Mountain offers to pay Korninga in two installments. The company agrees to deploy five staff to train the same number of townspeople to operate the sawmill, according to the document.

The settlement proposal also prohibits Bea Mountain from working in the forest and gives Korninga possession of the trees that Bea Mountain cleared.

Aaron Mulbah, the chief officer of Korninga, said they rejected the proposal because they had incurred expenses as a result of their lawsuit. “They have to go above that,” Mulbah told The DayLight.

Cllr. Kunkunyon Wleh Teh, Bea Mountain’s lead lawyer, declined an interview with The DayLight.

Verdict and Retrial

Korninga B’s lawsuit accuses Bea Mountain of felling over 2,800 logs to make a passage through the 78,624-acre forest in the Bokomu District to its mining sites, according to court documents. Bea Mountain is also accused of harvesting logs from the area to construct bridges, throwing some in valleys while burying others.

The company denies any wrongdoing, saying it only mined in areas covering its licenses, and that the community should instead pay it damages for allegedly obstructing its operations.

Following more than five months of legal battle, a six-man jury found Bea Mountain liable for wrongdoing.  

But the court granted Bea Mountain’s petition for a retrial on grounds that jurors failed to take witnesses’ testimonies into account and ignored inconsistencies in testimonies, calling the US$5 million damages “grossly disproportionate.”

In early March 2022, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation allegedly illegally entered the Korninga B Community Forest in Bokomu District and felled several trees.

Under the Community Rights Law…, locals own and comanage forests adjacent to their communities alongside the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). The law is a breakaway from the past, where only the government and companies had a say in forestry. It guarantees locals’ right to forestland and prohibits unauthorized entry and use of forest resources.

The Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County, from where the case was transferred to Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The DayLight/Dougba McCay

Before going to court, Korninga informed Bea Mountain of its ownership of the forest and Bea Mounting’s alleged illegal actions. The two parties agreed that the company would pay the community US$165,000 for the damages and other things.

Ruth Varney, a representative of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in the western region, had compiled a report on the alleged damages with the company’s funds, court documents show.  

But Bea Mountain pulled out of the arrangement, which also included Keyah Saah, the Superintendent of Gbarpolu County. Angered by that, Korninga filed a US$4.3 million lawsuit against the company at the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County.

Bea Mountain’s defense team asked the court to dismiss the case. Its lawyers argued that locals did not have the right to sue the company and that it had legal mining licenses to operate in that area.

The three medium-scale mines in question are located in the same region as the Korninga B Community Forest. The licenses of two of the mines are held by MNG Gold, a company owned by Mehmet Nazif Günal, the Turkish billionaire who also owns Bea Mountain. The license for the other is held by Gbarpolu Mining Corporation, a Liberian-owned firm.

Prosecution lawyers led by Atty. Alston Armah asked the court not to grant the defense lawyers’ petition. Prosecution lawyers argued that Korninga had the authority to file the lawsuit. They added that the mining licenses were not owned by Bea Mountain.

The court in Bopolu agreed with Korninga and denied Bea Mountain’s petition, and the case proceeded. However, it was transferred to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Tubmanburg, Bomi County after another petition by defense lawyers.

Bea Mountain has proposed to give Korninga B US$100,000, and other things as a settlement in a lawsuit against it. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

There, prosecution lawyers told the court Bea Mountain broke the Community Rights Law… “The destruction of the forest with no knowledge of the legal community forest is causing [the community] pain, suffering, mental anguish and distress,” one court filing read.

Lawyers of Bea Mountain counterargued that the company and a partner legally obtained the three mining licenses it operates in that region. They said the Korninga forest leadership did not have the authority to sue the company, only its ancestral land leadership had. They said the investigation conducted by Varney was not legal or binding because she was not authorized to do so.

The court heard testimony from Yanquoi Dolo, the head of the FDA’s legal department. “The FDA did not communicate any official assessment report involving Korninga B Community Forest,” Dolo told the jurors.

Following final arguments, the six-man jury handed down a unanimous verdict against Bea Mountain in October last year. The jurors held Bea Mountain liable for US$1,311,401.21 in special damages and US$3 million in general damages.

Three days after the ruling, the company filed a petition for a new trial, citing inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies and that the jurors ignored some of their evidence.

Prosecution lawyers argued that documentary evidence and testimonials were sufficient to have the company liable for the damages. They said the jurors’ guilty verdict matched the evidence produced during the trial.

But, this time, the court ruled in favor of Bea Mounting, ordering a retrial. Judge Ciapha Carey said the inconsistencies favored the company as well as the fact not all the trees in question were scaled.

Unsatisfied with the ruling, lawyers representing Korninga B  petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of the case. The high court affirmed Carey’s ruling for a  new trial.

Mulbah said Korninga was awaiting a retrial.

“We are asking international partners, NGOs to help the community people in our case with Bea Mountain,” Mulbah said. “Bea Mountain feel that they have money… but the law is there.

The law will provide for us.”

Commissioner Extorts Wood Dealers To ‘Repair Road’

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Top: The Commissioner of Gbarma Alfred O. Bah illegally imposed L$500 on trucks transporting planks from Gbarpolu County. The police may have taken advantage of Bah’s wood truck restriction to allegedly solicit a bribe from transporters. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue 


By James Harding Giahyue and Tenneh Keita


GBARMA DISTRICT, Gbarpolu – Three or four years ago, Alfred Bah, the Commissioner of Gbarma District, decided to collect money for trucks transporting wood from the western county.  

“When I took office, I was informed that the outgoing commissioner used to at least talk to the [wood dealers] … for district development,” Bah recalled in an interview at his office. “Whether I could do the same, I said ‘yes.’  For me, what I will do I will call the [wood dealers for] a meeting.’”

The meeting was held and the parties agreed that trucks carrying wood from Gbarpolu must pay L$500. The money would be used to repair a major stretch of road linking Gbarma to other parts of the county. 

That day, Bah added to a list of county officials who misuse their power to exploit wood dealers across the country. The officials do not have the authority to impose a fee on wood or other goods, according to the Local Government Act and the Chainsaw Milling Regulation. The former law restricts such function to county councils, governance bodies which have not yet been formed in most counties, including Gbarpolu. The latter empowers the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and local communities or private landowners. 

This is The DayLight’s third story on the subject after an August investigation exposed the involvement of the Superintendent of Lofa County William Tamba Kamba in the illegal deal. The first implicated a regional collector of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA). The series sheds a light on an unregulated subsector of forestry engrossed in corruption and impunity. 

An unissued receipt created by the Commissioner of Gbarma Alfred O. Bah and a representative of local plank producers meant for trucks carrying wood and other goods as part of a so-called scheme to repair a major route in Gbarpolu County. 

‘L$500 for each trip’

Varney Freeman, a representative of plank dealers in Gbarpolu, worked with to Bah organize the scheme. They imposed L$500 on each truck carrying wood. A vacant receipt we obtained brandishes: “Gbarpolu Road Maintenance Official Receipt” and “L$500 for each trip.” 

Freeman was responsible to make other plank dealers comply, though aware that the fee was illegal. “The [Commissioner] doesn’t have the legal power to impose fees on trucks plying the county’s roads but we are businesspeople,” Freeman said in an interview on his farm in Okai Village in November last year. Gbarpolu is one of the most forested regions in Liberia and a goldmine for many wood dealers. They are known in forestry as chainsaw millers from their use of the handheld device to make planks. 

“If we want to fight all the legal things, we will not get our business going,” Freeman added.  

So, trucks carrying wood began to pay the fee. A subbranch of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) at Sawmill on the Bopolu highway collected the fees, according to Bah and Freeman. Rangers at the subbranch corroborated their story. 

Bah claims he collected between L$16,000 and US$17,000 only, which was used to repair the road. Gbarpolu Superintendent Keyah Saah dismissed the claim, saying he (Saah) organized the youth to rehabilitate it instead. 

The FDA rightfully collects US$0.60 on each plank transported across the country. However, those payments are not turned over to the Liberia Revenue Authority, the agency of the government that collects taxes. There is no public record the FDA accounts for the funds. It took the agency more than a decade to devise a regulation for the subsector yet it is not enforcing it. Such lawlessness makes it easy for Bah’s toll system and other illegalities to succeed. 

But Bah’s system soon encountered a problem that would ultimately lead to its end, at least openly. First, some wood truckers refused to pay, arguing they did not take their planks from Gbarma and could not pay the district any toll. Second, there issues about the receipt capturing the entire county rather than just Gbarma. And dealers argued their vehicles were smaller than those of logging companies, several of whom operate in Gbarpolu. 

“I insisted that I will not pay the L$1,500,” said Kent Mamay, a plank dealer in the VOA Community. “There was a heated argument between them and myself and at the end of the day they were able to release my truck.” 

Amid the pressure, Bah halted the collection last year. He claims Gbarpolu County Assistant Superintendent for Development Joseph Akoi had ordered him to do so to avoid further problem. Akoi denies that, telling The DayLight in an interview in Bopolu he had not heard of a plank toll in Gbarma. 

But plank dealers and drivers The DayLight interviewed said they still paid the fee while the system was halted. Varney Tulay, another wood dealer in VOA, said no receipts were being issued this time around. 

Gbarpolu County, largely covered with forests, is a workplace for many plank dealers or chainsaw millers. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
Wood truckers protested a toll system established by the Commissioner of Gbarma, Gbarpolu in which they had to pay L$500 to ply a major route in the county. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue 

“Like four to five months ago, they have stopped issuing receipts,” said Tulay in a September interview with The DayLight. “I came a month ago, last month August, and the [Commissioner] toll was paid…” Bah denies Tulay’s claim. 

‘Let [all] the vehicles pass’ 

After the protest, Bah ordered the police detail at Sawmill not to allow any wood truck ply that route during the rainy season last year. He repeated that this year, power a commissioner does not have. 

“With [an immediate] order, please stop all heavy equipment, wood trucks and coal trucks from using the main road from Bomi to Gbarpolu,” this year’s communication posted on the wall of the police detail read. It excluded vehicles transporting petroleum and food items. 

Bah said his action was not a reaction to the wood truck drivers’ protest but the aspiration of the community.   “The citizens are complaining that if people [do] not stop using this road and damaging the road they would demonstrate and I don’t want them to demonstrate,” he said. 

Asked why he did not inform the Ministry of Public Works about the road situation and about the illegality of his order, Bah said he did not know how to contact the ministry. “I don’t have the authority now to say I’m going to meet [the] public work minister to say ‘My feeder road is damaged and I want you to go fix it,’” Bah said. “It is not so easy, except where we are call in a workshop maybe I can raise this concern there maybe it can be looked [into].” 

Bah might have halted collections but perhaps unscrupulous police officers are allegedly taking advantage of his order to exploit wood dealers. During the day, they pretend to enforce the illegal order but solicited a bribe from wood truckers at night and allow them to pass. Residents of Sawmill, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, spoke of long queues of trucks that formed up to dusk and disappeared by dawn. 

Wood dealers, who backed up the residents’ account, dared to speak out. 

“They will demand us that the car can’t go. Then, certain time of the night, they will free us,” Tulay the VOA dealer told The DayLight. “Sometimes we pay L$2,500 at the gate just for the car to go.” Tulay said he reluctantly paid that and other fees and increased the prices of his planks. Furniture-makers we interviewed said they were buying wood at higher prices compared to previous years. 

Murphy Collins, the acting police commander at the Sawmill detail, neither denied nor confirm the claim. However, Collins disclosed that officers collected L$600 from trucks passing through the checkpoint, something Tulay and other dealers had mentioned. He said he used the money to run a generator and for other things.   “At night, we collect those small money and put it in our coffers to buy gas on a regular basis,” Collins said.  

Aware of its turnout, his vehicle restriction has caused, Bah now wants to rescind it. In fact, he may have already chosen the wordings for that communication to Collins.

“Since you don’t want to give me the respect, you’re allowing this act, then let [all] the vehicles pass,” Bah told The DayLight.  

“Sometime when you’re a leader [and] you’re not careful how to do things, …your name can [ be spoiled].”


The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ). It was originally published by the Daily Observer, an editorial partner of The DayLight. 

Kpokolo: Report Reveals Latest Illegal Logging Threatens Liberia’s Forests

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Top: Kpokolo seized at the FDA checkpoint in Klay, Bomi County. A report by U.S.-based Forest Trends launched today says kpokolo threatens Liberia’s rainforests and undermines the country’s climate change efforts. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue


  • “Kpokolo,” a new form of illegal logging threatens Liberia’s rainforests, provides little benefit for the country and undermines its climate efforts.
  • Kpokolo harms small-scale loggers, who are the sole suppliers of wood to the domestic markets. Big companies are taking advantage of the illegal trade
  • The report calls on President-elect Joseph Boakai to take clear steps in banning kpokolo and punish violators of the ban

MONROVIA – Thick, four-cornered and expensive timber produced illegally across the country and smuggled in containers, are a threat to Liberia’s forests, and undermine its efforts to combat climate change, a report launched today by the US-based Forest Trends, has found.

The report—“‘Kpokolo’: A New Threat to Liberia Forest”—found that block wood or kpokolo, as it is commonly called, has no legal basis and harms small-scale loggers, rural communities and the country. It calls for a ban imposed on the illegal logging earlier this year to be made clear and official.

“The illegal exploitation takes advantages of weaknesses in enforcement, corrupting officials and compromising processes…,” Arthur Blundell one of the report’s two coauthors, told The DayLight.

“The newly elected president should take immediate steps to halt this illegal exploitation by confirming an official ban of kpokolo, including devoting resources for the enforcement of the prohibition,” Blundell added.

Based on interviews and media reports—including from The DayLight—the report suggested that kpokolo might have begun in the 2010s. It operates within the plank subindustry. However, the size of planks, which are two inches thick, differs sharply from kpokolo, which can be up to 12 inches thick, the report said.

Between October and December last year, researchers interviewed 267 community dwellers, chainsaw operators and wood dealers in eight counties for the kpokolo report. It is an update to a 2016 report on the wood market in Liberia.  

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) did not immediately respond to questions for comments on the report. The agency had, at least officially, sanctioned the illegal operation, collecting fees from operators to transport the wood.

‘Economic sabotage’

The report did not find sufficient evidence on the scale of kpokolo but found enough cases where the new form of illegal logging posed a threat to the country. It said kpokolo undermined Liberia’s climate change efforts, and the protection of the country’s forest, West Africa’s largest remaining rainforest. Liberia has pledged to the United Nations to reduce deforestation by 50 percent by 2030 among other commitments.

The coauthors of the report called for the entire industry to rally against kpokolo.

“Without such a whole-sector approach, Liberia risks allowing illegal logging to undermine not just [sustainable forest management] but governance in rural areas more broadly as kpokolo has a corrupting influence on local authorities and community leaders,” Blundell said.

The report gathered evidence that large companies were exploiting the kpokolo situation to “squeeze out artisanal operators who supply the local wood markets.”

Operators, known in the industry as chainsaw millers, perhaps need to promote a recently adopted regulation to limit kpokolo, the report suggested.

Though chainsaw milling has been largely unregulated since its emergence in the 2000s, the subindustry has been allowed to supply much-needed wood to the domestic markets. One FDA report dubs it a “necessary evil.”

Squared timbers, commonly called “Kpokolo” illegally harvested in Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

People researchers interviewed said companies were exporting the wood to Ukraine before its war with Russia. Researchers learned that kpokolo timber were being exported for railroad ties, which matched the dimensions of the illegal wood. 

The report quoted people stating companies were smuggling kpokolo through containers, one of them Akewa Group of Companies, a Nigerian-owned firm that has violated nearly every forestry law. There is a mention of Askon Liberia General Trading Inc., which was debarred from forestry over its illegal operations, with its Turkish owners arrested in May. Akewa did not respond to questions over its alleged involvement in kpokolo.

In February, three months before the ban, the FDA had announced that it had banned kpokolo. In June Liberia also discussed the ban at an annual forestry meeting with the European Union.

Those steps were not enough and that kpokolo could still be ongoing as operators could claim they are unaware of the ban, according to the report. Forest Trends recommends that President-elect Joseph Boakai makes a detailed announcement of the ban, capturing legal instruments supporting the ban, the definition of kpokolo, and penalties for violating it.

“If the ban is not carefully detailed and widely disseminated, it is unlikely to be effective in the face of powerful business forces involved,” said Kristin Canby, a senior director of Forest Trends’ Forest Trade and Finance Initiative that led the report.

“The ban must be followed by a clear demonstration of enforcement,” Canby said in a press release.

David Young, the other coauthor of the report said violators of the ban should be punished in line with forestry laws and regulations, “including economic sabotage for complicit officials.

“As part of a renewed commitment by the FDA under the new administration, enforcement should include punishing kpokolo operators and buyers of their wood, as well as the corrupt officials that allowed the illegal exploitation,” Young told The DayLight.  

Sierra Leoneans Conduct Illegal Logging in Nimba

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Top: A graphic depicting an illegal logging operation conducted by a group of six Sierra Leonean loggers for a Liberian company called Libfor Forest Corporation. The DayLight/Rebazar Forte


By Mark B. Newa


KARNPLAY –  A  group of Sierra Leoneans, hired by a Liberian businessman, are conducting an illegal logging operation in a forest in Nimba County, according to documents, interviews and photographs.

With the help of locals, the operations are producing thick timber near the Ivory Coast border in Karnplay, Gbelay-Geh District.   

The Sierra Leoneans’ operations violate the Chainsaw Milling Regulation, which bars non-Liberians from working in the subsector, evidence shows. Their products go against the standard measurement for planks, matching a form of logging recently banned by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

From Bo to Nimba

In early May, a representative of Libfor Forest Corporation, met  Aruna Kamara, Bobson Lusainy, Philip Sungu, Sorie Bangura and two other men in the Sierra Leonean eastern province of Bo. The representative asked them to travel to Liberia and serve as chainsaw operators of Libfor, a small-scale logging company established in 2021.

By May 30, the six men headed to the Liberian border at Bo Waterside. There, the company’s representative arranged for emergency travel certificates for the men, according to the documents seen by The DayLight. 

Not long after, the men found themselves in Ganta, some 303 miles away from home. They signed a contract. Tejan Jalloh, a Sierra Leonean who works for Libfor, signed for the company, while Sungu signed for the men.

They agreed to harvest timber, with a payment of L$600 per piece, according to their contract, obtained by The DayLight.   

Two of the Sierra Leonean pitsaw operators, Aruna Kamara, Borbor Lusainy caught on the reporter’s camera in Gbehnehylay, near the Ivory Coast border. TheDayLight/Mark B. Newa

The six men were then transported to Trorplay, a village in the Gbeh-Somah Clan, Gborplay Chiefdom.

They cut down trees on the farms of individual farmers between L$1,500 and L$3,000. They have already harvested 460 planks, according to Kamara, the oldest of the men.  

“We hauled some on the road and the rest are in the bush,” Kamara, the oldest of the six men, told The DayLight in an interview.

‘Kpokolo’

Our reporter photographed stacks of the illegal timber by roadsides and in several other locations. They match the profile of Iroko, a durable wood species used for shipbuilding, furniture and outdoor construction. Currently, it is selling up to US$390 on the international market.

Community leaders are unhappy with the loggers for three reasons. First, they think the Sierra Leoneans are buying the trees too cheaply. Second, they feared that cutting the trees would make their community vulnerable to rainstorms. Locals use the Iroko trees for herbs.  

“The tree can protect our towns and villages from strong wind. Iroko is a very strong wood and it also has a kind of value for traditional herbs,” said Anthony Wopleh, a farmer in Trorplay.

   

Over 100 pieces of Iroko timber risked shrinking in the sun in Trorplay where the Sierra Leonean loggers are stationed. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa
Some pieces of sewn Iroko packed near the road between Trorplay and Gbehnehylay in Twa River Administrative District in Gbehlay-Geh, near the Ivory Coast border. TheDayLight/Mark B. Newa

“This is a tree that our people use to heal sicknesses like rheumatism and it is very helpful in treating other diseases,” Wopleh added.

“Cutting down the trees and carrying them like that, [with] nothing remaining here for our community is not good. Look at our roads, from here to Karnplay is so bad,” said Samson Zreakpa, a chief in the Gbeh-Somah Clan.

Local chainsaw millers are also upset with the Sierra Leoneans for “undermining” their efforts. “The guys have infringed on our movement and they have entered into the bush, telling our people negative things,” said Emmanuel Gongor, who ran illegal operations in the region exposed earlier this year by The DayLight.

Amara Fofana, the sole owner of Libfor, based on its article of incorporation, denies the allegations. “My power saws are registered with the local chainsaw union, and they know me good,” Fofana told The DayLight via phone.

‘I cannot fight the government’  

The accusations against the Sierra Leoneans may be true or not but the illegality of their operations is obvious.  Under the Chainsaw Milling Regulation, non-Liberians are debarred from making planks. The subsector, started by ex-combatants following the end of Liberia’s bloody civil wars in 2003, is primarily meant to supply the domestic market and provide jobs for Liberians.   

Also, Libfor does not have a chainsaw milling permit and the farmers who are selling to Sierra Leoneans do not have the authorization to do so. However, that level of violation is commonplace in the subindustry. Apart from imposing fees on chainsaw millers, the FDA has failed to regulate the lucrative trade in its 20 years of existence.

Moreover, the size of the wood the Sierra Leoneans are producing is prohibited. Normally, the FDA allows only up to two-inch-thick planks in the subindustry, and not three-inch.

Sorie Bangura, spokesperson for the Sierra Leonean chainsaw operators stands before piles of Iroko sprawling on the sun in Trorplay, the village where they are stationed. TheDayLight/Mark B. Newa

Over the last decade or so, the FDA secretly sanctioned the production of oversized timber, commonly called “Kpokolo.” In February, the agency announced it had “banned” kpokolo, following a series of reports by The DayLight. The agency admitted it had permitted kpokolo producers to supply sawmills across the country but that permit was abused.

In the phone interview, Fofana said he was harvesting Iroko to make furniture at his own sawmill. He said he expected some machines soon.

“I want to make furniture in Caldwell to compete with the Lebanese businessmen in Monrovia,” Fofana, said via phone, revealing he had 20 chainsaws in the Nimba belt.

Fafona added that he had hired Sierra Leoneans because he could not find any Liberian to do the work. Later, he claimed that Liberians were lazy, dishonest and counterproductive to his company’s vision.

“There are no good operators in Liberia,” Fofana claimed. “This is why somebody brought me those guys to work for me.”

Over the debarment of non-Liberians, Fofana argued that the ECOWAS protocol empowered the Sierra Leoneans to work anywhere in Liberia.   

That claim is wrong. People from ECOWAS countries are entitled to a 90-day stay in Liberia. However, they are not allowed to work without a residence permit, according to the Aliens and Naturalization Law. If they work without residence permits—as in the case of the Sierra Leoneans—they violate the law. In fact, the Sierra Leoneans should have obtained work permits before felling their first tree, according to the Decent Work Act.

The Emergency Travel Certificate bearing the name, Philip Sungu, a farmer from Sembehun Selinda in Bo District, Sierra Leone. TheDayLight/Mark B. Newa
The signature page of the contract between six Sierra Leonean chainsaw operators and a Liberian-owned company called Libfor Forest Corporation. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa

Apparently conceding, Fofana said he would send the men to Gormahplay in the Bu-Yao District, toward the Ivory Coast border at Butuo.

Further in the interview, Fofana lied that he was not aware his Sierra Leonean workers were harvesting oversized planks. However, The contract his company signed with the Sierra Leoneans exposed him. It clearly obligates the men to harvest timber measuring three inches in thickness, 13 inches in width and 15 feet in length.

Told of the clause of the contract that speaks about the height of the wood, Fofana conceded.

“Actually, I do not know that one,” he told our reporter. “When the wood is above the size required by law, I will reduce it because I cannot fight the government.”  

It was easier for Fofana to have said those words than it is done in forestry. Illegal timber harvest is punishable by a fine of three times the industry’s price of the wood and the total cubic meter of the wood in question. Violators could also face a six-month prison term or both fine and imprisonment, according to the Regulation on Confiscated Logs, Timber and Timber Products.


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

International NGOs Call for Halt to Blue Carbon Deal

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Top: Liberia’s proposed deal with Blue Carbon of the United Arab Emirates is expected to cover over a million hectares of rainforests. Graphic by Rebazar Forte


By James Harding Giahyue


  • Liberia and Blue Carbon should halt carbon credit negotiation, as the deal violates Liberian laws, according to a group of international NGOs  
  • The deal must comply with procurement, forestry and land laws, and seek the consent of local communities to continue
  • The NGOs say the United Arab Emirates wants to use the agreement to “greenwash,” its own carbon emissions
  • NGOs say the “vague” and “secret” deal is not good for the Liberian government and indigenous communities and undermines Liberia’s own climate targets

MONROVIA – A group of 16 international NGOs has called for a halt to an ongoing carbon credit deal between Liberia and Blue Carbon of the United Arab Emirates until it complies with Liberian laws and is clear on how the country and local communities would benefit.  

The Liberian government and Blue Carbon negotiating the terms of the agreement. The government wants to give the company over 1 million hectares of land over 30 years for US$50 billion, according to a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU).

But the deal would be a violation of Liberia’s procurement forestry and land laws, the statement said. 

“We, therefore, call upon the Government of Liberia and Blue Carbon to halt these negotiations until there is clear evidence that the contract is in line with Liberian law,” the NGO said in a statement released last week. 

“This risks the livelihoods of up to a million people. It would also extinguish community land ownership in the selected areas while violating peoples’ legal right to provide free, prior and informed consent for any developments on their land,” it added.

In March, Liberia and Blue Carbon penned the agreement, in which Liberia is expected to lease Blue Carbon a number of protected areas and proposed protected areas to solely manage. Blue Carbon’s mission is to use bilateral agreements to help reduce carbon emissions globally, according to its website.

“This bilateral association marks another milestone for Blue Carbon to enable government entities to define their sustainable frameworks and help transition to a low-carbon economical system…,” Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, Blue Carbon’s chairman and senior member of UAE’s Royal Ruling Family.  

Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, Jr. said the deal marked an “era of sustainability.”  

But local communities that would be affected by the deal have not had a say in it, a violation of the National Forestry Reform Law, the Land Rights Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an instrument Liberia has signed into law.  All three legal instruments require villagers’ free, prior and informed consent in concessions negotiations.

Furthermore, more than 1 million hectares of rainforests render the MoU illegal. Liberia’s forestry law limits forest concessions to 400,000 hectares.

The NGOs call on the parties to consult communities and incorporate their benefits into the deal. They include Fern, Friends of Earth Netherlands and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

“It should also prove that the financial support provided protects threatened forests and restores degraded forests with strict monitoring and control mechanisms in place,” the statement said.

The proposed deal would also break the Public Procurement and Concession Act because there was no bidding.

A forest in Sinoe County is one of the places that would be affected by the proposed Blue Carbon deal. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

The Liberian cabinet endorsed Blue Carbon as a sole source on June 3, based on a letter from the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Mike Doryen to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC).

In the letter, Doryen asked PPCC’s Officer-in-Charge Stevenson Yond to approve Blue Carbon as a sole bidder for the concession.

Section 55 of the procurement law allows for “sole sourcing,” except in an “extreme urgency,” and other instances, none of which the deal qualifies for.  

Section 101 of the act also provides for a sole source but limits it to a bidder with specialized expertise only that bidder can provide. It also requires the concession to involve research only the bidder can undertake or it would be against national security for a competitive bidding process. However, none of those instances fits Blue Carbon, established only about a year ago and had not traded in the carbon market before.

Doryen did not immediately respond to The DayLight’s queries for comments.

‘Greenwashing’

The international NGOs accused the UAE, a country that has one of the highest emission rates in the world, of using the Blue Carbon deal to offset its own greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the Arab nation, which hosts the United Nations climate change conference later this year, allegedly wants to invest in Liberia’s rainforest and continue its energy, oil/gas and infrastructure projects.

“The revenue model described in this contract generously allows for that,” the statement said. “This contract seems to give Blue Carbon, a private UAE company, the authority to act on Liberia’s behalf to negotiate [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] Article 6 rules.” Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement talks about carbon credits and trading.

The NGOs critique the draft document’s intent to award Blue Carbon the exclusive right to use carbon credits. Blue Carbon would exclusively manage the forest resources, including reforestation, conservation and ecotourism, according to the MoU.

“If they are sold, Liberia will not be able to use the carbon credits to meet its own climate targets,” the statement said. Liberia committed at the Paris Summit to reduce deforestation by 50 percent by 2030.  

“It is unclear what the benefits for Liberia and its communities will be. The contract is confidential and extremely vague, and a [MoU]… signed in March this year has not been widely discussed,” it added.

The statement followed criticisms from national NGOs and the Liberian People’s Party.  

The DayLight has reached out to Blue Carbon for comments.

Ex-Minister Leaves Government With A Trail of Illegal Acts

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Top: Former Minister Cooper Kruah smiling in his office at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications: Facebook/Emmanuel Fred


By Mark B. Newa


  • Cllr. Cooper Kruah was a shareholder in a logging and mining company while he served as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC) received nearly a dozen mining licenses and one logging contract while Cooper was a minister
  • Kruah  tried to cover up his conflict of interest by pretending to turn over his shares with an apparently fake company document
  • With Kruah a shareholder, UFC was involved in an illegal subcontract, illicit logging, and smuggling of logs
  • Amid evidence of Kruah’s and UFC’s offenses, both the Forestry Development Authority and the Ministry of Mines and Energy did not punish Kruah or UFC

MONROVIA – In May, President George Weah dismissed then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah after attending a Unity Party rally, ending the veteran lawyer’s four-year stint in the government.

Kruah’s departure sparked an instant controversy—betrayal versus “political intolerance.” However, he has left a host of irregularities in the logging and mining industries with impunity.

These offenses range from a conflict of interest to an unlawful extraction of minerals and timber in his hometown of Nimba County. The acts violate the Liberian Constitution, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, the National Forestry Reform Law and the Minerals and Mining Law of 2000.

UFC was established on February 9, 1986. Edward Slangar, a former presidential advisor, holds 10 percent.  Jim Kyung follows with 70 percent. Naranyan Vasnani, a foreign national, holds five percent. And Cooper Kruah the remaining five percent, according to the company’s legal documents at the Liberian Business Registry.

President Weah appointed Kruah in February 2018 and was confirmed by the Senate in August 2018. However, Kruah did not relinquish his shares or take other legal actions to avoid a conflict of interest.

UFC would go on to have more than a dozen mining licenses and a logging contract in Nimba and Grand Bassa, while Kruah served as the Postmaster General of the Republic of Liberia.

Cover-up Exposed

The DayLight initially exposed then-Minister Kruah in an investigation last year. After the publication, Kruah lied that UFC amended its article of incorporation in 2019.  “This amendment of the article of incorporation is the best evidence for the public,” Kruah said in a statement at the time.

But records of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) show that UFC did not amend its article of incorporation in 2019.  Companies pay a fee at the LRA to amend their legal documents. UFC did not make any such payment, official records show.

This new evidence reinforces The DayLight’s previous reports.

Moreover, UFC’s so-called article of incorporation, obtained by The DayLight, physically appears to be fake. The document misspells Kruah son`s name: “Prince M. Kuah” instead of Prince M. Kruah. It also came more than one and a half years since Kruah became a government official.

Conflict of interest aside, evidence points to UFC’s violations of forestry and mining laws while Cooper Kruah was a minister.

Stealing Logs

A high-profile 2021 report found UFC committed a number of offenses. The report said UFC did not declare “massive” harvesting of timber in the Sehzueplay Community Forest, felled trees outside of its contract area, and transported logs to a sawmill without valid documents. The report also found UFC did not pay the community and the government any fees for the logs.

Illegally harvesting timber violates a number of forestry legal frameworks, including Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union. No actions were taken against UFC with then Minister Cooper Kruah as one of its shareholders.

The Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) report for 2019-2020 shows UFC skipped an environmental permit. And The DayLight reported UFC did obtain a harvesting certificate before operating, citing a ranger’s memo.

Logs Universal Forestry Corporation, owned by then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah, illegally harvested in Tappita, Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue   

As of March 2022, UFC owed both the affected community and the government US$155,000, according to the joint implementation committee of the VPA. This is the second-highest debt owed by a logging company at the time. The FDA did not grant The DayLight’s request for UFC’s updated outstanding payment, another violation of forestry laws.

UFC subcontracted an illegitimate company without the approval of the FDA or the consent of the leadership of Sehzueplay Community Forest. The manager of Ihsaan Logging Company Mohammed Paasawe was dismissed as Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County for corruption.

The FDA could have avoided all of this, though. It ignored the Regulation on Bidder Qualification, by prequalifying UFC to operate, while then Minister Cooper Kruah remained its shareholder.

The agency did not respond to questions for comments. However, last year, Managing Director Mike Doryen promised to investigate and take appropriate actions against UFC and Cooper Kruah but has not. “I will not protect any official of government who breaks the law,” Doryen said at the time.

Conflict of interest carries a fine between US$10,000 and US$25,000, up to three times the sum Kruah has received from his equity in UFC, or a prison term of up to 12 months, according to the National Forestry Reform Law.

UFC’s Illegal Goldmines

UFC thrived with Kruah a cabinet minister. Between 2018 and last month when he was sacked, the Ministry of Mines and Energy awarded UFC nearly a dozen mining licenses and a dealer license, according to official records. It managed only a few prior to Kruah’s appointment.

Universal Forestry Corporation did not reclaim its mines in Tappita, Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue  

That boom is reflected in UFC’s figures. In the 2018-2019 period alone, UFC produced 16.85 kilograms of gold with export valued at US$313.525, according to the LRA payment record. It paid the government US$99,545, one of the highest contributions then, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) reported.

The ministry unlawfully allowed UFC to operate, despite Kruah’s admitting to a conflict of interest, and did not penalize it amid the evidence.  

The ministry declined an interview on the subject in the last 12 months. On both occasions, Minister Gesler Murry referred The DayLight to Deputy Minister Operations Emmanuel Sherman, who evaded an interview.  

Like the forestry law, the Mineral and Mining Law requires officials to not hold shares in companies that actively operating. It prescribes a fine of not more than US$25,000, a prison term of up to one year, or both upon conviction in a courthouse.  

Kruah declined an interview, the second time he has refused to speak on his connection with UFC. This month, he promised to grant an interview on the matter but—like last year—insisted he did not want the conversation recorded. This reporter rejected that suggestion, as it goes against The DayLight’s editorial policy.  

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

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).

FDA Axes Illegal Loggers and Wasteful Companies

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Top: The headquarters of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in Paynesville. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue


MONROVIA – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has banned a Turkish logging company and barred its shareholders for illegal logging activities in Liberia, the agency said in a press release on Tuesday.

The FDA said Askon Liberia General Trading Limited abused its sawmill license and extracted and exported timber. The agency said it would recommend prosecution for its owners: Hassan, Yetar and Faith Uzan.

“The permit issued required Askon to source logs from legal sources and not engage in the informal harvesting of logs,” the FDA said.  “The investigation into the whereabouts of these individuals will progress, and subsequent actions will be recommended or referred to the justice system of Liberia.”

Askon Illegal operation campsite between Ganta and Sanniquellie, Nimba County. The DayLight/Gerald C. Koinyeneh

Askon’s illegal operations were exposed by The DayLight in March.  The report said Askon ran an illegal operation in Nimba County in which it harvested and smuggled timber in containers. It named Assistant Minister of Trade Peter Somah as an accomplice.  The FDA said it took the report “seriously.”

Hasan Uzan, Askon’s majority shareholder, did not immediately respond to questions for comment on this story.

The FDA also said it took action against logging companies for stockpiling logs across the country.  Companies abandon logs when they do not attend to the woods between three weeks and six months, depending on their location, according to the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products.  

The agency announced it has suspended the harvesting certificates of Mandra Forestry, Ruby Light Forestry and Atlantic Resources. A recent report by The DayLight found Mandra abandoned some 7,000 logs from its contract with the Sewacajua Community Forest. Ruby Light Forestry, which operates in a large concession that extends to Grand Gedeh, has perhaps the largest field of abandoned logs in the country. Holding a logging concession covering Maryland, River Gee and Grand Kru, Atlantic Resources has abandoned a host of logs, including decayed ones in an open field in Greenville, Sinoe County.

This drone photo shows some of Mandra’s abandoned logs outside Greenville, Sinoe County

“This decision is prompted by the failure of these companies to honor the mandate from the FDA to enroll all logs harvested in LiberTrace,” the FDA said. LiberTrace is the system to tracks logs from their sources to final destinations.

Companies that have abandoned logs but do not have harvesting certificates will not be allowed to fell any trees until they export the wood, the FDA said.

The agency said it had initiated actions to confiscate abandoned logs. According to it, the action will deter companies from further harvesting logs without exporting them, one of the most common forestry violations today. Under the law, the FDA must petition a court to confiscate and auction abandoned logs.

“Companies in both categories, suspended certificates and otherwise, may be subject to further [penalties]…,” the FDA said.

Representatives of the three companies did not return WhatsApp messages for their sides of the story. However, in April, Augustine Johnson, Mandra’s manager, falsely argued the logs were not abandoned because they were durable, and that he had already paid the royalties on 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 at the time.

A screenshot of pictures showing decayed logs Atlantic Resources Limited harvested and kept in a log yard in Greenville, Sinoe County. The DayLight/Eric Opa Doue

In January, Massaquoi Robert, a transport supervisor of Ruby Light, too, wrongly argued that the company had abandoned no logs.

“We’re defacing the logs you see there. We have sales contracts right now,” Robert said at the time. “My logs are not rotten. You are not a logger, I say my logs are useful.”

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).

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