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Tag: Iroko Timber Logging Corporation

Barred, Broke Company Abandons Hundreds of Logs in Sinoe

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Top: Iroko transferred most of the abandoned logs in February this year, one year and four months after they were harvested in the Central Dugbe River Community Forest. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

By Matenneh Keita and Esau J. Farr

KARQUEKPO, Sinoe County – In 2022, Timothy Odebunmi, joined two other Nigerian businessmen to establish Iroko Timber Logging Corporation in July 2021. Odebunmi has 50 percent shares, Samson Odebunmi, his relative, 45 percent, and Akinsiku Arinkan five percent.

The following year, Iroko signed a contract with the Central River Dugbe Community Forest. By October, it began harvesting logs in the 13,193-hectare woodland in Sinoe’s Jaedae District near the Grand Kru border.

Two years on, Iroko has not exported the logs, a violation of the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products.

It is unclear how many logs Iroko has felled. The FDA record shows 523 logs. However, Bartee Togba, the head of Central River Dugbe leadership, puts the number to about 700. Videos posted to Iroko’s Facebook page in July last year show workers hauling logs with an earthmover.

Under the regulation, logs are abandoned when unattended between 15 and 180 working days after felling, depending on their location.  

The DayLight videotaped hundreds of logs on an open field in Dioh’s Town on the Greenville-Karquekpo route. Sources, including residents of that community, said the logs were only transferred there in February this year.

A screenshot of Iroko’s website shows the logs were harvested before or in October, nearly more than three times the legal time frame for a log anywhere to be abandoned.

Togba said some of the logs were still in the forest and wanted to document them. “I’m going to put the forest guards together… to carry them in the forest and record all of [that] information on those abandoned logs,” Togba said in an interview at his house in Karquekpo. He did not return queries on his findings after the interview despite repeated phone conversations.

The FDA has taken no concrete steps to deter Iroko or any other company from abandoning logs, now a sector normal. Between 2020 and 2023, Managing Director Mike Doryen made several pronouncements,  including a public announcement in November last year, but never acted. Recently, current Managing Director Rudolph Merab toured the southeast, highlighting the issue but has done nothing more.

The FDA record shows that the agency approved Iroko’s permit to export 349 logs this May, something Iroko said it was “finalizing” soon. However, in an interview with The DayLight, William Pewu, FDA’s technical manager for community forestry, said the regulator would investigate.

“If Iroko has abandoned logs or woods, we are not aware of that,” Pewu said. “We have to first of all validate whether the information we are getting [is authentic]. We have to do a follow-up.”

Pewu’s assertion of being unaware of Iroko’s abandoned log situation is not backed by facts. The DayLight published an investigation on the issue more than a year ago. The FDA did not return questions the newspaper asked regarding Iroko at the time.

An elevated view of Iroko’s log yard with a solitary earthmover and a makeshift security booth. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

The FDA must investigate a piece of abandoned log information, according to the regulation, and publish its findings. The regulation further mandates the agency to seize and auction said logs with a court warrant, following several public notices. Penalties for the offense include fines and contract forfeiture. 


Iroko’s struggles suggest it cannot conduct logging activities in Central River Dugbe.

It claims it owns eight earthmovers and leases nine others, according to one official document. However, it has been seen with only a few equipment in the last three years. An old machine at the log yard and two in Polay Town, one of the eight communities that own the forest.

The document shows Iroko targets 100,000 hectares of forests in the region in 15 years but it has grappled to manage just 13,193 hectares in three.   

Iroko plans to run a centralized log yard near Greenville, from where it would produce about 50,000 cubic meters of logs each harvesting season. Yet, its current log yard is smaller than a football pitch. Reporters did not have to fly a drone high to capture all of the logs, a solitary earthmover and a makeshift security booth last month.

Togba said Iroko’s capacity troubles were glaring. He said the company had been “[overvalued],” accusing the FDA of not assessing Iroko’s financial and logistical capacities.

“The law says before FDA gives the company permit…, they should first of all view their equipment.  They must know the company has an equipment that is up to standard but these things were not done,” Togba said.

Two Iroko machines in Polay Town, Sinoe County in 2023. The DayLight/James Giahyue

“What I suspect in their operation is there is no active equipment. Looking at the poor arrangement based on the equipment that brought all of that mess, the company doesn’t have the financial capability to operate,” Togba added.

Official documents appear to support Togba’s comments. It took Iroko barely two weeks to get prequalified for logging in Liberia. It registered as the company on July 7, 2021, and was prequalified on July 23, 2021, according to its article of incorporation and prequalification certificate.

Iroko’s situation mirrors that of Akewa Group of Companies, another Nigerian firm in which Odebunmi has 20 percent shares. Beginning in 2008, Akewa failed to live up to each one of its four contracts in Grand Bassa, Margibi and Grand Cape Mount. It is locked in an arbitration proceeding with the Margibi community over locals’ forest benefits.

Iroko dismisses indications of its capacity issues. “We are a business entity and we work with positives and challenges of the business environment,” Iroko said in emailed responses to The DayLight’s queries. It would not make specific comments on challenges.

‘Null and void’

The FDA could have prevented the situation had it disapproved of Iroko’s contract, due to Odebunmi’s shares in Akewa. Back in 2019, Akewa was fined US$1,000 forging another company’s tax clearance to acquire a contract in Grand Cape Mount County.

Approving the Iroko-Central-River-Dugbe contract—with Odebunmi as a shareholder—violates the Regulation on Bidder Qualifications. The regulation debars shareholders of companies that commit any acts of public dishonesty for five years. Only three years had passed when the FDA approved Iroko’s contract.

Iroko said Odebunmi was unaware of his shares in Akewa and “has never signed any document to that effect.” It said Odebunmi did not know of Akewa’s tax fraud.

But those statements are not backed by facts. Odebunmi has owned a fifth of Akewa’s shares since 2010, through two amendments, Akewa’s legal documents show. A recent review of the forestry sector by the U.S.-based Forest Trends also captures Odebunmi as an Akewa shareholder.

Speaking on its illegal approval of Iroko’s contract, the FDA said it did not have a list of debarred companies and individuals, and that it needed a court action to enforce debarment. The FDA further said it could not enforce the qualification regulation because Iroko did not bid for Central River Dugbe. Like Iroko’s, the FDA’s assertions are not backed by facts.

Up: A page from Akewa’s article of incorporation shows Timothy Odebunmi as a 20-percent shareholder in the company. Here: A page from Iroko’s legal documents reveals Timothy Odebunmi as a 50-percent shareholder.

Though the qualification regulation mandates the FDA to form a list of debarred persons, other provisions on eligibility are not subject to the list. For instance, the Yes-or-No Prequalification Criteria requires a firm seeking prequalification not to have any shareholders connected to forgery.

The FDA’s claim that it could not apply the regulation because Iroko was not bidding for a contract contradicts its actions. The qualification regulation does not only cover bidding. It also contains requirements for the rights to conduct forestry activities in Liberia.

Moreover, the FDA applied such a provision by warning Iroko against perjury, which has nothing to do with the debarment list.

“Any statement made under oath to the panel that is found to be false renders this certificate null and void,” Iroko’s prequalification certificate reads. The three-year document will expire later this month.  

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

New Contract for Rogue Company’s Owner


Top: A collage showing Iroko harvesting activities in October 2022. Picture credit: Iroko Timber and Logging Corporation

By Emmanuel Sherman

KARQUEKPO, Sinoe County – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has approved a contract for Iroko Timber and Logging Corporation, a new Nigerian-owned company, to operate the Central Dugbe River Community Forest. The company began logging in the fourth quarter of last year, according to its website and Facebook page.  

But there is a problem with Iroko’s Dugbe River deal and operations in the 13,193-hectare forest. Timothy Odebunmi, Iroko’s majority shareholder, is not eligible to conduct logging activities in Liberia over the dishonesty of another company he co-owns.

That firm, Akewa Group of Companies, falsified the tax clearance of a mining company called Tiger Quarry to bid for the Gola Konneh Community Forest in Grand Cape Mount County in 2019. At the time, Akewa paid US$1,000 as a fine for the forgery, a violation of the Revenue Code. Odebunmi holds 50 percent of Iroko’s shares and 20 percent of Akewa’s, according to the articles of incorporation of both firms at the Liberia Business Registry. Iroko’s other shareholders are Samson Odebunmi (45 percent) and Akinsiku Arinkan (5 percent).  Abigail Funke Odebunmi (60 percent) and Kenneth Amazeika (20 percent) complete the list of Akewa’s shareholders.

Odebunmi’s co-ownership of Akewa, Iroko, which he co-founded in 2021, should have disqualified the Iroko’s bid for Central Dugbe River. The Regulation on Bidders Qualifications bars individuals whose companies have been convicted or penalized for theft, embezzlement, bribery, tax evasion, false swearing, or forgery. With Akewa having paid a fine for forgery, Odebunmi should not have gotten another logging contract until 2024, according to the regulation.

Akewa with Odebunmi as a shareholder has violated a horde of provisions of forestry laws and regulations. One of the oldest active logging companies, Akewa long line of violations includes its involvement in forestry’s worst post-conflict scandal, in which the FDA criminally awarded 2.5 million hectares of forests to it and other companies. It has a track record of prolonged indebtedness to communities. Currently, it is in an out-of-court settlement with the Beyan Poye Community Forest regarding benefits.

Iroko’s Woes Amid FDA’s Failure

Iroko’s agreement with Central Dugbe River adds to the FDA’s records of failure to enforce forestry legal frameworks. Before then, the FDA had failed to disqualify Akewa over fake tax clearance, which also constitutes perjury under the regulation. It remains Akewa’s only active logging operation, with the Beyan Poye legal issues and the cancelation of a logging contract the company illegally held in Grand Bassa County.

“We prevented Akewa from doing further business until they could provide [their] tax clearance,” said Managing Director Mike Doryen in an interview with The DayLight in June last year. “They rectified it and they paid a fine and that’s how we resumed business with them.” The Bidders Qualification Regulation requires the FDA to disqualify companies that commit forgery and perjury. It did not respond to emailed inquiries for comments.  

A screenshot of Iroko’s website page showing logs the company harvested in October 2022 and only transported to another location in February

Assessing the qualification of companies is an important provision of forest management in Liberia. It mandates the FDA to investigate the character of companies and individuals, their financial capacities, and their record of legal compliance.

Iroko’s ineligibility has started to show in its operation. It has abandoned an unspecified number of logs it harvested in October last year. Photographs and a video posted to the company’s website and Facebook page show some of the logs in the forest. Akin George, a representative of the company, confirmed the harvesting in a mobile interview in March.

Logs do not remain where they were harvested for more than one month and two weeks upon harvest, according to the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products. The logs in question have remained in the forest far beyond that statutory period.

George said the company was taking the logs from where they were harvested to another location in the forest. Bartee Togba, the head of the Central Dugbe River’s leadership, said the same. Togba said Iroko began to transfer the logs in late February, some four months after it felled the trees.  The forest is a portion of 39,000 hectares and includes a proposed protected area between Grand Kru and Sinoe.  

The Dugbe River Community Forest map. Credit: Forestry Development Authority (FDA)

Iroko’s logs add to thousands of abandoned logs across the country, with the FDA taking no known public actions. The abandoned logs regulation mandates the agency to investigate, seize the logs and petition a court to auction them. Penalties for the offense include fines and forfeiture of the contract.  

The total volume of the logs,  in question, is essential for Iroko to pay the community’s benefits. Last year April, the community signed a 15-year commercial use contract with Iroko Timber Logging Corporation. It promised to build two elementary schools, handpumps, guesthouses and a clinic.

Efforts to establish contact with Timothy Odebunmi did not materialize. There is no trace of his phone number, email address or WhatsApp. In January, George promised to get Timothy Odebunmi to speak to the issue but failed to do so.

George evaded several attempts for an interview on the situation on behalf of the company. The DayLight reached out to George through phone calls and Facebook messages and WhatsApp text messages but to no avail.

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