The Forestry Development Authority or FDA, has with immediate effect ordered the Liberian Hardwood Corporation (LHC) to haltfelling of logs in Bloquiah forest, Gboe Chiefdom, Grand Gedeh County until all other logs at its lining bays are exported. The LHC is a subsidiary of A&M, otherwise known as Aissha and Musta Enterprise.
FDA Deputy Managing Director for Operations, DarlingtionTuagbeh gave the order during a mass meeting on 26 April 2016 in Zean Town, Gboe Chiefdom, Gbarzon Statutory District, GrandGedeh.
The meeting was part of a fact-finding mission led by the FDA Deputy boss. The event, which was attended by county and LHC officials, including citizens of the Chiefdom, was intended to allow FDA ascertains allegations of inhumane treatment by the company and its alleged refusal to uphold social agreement signed with the locals in 2011.
In March and April 2016, the affected communities filed several complaints to the county leadership and petitioned their Representative, Alex Chersia Grant. In these complaints and petitions, the locals accused the company of failing to pay land rentals, constant abused of basic human rights, lack of will to avail needy social services (road connectivity, schools, clinics, safe drinking water and scholarships-as stipulated in the signed agreement), depleting their forest of none-marketable logs and violating Liberia’s forest laws among others. They also requested Representative Grant and the FDA to ensure LHC discontinue operations and vacate their ancestral land.
On the heels of this, Representative Grant and other members of Grand Gedeh Legislative Caucus invited FDA Managing Director, Harrison Karnwea to either give reason for its failure to exercise forest monitoring powers or look into the citizens’ allegations against Hardwood Corporation.
In response, Karnwea wrote, pleading with Representative Grant to give the FDA some time to allow him dispatch fact-finding team to the area on 26 April 2016 and subsequently report to him or the Caucus with facts on the real issue unfolding in Gboe, which was granted.
Thus, during the fact-finding meeting, citizens told sad, scaring and inhumane stories and renewed their called for Representative Grant and FDA to ensure LHC discontinues operation and vacates their ancestral land before the end of May this year.
Liberian Hardwood Corporation Operations Manager, Mohammed Youssief admitted to all the accusations levied against his company by the citizens, but attributed the situation to bad management and insincerity by his predecessors.
The admittance left the FDA Deputy Managing Director for Operations Tuagbeh with no other option, but to halt the operations of LHC until all other logs at their lining bays are exported in keeping with Liberia’s forestry law.
This pronouncement brought Mohammed Youssief to his knees, pleading for LHC to be given a second chance. Youssief assured the citizens of the company’s commitment to immediately begin upholding violated provisions of the signed agreement which compares his corporate institution to provide platform on which basic social services can reach Gboe citizens.
However, on behalf of the affected and aggrieved communities, Dennis Kai denied Youssief’s plead for a second chance on grounds that eminent citizens, including members of the Grand Gedeh Legislative Caucus have to be consulted and he was not sure they will respond in the affirmative.
For his part, Representative Alex Chersia Grant designated representative to the fact-finding mission; Rev Napoleon Z. Quiah blasted LHC for violating the rights of his kinsmen. He vowed to ensure that the company is legally sent out of Gboe forest, because it (LHC) has over the years depleted the forest of marketable logs-with no socio-economic benefit(s) to the affected communities.
Gbarzon Statutory District Superintendent, Henry Zonweay encouraged the people to serve their leaders early notice(s) on future issues of such to help achieve speedy and timely resolution. He frowned on LHC and warned against violation of Liberian laws, noting that the penalties are grieved.
Earlier, a heated debate ensued between FDA officials and Gboe people over forestry authority officials’ attempt to respond to counts, as indicated in their complaints and petition. After several minutes going back and forth on this, FDA went on to respond on behalf of LHC, promising that the company representatives at the meeting will explain in detail.