Members of the Senate were outraged yesterday after a communication from River Cess County accusing logging companies of illegal logging there was read before that body.
In his communication dated April 12, Senator Francis Paye informed his colleagues of the expiration of agreements entered into with the Liberian government, some three years ago, by few logging companies currently operating in his county.
However, Senator Paye raised concern that the said companies, which he did not name, are still carrying on logging, which he said is in “flagrant violation of the Concessions and Investment Laws without the thought towards ratifying said agreements. We consider the act as total defiance of the laws and cannot now and hereafter allow such illegal operations to continue without appropriate legal steps followed.”
The Rivercess Lawmaker requested the Senate plenary to invite Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Managing Director, Harrison S. Karnwea, before that body to provide all information relative to the alleged illegal operations of logging companies in River Cess.
Buttressing Senator Paye’s letter, Grand Kru County Senator Peter Coleman said that in consonance with the new Forestry Law, there is always an attached social agreement which gives the communities certain benefits. He maintained that concession agreements are tied to the conclusion of social agreements by the logging company in the communities where logging activities are carried out.
Quoting the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in line with the European Union, Senator Coleman noted that no log can be shipped, especially to Europe, if there is not an attached signed social agreement between the logging company and the community.
“I am perplexed by the fact that these logging companies in Rivercess still continue to ship logs when their social agreement have expired. That is in contravention of the new Forestry Law and I think the FDA that monitors these things as an entity of the government must be called to answer these questions,” said Sen. Coleman.
A majority of the Senators agreed with Senator Coleman, but others blamed the loggers’ alleged violations on the poor oversight by committees responsible to monitor and ensure compliance.
For his part, Rivercess Senator Dallas A. V. Gueh recalled communicating to the Senate about the need to review all concessions in the country, “taking into consideration that Rivercess is disenfranchised from all of its due benefits. These concessionaires operating in the county have gone more than five years without revision of their contracts; without entering into new social agreements; yet they are exporting logs through the Port of Buchanan in contravention of the Liberian and European Union laws.”
Following a lengthy debate, a unanimous vote decided to send the communication to the committees on Concessions and Investment; Forestry and Agriculture; and Judiciary, with the mandate that they meet with the relevant government agencies, especially the FDA, and report to plenary in two weeks for further action.