.... Zelemen asserts that although the government was supposed to pay them US$5 million from the budget for 2022, it never did. "We need our compensation. Our people are impacted by these corporations every day, and the only way to provide us with any respite is by giving us our share. Therefore, we want our benefit.”
Communities affected by logging concessions across Liberia have staged a protest in demand of over US$5 million in land rental the government of Liberia owed them, the second year in a row for such demonstration.
The protesters gathered before the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with placards bearing, ‘pay us our benefits’, if you don’t pay us we will not vote for you in 2023.
The group consisted of the leaders of logging-affected towns and villages under the banner, of the National Union of Community Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC). By law, 30 percent of land rental fees the government collects from companies should go to communities.
The fee is calculated as the product of the total size of the concession, US$2.50 for large-scale forest management contracts (FMCs), and US$1.25 for small timber sale contracts (TSCs). However, that has not been the case since 2017.
“Our people are affected everyday by these companies and the only way to give us some relief is by paying us our percentage. So we demand our benefit, ” said Andrew Zelemen, the national facilitator of the NUCFDC.
He added that the protest would continue if the government fails to provide the money allotted in the budget is not paid by the end of the year. Zelemen promised that they would keep meeting at the Ministry of fiancé until I was done to alleviate their situation. “We will not leave this place, we will be here every day until our demands are met.”
Additionally, the group intends to petition various embassies near Monrovia for their intervention, while they are engaging the government. “Pay us the 2.7 million you owe us, that’s our simple message.”
Zelemen asserts that although the government was supposed to pay them US$5 million from the budget for 2022, it never did. "We need our compensation. Our people are impacted by these corporations every day, and the only way to provide us with any respite is by giving us our share. Therefore, we want our benefit.”
According to NUCFDC head of secretariat Andrew, this is a violation of the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006, which mandates it to transfer 30 percent of land rental fees logging companies pay to communities for development purposes. Those debts amounted to US$5.5 million between 2007 and 2019, according to a report by Forest Trends, an American NGO promoting sustainable forest management.
Last year, the government paid US$200,000 after the communities protested. It allotted US$2.7 million in the current National Budget for the payment but with barely three months before the end of the fiscal term, it has only paid US$500,000.
Janga Kowo, the Comptroller General of Liberia, said on OK FM Thursday that the government would pay another US$1.5 million. NUCFDC represents logging communities from Lofa, Gbarpolu, River Cess, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, River Gee, Grand Kru, and Maryland. Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu counties complete the list.