By Paul Kanneh
The county authority of Lofa has constituted a committee with the responsibility to monitor and investigate issues of illegal logging and mining activities in the county. The committee was constituted during the latter part of last month at the close of a stakeholder meeting held at the William V. S. Tubman City Hall in Voinjama.
The formation of the committee comes amid reports of illegal logging and mining activities that have rocked the county in recent years. Some influential sons of the county have allegedly been involved in illegally harvesting logs and mining minerals in the area. It was against this backdrop that the county authority saw it expedient to take actions that would put an end to those unwarranted acts and at the same time take actions against people that could be found culpable of wrongdoings, the county leadership said.
“Let me make it clear that it is my responsibility to ensure the interests of the government as well as the interests of the people of Lofa are protected,” Lofa County Superintendent, William Tamba Kamba, told Forest Hour, a radio talk-show, recently in Monrovia. “I think it is the purpose of setting up this committee to oversee and monitor illegal mining activities and other illegal activities.”
Kamba noted that the county central leadership has been engaging sub-county administrators, calling their attention to these illegal mining activities. It was out of these engagements that the Ministry of Internal Affairs gave him the authority to act in order to bring the situation under control.
The stakeholders’ meeting that culminated in the formation of the technical committee was a result of the Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW), and its flagship program, Forest Hour, constant reporting on illegal mining activities in Lofa.
The Radio Show was established in 2019 as part of forest sector reforms. Run by LFMW, the show’s objectives are to raise community voices at national level, ignite nationwide participation, dialogue on forest benefits, laws, policies and agreements and practices within the context of forest law enforcement, governance and trade.
The radio talk-show draws attention to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and other conditions agreed to in the Volunteer Partnership Agreement (VPA).
This technical committee is a conglomeration of all the sectors, including security, youth, women, elders, and others.
The committee comprised 3 representatives of the chiefs, 1 from the women, 2 from the youth, 1 from the disabled community, and 2 from civil society.
“The committee is charged with the responsibility to monitor all activities within the forest and report to the office of the superintendent,” Kamba disclosed. “The thrust is, we charged them with the responsibility to make a monthly report to the office of the superintendent. We do have a law in this country, and people should understand that we have a law in this country, and everyone should operate within the confines of the law.”
The committee is charged with the responsibility of establishing the legitimacy of companies that are engaged in logging and mining and are operating across the county.
“If the committee finds out that anyone violates the law, the committee will apprehend him/her to bear the full weight of the law,” the Lofa Superintendent said. “We are also aware that there is a regulatory body responsible for issuing licenses to miners, and if we notice that someone is operating illegally, thus undermining government revenue generation, said person will be penalized in line with the law.”
He indicated that violators, who have been operating illegally, will be turned over to the Ministry of Mines and Energy to pay retroactively what they have been owed through their dubious actions.
Kamba disclosed that a retreat amongst the commissioners to have discussion around this committee will be held soon. This committee was set up to help the county authorities and will help us to erase the perception that we cannot implement our law,” he said. “I would like to close with a signal to those coming into Lofa to be aware of how vigilant we are now in monitoring illegal mining and logging activities. So, I am asking them to go through the legal process before entering Lofa.”