Liberia: Rep. Fallah in illegal Logging?

Map of the area the timbers being harvested.

 Paul M. Kanneh (

What appears to be an illegal large-scale chainsaw timber extraction is threatening the proposed Foya Protected Area in Western Lofa, environmentalists have alarmed.

Also threatened by the company’s activities is the Yandohun mini-hydro power plant, which has been providing 24-hour electricity to Yandohun town and other adjacent communities. The timber harvest is reportedly being conducted by the Desire Construction Company, a local construction contractor with headquarters in Johnsonville, Montserrado County.

The company is reportedly owned by Montserrado County District #5 representative, Thomas P. Fallah. However, the lawmaker did not respond to calls and text messages, on his mobile and WhatsApp numbers.  Six towns, Kamatahun, Fokolahun, Yengema, Yalahun, Seghbema, and Ngombu in Hassala Clan, Wanhassa District are the communities affected by the massive timber extraction.

The chainsaw logging activities began in October 2021, following an early visit to the community by Montserrado County Electoral District # 13 Representative Thomas P. Fallah. During said visit, Representative Fallah, who is also the Chairman of the committee on Ways, Means and Finance at the Lower House, made a cash donation of $5 million Liberian dollars for youth empowerment and renovation of the community school located in Kamatahun town.  

However, town Chief, Arma Kamara, says there is no formal contract between the company and the community. “The company was introduced to us by one of our sons.” Amara M. Kamara is a senior official of the government assigned at the Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA). Prior to his current portfolio, Mr. Kamara worked for Representative Thomas P. Fallah as office staff.

“The lights were provided through the instrumentality of the sons of Kamatahun, who are in government,” he said. “As sons of the community, they are in negotiation with a construction company working in Foya to do some minor repairs on the community road. A pit-sawing group does not have the ability to rehabilitate roads.”

The company provided thirty pieces of solar street lights to the community as a startup benefit for the timber extraction, and is poised to rehabilitate a major road to connect affected towns to the rest of the district, residents say. The company has been harvesting 'Iroko, whilsmo, tedra, abura, and koshia tree species that are deemed high qualities in the lumber industry. Kamara however told this reporter that projects the company is shouldering are not part of the timber extraction arrangement, as being reported.

Stockpile of timbers in the fence opposite Rep. Fallah’s home.
Timbers to be picked up along the road.
Truck with timbers heading from Yengema.

An LFMW investigation uncovered that Rep. Fallah’s company, which has been paving streets in Foya, is the same company that Kamatahun has engaged for the rehabilitation of its road. The Montserrado County lawmaker has been making cash contributions in the area, including US$2,000 as a Christmas gift in 2021.   

Mr. Kamara further revealed that the timber extraction is a gentlemen's agreement between the private cocoa and coffee farm owners and the company, and that such agreement is reached on the basis of 10% commission.

In contrast, Section 6 (d) of regulation No. 115-11 of the regulation on Chain Saw Milling in Liberia states: “Any person and community having/owning land that is eligible for and or desires it to be used for chainsaw milling shall register the land area with the Authority. No chainsaw milling shall be permitted or license issued in respect of a land area that has no prior registration with the Authority”.

In an attempt to disassociate the company from the chainsaw operation in the area, Kamara disclosed that the timber extraction is being done by Light Brothers, a union of chain-sawing groups.

When contacted for comments, the leadership of Light Brothers could neither deny nor confirm that they are involved in the chainsaw operation in the area. But an official of the Light Brothers, who requested anonymity, denied reports that   the Desire Construction Company is working under the auspices of Light Brothers, adding that the current pit-sawing activities in Kamatahun is not a work of Light Brothers.

Every week, six trucks (each carrying 200 pieces of timber) transport the timbers from the community to Monrovia, a source told LFMW. “The timber is then delivered to and deposited in a large fence in Johnsonville, opposite the private home of Representative Thomas Fallah,” he said.  

Residents and traditional chiefs have begun to express concerns over the environmental impacts the company’s operation might cause in the area. They  expressed fear of serious environmental consequences if swift intervention is not made to halt the situation. 

Angry youth of Yandohun town, a nearby community with a hydro power station that provides 24-hours electricity to residents, have halted the company’s operations in their area. The youth had earlier seized 5 chainsaw machines before ordering operators to vacate their forest.

The young people said that their actions were based on the threat the chainsaw logging operation poses to the hydro power station, which was rehabilitated by the World Bank and the Liberia Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (RREA) in 2014. 

Reading University of the United Kingdom, in partnership with the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), have been supporting the people of Hassala Clan, which hosts the hydro, to develop a land use plan. Funding for the initiative has been provided by Sustainable Trade Initiative, also known as IDH. 

Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, IDH Country Manager and a globally recognized environmentalist and human rights defender, described the company’s operation as disturbing. 

“This is a disturbing development. We have a contract with the government to support the community to implement its land use plan, improve forest management in the area and support local livelihood development. This chainsaw operation could destroy the forest we are supporting the community to manage better,” Siakor said.  

FDA local office in Voinjama said it is not aware of any arrangement that granted the Desire Construction Company the right to harvest timbers in the area. Ben Miller, FDA Regional Secretary to Region 2 (Bong, Lofa and Margibi Counties) said in an interview that he has only been seeing trucks transporting large volume of timbers to Monrovia, but is not aware as to who is directly involved in the timber harvest and how the contract was awarded.  

Section 10 (b) of the Chainsaw milling regulation says:  “Prior to commencing any chain sawing operation in Liberia, each chainsawer whether individual or business entity, shall apply to the Authority for a permit.”

Ben says his office has no record of Desire Construction Company, and cannot say anything further.

“I don’t have any information about this company. All I can see are trucks with huge timbers going to Monrovia”, Miller disclosed. According to him, he has reported the matter to the Deputy Managing Director for Administration at FDA, who has promised to dispatch an assessment team to the area.   

Checkpoint officials along the Lofa road corridor say the operators of the trucks often tell them that the timbers belong to Representative Thomas P. Fallah. Additionally, multiple sources, including staff who requested not to be named, have confirmed that Representative Thomas P. Fallah is the owner of the Desire Construction Company. 

The FDA’s Agent at the Voinjama Checkpoint confirmed that he has been charging and collecting bills from the company in fulfillment of the FDA’s regulation. But he says he has no idea who owns the company or who is conducting the massive chain sawing operations. Eric Kamara is the closest FDA’s Agent to the affected community. As FDA’s closest Agent to the affected community, Eric says he cannot explain much about the timber extraction because he does not have the relevant information. 

The leadership of the Liberia Chainsaw Milling and Dealers Union says the union got a tip off of the timber operations, and is closely monitoring the situation-as it does not have detailed information on how the company acquired license/permit to operate as Chainsaw group.

“We have no record of Desire Construction Company being in our registry or database of chainsawers”, the Chairman of the Liberia Chainsaw Milling and Dealers Union, Julius Momolu Kamara, said. 

In November 2021 at COP 26 in Glasgow, President George Manneh Weah called for fair and equitable distribution of climate financing. He lamented that countries with rich forest and biodiversity are the ones benefiting the least from the existing solutions and financial arrangements intended to tackle climate change. 

Although President Weah wants more financial support to countries with rich forests, there are concerns that his government is doing very little to address forest illegalities such as the illegal timber extraction being carried out by the representative.