Several former managers of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) on trial for illegally issuing sixty-one (61) Private Use Permits (PUPs) in the amount of US$6M were last Tuesday linked to “forging signatures” on the community land deeds that authorized logging companies to operate on 2.5 million hectares of farmland throughout the country.
Thomas Doe Nah, a member of the Presidential Special Independent Investigation Body (SIIB), testified that representatives of the communities informed the SIIB that they did not know how the FDA awarded their lands to the companies for logging activities.
It was based on a recommendation from the SIIB that the government dismissed and charged Moses Wogbeh, former managing director of the FDA, and three other managers and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy.
The government is prosecuting them at Criminal Court ‘C,’ on multiple crimes including economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, forgery and counterfeiting, obtaining and issuance of deceptive writings, obstruction of government functions by public servants.
The defendants denied the charges when they were first arraigned before Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh
Nah, who is the prosecution’s second witness and executive director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability of Liberia, a civil society group, alleged that the defendants did not get the approval of the land owners before awarding the contract to the logging companies to do business with the PUPs.
“We conducted our investigation with those victimized communities about the FDA management’s handling of the PUPs, and they told us that they were not consulted and did not sign any deeds for companies to use their lands for logging purposes,” he explained.
“We also found out that the signatures on the deeds believed to be those of the communities were forged by the defendants,” he added.
Furthermore in his testimony, the witness named several communities in five of the 15 counties, whose signatures were allegedly forged on their land deeds by the defendants.
“We met with the effected communities in Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Grand Kru, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh and during our investigation they told us they were not consulted and did not give their land deeds to the FDA,” said Nah.
Nah said representatives of the various communities told the SIIB that they did not know the terms and conditions of the PUP agreements between the FDA management and the logging companies.
According to him, most of the communities they visited said they did not even know whether their lands have deeds.
Concluding, Nah revealed that confirmation was also received from the FDA regional director that the verification memorandum which authorized the companies to operate in the communities was falsified and did not represent FDA interaction with the land owners.
The case continues.