first_imgSeveral 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. GbenewelehNah, 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.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

first_imgThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning persons to desist from dumping waste irresponsibly as this can lead to imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000.In an interview with this publication on Tuesday, Environmental Officer Candacie Thompson zeroed in on mechanics and explained that complaints have been received in the past of these persons dumping waste oil in dangerous ways. She reminded that mechanic shops are required to be authorised by the EPA as she appealed to these shop owners to desist from dumping hazardous waste in ways which could cause damage to the soil and even pose danger to human and possibly marine health.Waste oil dumped carelessly outside a mechanic shop on the East Bank of DemeraraAnother officer, Jasmine Adams, told this publication that persons can be fined up to $100,000 for breaking these laws. She explained, “We have regulations which are basically laws that have to be followed as it relates to waste management and their penalties for disobedience of those laws so littering of a public place there is a fine of $50,000 per person and $100,000 for a business”.It was noted that the EPA usually issues a citation order for clean-up or litter removals to be conducted. If the defendant defies this order, he/she is then taken before the courts.The clean-up order is different from the litter removal order in that two days and 14 days are granted respectively. These orders are issued based on the severity of the situation at hand. But irrespective of these timelines, an officer from the agency will visit the reported location to conduct checks to see whether the order was respected or not.“If you do not then you violate the citation order which is a legal document and it immediately becomes a court situation,” Adams noted.This process, according to her, requires witnesses and evidence, meaning that citizens will not be charged if caught in the act.Instead, a complaint would have to be filed after which an officer will visit the location to investigate. This would see persons in the area being interviewed and the delinquent would even be questioned for the agency to understand why the unlawful activity is being conducted and how often, among others.Subsequent to this investigation, a report would be submitted to the executives, who will determine the way forward.The officer pointed out, “Waste oil is considered a hazardous waste and you have the natural effects whereby you’d have rainfall and the oil would be washed into the drains and it would cause clogging, it would cause pest infestation because mosquitoes and stuff like that dwell where oil is. It does make for a very unsightly environment and it contaminates the waterways and so on”.Adams said that while such complaints are made frequently to the EPA, respondents are usually compliant as they fear being hauled before the courts. She, nevertheless, reported that the agency has seen repeat offenders before. In such cases, the fine is either doubled or tripled “depending on the level of disrespect”. Further, a person can be jailed for three to six months for such offences.last_img read more