Liberia: Court Rules In Nimba County Forest Saga

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Sanniquellie – The Circuit court in Sanniquellie, Nimba County has handed down its verdict in favor of Liberia Tree and Trading Company (LTTC) and its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ricks Toweh, a former lawmaker of District No. 6.

The LTTC is a legal logging company that has been operating in the Doru Chiefdom for nine (9) years.

FrontPage Africa recently reported that residents of Doru Chiefdom in Nimba County accused Toweh’s company (LTTC),  of refusing to pay an amount of US$800.000 (Eight hundred thousand United States dollars) as part of agreement entered into with the community.

FrontPage Africa publication was based on documents obtained from one of the sons of Doru Chiefdom Cisco Gborto who sued LTTC on grounds that the company owed the people of the Doru Chiefdom said amount.

However, in the final ruling handed down by Judge James N. Gilayeneh assigned circuit judge presiding, judge Gilayeneh ruled that Gborto was not the right person to take any legal action against the company. 

Gborto said he filed the lawsuit against the company in his capacity as official representation of the Doru Chiefdom. However, a FrontPage Africa investigation revealed that he (Gborto) had been dismissed by the chiefs and elders of the district for criminal reasons.

The Circuit court in Sanniquellie, Nimba County ruling determined that Gborto lacks the capacity to sue the company on the chiefdom’s behalf: “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing laws, facts and documents, it is the ruling and judgment of this court that this lacks jurisdiction over their case because, first the petitioner lacked the capacity to sue(referring to Gborto) at the time  the petition was filed and secondly, because it lacks  jurisdiction over the subject matter in that arbitration is premature and has  not been invoked in keeping with  the relevant laws controlling,” the court’s document noted.

The lawsuit was dismissed due to the lack of jurisdiction in the court and the parties ordered to return to status quo ante as though this action was never filed.

For the sake of clarify, the court determined that the community  Assembly and its Executive Committee represented by its chairman, Mr. James T. Tiah remain the proper and only legal authority pf the Doru Community Forest. 

The court also declared that Mr. Gborto remains dismissed  until otherwise declared by the proper forum and the LTTC remains the concessionaire, subject to the terms of the Agreement with the Doru Community.

It can be recalled in 2010, the LTTC and the people of Doru Chiefdom, through the Chiefdom’s Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) entered into a community forest agreement for the duration of 25 years.

It was agreed that logging operations upon the signing of all relevant documents with the land government agencies and the issuance of logging permit by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in keeping with the community rights law of 2009, the LTTC shall pay US$2.50 per hectare annually to the Doru Chiefdom representing land rental for the use of the 36,700 forest land.

The document mandates the LTTC to construct one clinic and a school—elementary and a high school—for the community at an estimated cost of US$85,000. It also demands the company to construct a second clinic after six years of operations.

According to an official from LTTC, Madam Yonyon Johnson Toweh, Gboto, prior to going into court received materials for the construction of a number of hand pumps for the community. “But he Gboto took constructed one of the pumps in front of his house to the chiefdom and constructed another one near Debois’s house.

“More to that we have constructed two schools which are about to be completed, after the town people realized that Gborto and Debois had received the money and did not report to them, they asked him to account. Gborto could not. This led the Chiefs and citizens to dismiss him. That he was corrupt and could not account for money given to them by LTTC.” She told FrontPage Africa

She furthered stated that, “On the US$50,000(fifty thousand USD), when we realized that there was confusion, we gave the money to Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to better deal with the issue.  After the confusion was resolved, FDA made the payment to the Chiefdom without Gborto’s involvement,” she said.

She added that the company paid about US$100.000(One hundred thousand United States dollars) into Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) account as part of the government’s revenue.

Due to what the elders called Gboto’s alleged act of corruption, they have issued a public service announcement for the public not to transact any business with him.

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