MONROVIA — The National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDCs) and the National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB), two large organizations that represent the communities in Liberia’s forests, along with the Independent Forest Monitoring Mechanism (IFMCM), have raised concerns about who the President will entrust with the FDA, the country’s forestry industry.
Andrew Y. Y. Zelemen, and Bonathan G. Walaka, head of the Secretariat/National Facilitator of the NUCFDCs and the NUCFMB, at a press conference over last weekend, want the next Managing Director should be appointed in strict adherence to the Act Creating the FDA. Section 7 of the Act stipulates that “The Managing Director shall be professionally qualified in Forestry”. Professionally qualified means possessing specialized training in specific area in a profession. There is no provision in the FDA Act that labels the post of Managing Director as a mere administrator; rather, the law calls for “high level subject matter competence”.
“At this present state of Liberia’s forestry industry, it needs someone with the necessary skills, contact, and connections both locally and internationally to turn the forestry sector around, for sustainable forest management that goes beyond mere logging,” Zelemen, who read the statement, said. “The sector is at a critical juncture, as numerous initiatives have failed to meet expectations over the past six to ten years.” The communities’ representatives noted, “We are worried about who will be the next MD because the Liberian forest sector needs someone ready and prepared to pursue the path that will address these major forest infractions, restore the lost image of the sector, and bring in more revenue.”
They want the next MD to be someone with a strong background in sustainable forest management that goes beyond mare logging. “This person should also bring a variety of experiences and expertise to the table, primarily promoting the green economy and the green revolution, which are focused on mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change,” Zelemen said.
The communities believe that when the right person is appointed, he or she will help Liberia attract more international funding to support national development initiatives and community livelihoods, thereby maintaining its green status.
“These are only possible if we have a seasoned MD who possesses all the skills required to establish the relationships and contacts with key figures in national and international organizations and the international community.”
Another issue they raised is that the next MD should be someone who has never been involved in logging activities in the country because that person will be conflicted as all of the past activities in the sector have been marred by illegality, fraud, and corruption. “We, the communities, feel that any name for appointment at the FDA must not be a person associated with the logging industry baggage. The community doesn’t think the FDA can effectively promote the goal of reviving Liberia’s forestry industry with people who worked as managers of logging companies or leaders in the private sector and didn’t comply with the minimum requirements of the forestry laws. Over the years in forestry, all that is known about the loggers is that they completely disobeyed the law,” the communities’ representatives said.
On a related note, some members of the general public are worried about one Rudolph Merab who is believed to be a pal of the President frequenting the President Boakai’s residence desperately lobbying for the job when there are many other Liberians who are adequately qualified, competent and internationally acclaimed to do the job.
Merab holds a B.Sc. degree in Physics from the University of Liberia, and once served as Director of Container Department at the National Port Authority; but was sacked for wrong doing. He has been CEO of a logging company called Liberia Wood Management Corporation (LWMC) for up to 35 years; and has been President of the Liberia Timber Association since 1991. In his capacity as President of the Liberia Timber Association, he was one of the masterminds of the corrupt and notorious PUP Saga. Unfortunately, Merab bid to head the FDA is being supported by the FDA’s former Managing Director Mike Doryen and other illegally operating Logging Companies believing they can be easily covered and protected by a fellow illegal logger whose logging company was debarred for massive irregularities.