26 November 2012

Liberia: Welcoming the Court's Decision


The Injunction Placed on the operations of the holders of the Private Use Permit (PUPs) involved in logging activities in Liberia has been lifted by the Civil Law Court. The court took the decision after it carefully reviewed the petition and the returns filed by both parties and determined that it was prudent to lift the embargo.

The Ban Was imposed based on a Petition for Declaratory Judgment filed by the Liberian government by and thru its legal arm, the Ministry of Justice, alleging tax frauds, tax evasion, and other violations in the sector. Based on these violations coupled with the confusion that had engulfed the logging industry, the Justice Ministry requested the court to restrain the activities of all holders of PUPs who are involved in the logging industrial.

Not Satisfied With the Justice Ministry's petition, the logging companies filed a Motion to Vacate, questioning the legal standing or legal capacity of the Liberian government to sue on behalf of the communities who are holders of PUPs.

In Their Returns, the logging companies also moved the court to dismiss the petition filed by the Liberian government, arguing that the non payment of taxes, tax fraud as alleged by the Ministry of Justice, are not cognizable before the Civil Law Court but rather the Tax Court of Liberia.

This Issue Has attracted international attention, especially with regard to the manner in which the forests of Liberia are being managed. The international Watchdog, Global Witness raised concern that if serious attention is not paid to the sustainability of the forest, a significant portion would be destroyed.

We Believe That critical issues surrounding the forest should be adjudicated by the court so that confusion over legality and control be resolved.

Some Of The complex issues have got to do with communities giving rights to concessions to operate in their areas without government exercising control, except for taxes and fees.

We Hold The view that our courts should determine vetting procedures in the acquisition of forest areas to logging companies as a way of avoiding confusion over longstanding issues.

While We Acknowledge authority of government in the management and control of the forest, however, we think that a defined policy on logging activities issues to differentiate between private land and government owned should be defined.

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