7 January 2013

Liberia: Looting At UL Forest

The President of the University of Liberia (UL) Dr. Emmet Dennis is concerned about the reported pillaging of a forest belonging to the University of Liberia in Sinoe County.

Some citizens of Sinoe County told The NEWS recently in Dugbeh River District that they are accusing the Atlantic Resources of looting the UL forest without any benefit to communities situated near the forest.

They recalled that former President Samuel K. Doe provided a primary forest to the University of Liberia.

They disclosed that the forest covers three districts including Kpanyan, Jaegde, and Jlapoda.

The Sinoe County citizens in separate interviews alleged that Atlantic Resources randomly harvested timbers from the forest and shipped huge consignments through the Port of Greenville.

In Wisseh Town, a citizen told The NEWS that Atlantic Resources fell considerable amounts of logs from the forest and added that the company also cut undersized logs.

Junior Nah disclosed that undersized logs cut by Atlantic Resources have been abandoned in the forest.

However, an investigation conducted by The NEWS established that UL is losing over US$2.5 million as proceeds from its forest as a result of the alleged seizure of the forest by Atlantic Resources.

The investigation also established that in April 2011, the University of Liberia signed an agreement with the Atlantic Resources Inc. in which the company was given permission to build a 48 km access road through the UL forest that would allow it export logs via the port of Greenville from its forest concession located behind the forest.

According to the agreement signed in April of 2011, Atlantic Resources was to pay US$500,000 advance fees to the University; 50 percent should have been paid at the signing of the agreement and the balance 50 percent within 30 days following the signing of the contract.

The contract also allocates 12 percent of the value of all logs fell and sold from the path of the road to the University of Liberia.

"Unfortunately, Atlantic Resources refused to pay the remaining 50 percent of the advance fee, citing that the Land Commission gave them authorization to harvest the forest because it did not belong to the University of Liberia," a credible source said.

The Land Commission is quoted by a report posted on line as saying that the University of Liberia forest is in dispute and is under probe by the commission.

Our sources also hinted that with the backing of some public officials, Atlantic Resources seized the forest and started pillaging it.

However, UL President Dennis, at the 92nd commencement said the University of Liberia was "indeed concerned about the probable loss of the University Forest in Sinoe both as a necessary endowment and the critical research and teaching opportunities it could provide."

Dr. Dennis pleaded with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to put a halt on the cutting of trees in the University of Liberia forest in Sinoe.

Atlantic Resources could not be reached as the phones of the company were always switched.

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