14 January 2013

Liberia: In Vahun, Lofa County - 'Illegal' Sawing Placed On Hold

Credible reports gathered by the Independent Authoritative Heritage Newspaper say that the acting Paramount Chief of Vahun District and the Clan Chief of Lower Guma, both in Lofa County, have been suspended indefinitely. According to the information obtained by this paper recently,

both Paramount Chief Momoh Ngombu and Clan Chief Foday B. Kanneh were indefinitely suspended for their alleged roles in 'illegal' sawing activities in the Vahun.

The sources, who confided in this writer, pointed out that the two chiefs were indefinitely suspended by District Commissioner Mr. Michael Siaffa. It can be recalled that on September 26, 2012, this paper reported that some Sierra Leoneans were said to be involved in an 'illegal' sawing of planks in the Vahun.

In that story, this paper indicated that the Sierra Leoneans involved in the 'illegal' sawing of planks were supposedly given the green light by Mr. Siaffa with the acquiescence of then acting Paramount Chief Ngombu and Clan Chief Kanneh. The 'illegal' sawing of planks is reportedly occurring in Levuma and Folima Towns. Both Levuma and Folima border Sierra Leone.

The reports, obtained from highly placed sources in Vahun, disclosed that Chief Ngombu allegedly gave the Sierra Leoneans the green light to carry out the 'illegal' sawing of planks after he and them (Sierra Leoneans) entered into 'secret' contract recently.

In line with the terms of the 'secret contract', the reports averred that the Sierra Leoneans promised Chief Ngombu 6 million Leones (LD$120,000) for the entire deal. As a way of jumpstarting the deal, Chief Ngombu was allegedly given 2.5 million Leones (LD$50,000).

"This is not the first time the Sierra Leoneans have entered into such illegal sawing of planks deal with some of the local authorities. Last year, Commissioner Siaffa, acting Paramount Chief Ngombu and Clan Chief Kanneh entered into similar illegal deal with the Sierra Leoneans and they 'chopped' 6 million Leones (LD$120,000)," one of our sources preferring anonymity accentuated.

Out of the 6 million Leones, a female source hinted, Commissioner Siaffa allegedly took 3.5 million Leones (LD$70,000) for his office use. "The rest of the money was shared amongst acting Paramount Chief Ngombu, Clan Chief Kanneh and the community radio station," she stated.

However, Commissioner Siaffa last year denied knowledge of the 'illegal' sawing of planks in his district. He also rejected the reports by this paper linking him to 'illegal' sawing of planks' deal and vowed to launch a full scale investigation into the reports.

"As I speak to you, I have no knowledge of illegal logging activities in the district. In fact, I am currently in Monrovia, but I will inform the acting commissioner for an investigation to be launched into the matter," he added. For his part, Clan Chief Kanneh told this paper in Vahun that he also has no idea of Sierra Leoneans carrying out 'illegal' sawing of planks in the district.

But he was quick to point out that there is sawing of planks going on in the area. According to him, the sawing of planks is being carried out by the local authorities, including the citizens and not Sierra Leoneans. He told this paper that they are sawing planks to build their palava hut in Folima Town, Lower Guma.

However, the then acting Paramount Chief Ngombu, including authorities of the community radio station could not be reached for comments for their alleged roles in the deal. Though he could not be reached to comment on the reported suspension of the two officials, it seems that Commissioner Siaffa has completed his investigation as promised. Consequently, the two officials may have been involved with the "illegal" sawing deal.

Mr. Ngombu is said to be the younger brother of Liberia's Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Thomas N. Brima.

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