8 February 2013

Liberia: Pres. Sirleaf Hailed for Executive Order Number 44

In spite of the moratorium on Private Use Permits (PUP) to protect the nation's forests, the Assistant Managing Director for Administration and Finance at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Mr. P. Emmanuel Munyeneh has commended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the imposition of Executive Order #44 which he believes would help the process to reform the forestry sector.

Assistant Director Munyeneh's comment came as a backdrop of recent time, which the FDA has been under the spotlight on the illegal issuance of PUPs.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Munyeneh yesterday, he told the INQUIRER that in spite of the current PUP saga, the FDA is making progress towards improving the sector.

According to him, the World Bank has approved a US$3.6m grant under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) intended to do a scoping analysis on the possibility of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

This project, Assistant Director Munyeneh told our reporter that it will lead to job creation which is one of the pillars of the government's development agenda. He added that the fully actualized, REDD will reduce the commercialization of forest while at the same time providing alternative livelihood for surrounding communities.

"The FDA will soon benefit from a 17.5m under the EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement, Forestry Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) framework," Mr. Munyeneh disclosed. He explained that the process involves the traceability of timber from the source, ensuring that it complies with international best practices.

When fully implemented, the Assistant Managing Director said about hundreds of jobs will also be created for Liberians, especially for those in the forestry sector. He said the Volunteer Partnership Agreement (VPA) is now before the national Legislature for ratification.

He said the FDA was doing well in preventing hunting for 'bush meat' and other endangered species. Mr. Munyeneh also congratulated President Sirleaf for putting forth the Forestry Wildlife law to the national legislature for ratification. He believes once the law has been ratified, more actions will be taken to mitigate or reduce the 'bush meat' hunting.

The FDA Executive however thanked the donor community for their continuous engagement in the forestry sector, especially USAID, and the EU and other NGOs such as FFI for their tireless efforts.

It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday, January 4, issued, with immediate effect, Executive Order No. 44, on protecting Liberian Forests by a temporary moratorium on Private Use Permits (PUPs).

According to an Executive Mansion release, Executive Order No. 44 states, in its operative paragraphs: A moratorium on the issuance of PUPs is in force and activities involving or related to the felling or export of logs under any PUPs granted, authorized or approved by the Forestry Development Authority is suspended.

That this moratorium applies to all individuals, communities, groups, and associations who are holders of PUPs; that this moratorium applies also to all logging activities of any person, whether natural or juridical, who holds a PUP and operates in Liberia under any other logging license.

That the relevant ministries and agencies of Government shall take appropriate actions to remedy the situation through criminal prosecutions, review of the relevant legal and regulatory framework, validation of deeds, audit of the Forestry Development Authority, public sensitization, and such other necessary measures.

The Executive Order says the moratorium shall remain in effect until otherwise lifted. Citing the reasons for declaring the moratorium, President Sirleaf stated in the Executive Order, that while the forests are part of Liberia's natural heritage that exist for the benefit of its people, there had been allegations of misrepresentations and abuses in implementing the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006, in which provision is made for PUPs which allows landowners who have forest resources on their land to apply for such permits.

Based on these allegations, the Government had established a Special Independent Investigating Body (SIIB) in August 2012, to conduct a comprehensive review of the issuance of PUPs. The report issued by the Special Independent Investigating Body revealed that there have been massive fraud, misrepresentations, abuses and violations of the National Forestry Reform Law in the issuance of PUPs to the extent that this inter-generational asset has been severely threatened.

The Executive Order states that because the mismanagement of the PUPs poses a threat to the efficient, effective, and sustainable management of the country's forests, it is imperative to impose a moratorium to protect the national interest.

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