Civil Society alarmed at bill developed in secrecy to abolish land rental fees for logging companies

Date: 
Friday, September 13, 2013

MONROVIA (Liberia), September 13, 2013

Civil society call on the National Legislature and the President of the Republic of Liberia to subject the draft act to abolish annual land rental bid on forest concessions to meaningful public consultation and ensure it does not contravene any provision of the constitution. To enact this bill into law, without any meaningful public consultation, will render meaningless the progressive provisions in the Nation Forestry Reform Law of 2006 that guarantees public participation in forestry. 

The Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) and Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) say they are alarmed that the bill was developed in secrecy, in total disregard for the transparency and public participation provisions in the constitution, and the forestry law and regulations. 

The draft bill entitled “AN ACT TO ABOLISH THE PAYMENT OF ANNUAL LAND RENTAL BID PREMIUM ON CONTRACT AREA AND MERGING OF EXPORT TAXES INTO STUMPAGE/PRODUCTION FEE IN THE FORESTRY SECTOR OF THE LIBERIAN ECONOMY”, has reportedly gone through the Senate and is now with the House of Representatives. If passed into law, it will abolish the annual land rental bid premium, a significant portion of the Annual Land Rental Fees. .

“Instead of cancelling the contracts of logging companies that have violated the terms of the agreements, this proposed legislation will reward them through tax waivers amounting to millions of dollars” says Harold Aidoo of IREDD. “Euro Logging, Geblo Logging and International Consulting Capital together owe more than $30 million in unpaid taxes [1]. This proposed legislation will waive about $7 million and allow for approximately $25 million [2] to be rescheduled over a three year period”.  

While it is their constitutional mandate to enact laws for the benefit of the Liberian people, we wish to draw attention of the Honorable Liberian National Legislature that it would be best practice to amend the portions of the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006 and Community Rights Law of 2009 related to Land Rental Bid Premium, stumpage and export fees [3] in order to accommodate the passage of this act.

We also wish to state and draw attention that the Act presents two separate titles in contravention of article 38 of the 1986 Liberia Constitution which states that “no Bill or act shall embrace two titles”.
“We call on the leadership and members of the House of Representatives to ensure that this bill is not passed into law without meaningful public consultation, as it will circumvent the principles and legal requirements for transparency and public participation in natural resource governance laid down in the constitution and the forestry law,” says Julie T. B. Weah of FCI. 

The group also urged the National Civil Society Council of Liberia to take up the matter with the leadership of the Legislature.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Jonathan W. Yiah, Coordinator Sustainable Development Institute

Tel: +231(0) 0886426271, Email: jyiah[at]sdiliberia.org

NOTES:

[1] SGS. Chain of Custody Financial Update dated August 2013.
[2] SGS. Chain of Custody Financial Update dated August 2013.
[3] NFRL 2006.  Sections 5.3 (b) (vii); 5.4 (b) (vi) and 14.2 (b) (i & iii) and CRL 2009. Section 6.3 (b)