The President has dissolved the board of the FDA and threatened dismissal, suspension and prosecution of any one criminally involved in the controversial PUP saga.
The PUP is a system in which people in forests communities enter into concession agreement, through the FDA, with investors to exploit resources. The method was plagued with many controversies and conflict, causing the President to put a moratorium on the process and set up a committee to probe the situation. Report was released about a week ago.
Speaking after a consultative meeting with the Ministries of Justice, Lands and Mines, Finance and the Land Commission, President Sirleaf asserted that she remain committed to protecting our people and ensuring that our natural resources are used to benefit the country and communities in which those resources are found.
“ It is very clear, from this report, that while the introduction of PUPs was meant exclusively for private landowners, the process was abused by investors, government employees and community leaders. This cannot and will not be allowed to stand. Punitive and corrective actions will be taken to ensure that this situation is not repeated,” She is quoted as saying by an Executive mansion release.
In an effort to comprehensively address the legal, social, economic and administrative implications revealed by the report, the President has, in addition, according to the Executive Mansion, directed that the moratorium in effect on PUPs will continue, and any person or business in violation thereof will be prosecuted and penalized in accordance with the law.
The President said a Special Prosecution Team will be established at the Ministry of Justice for the exclusive purpose of prosecuting all violations of the law in relation to PUPs by government officials, PUP holders, community leaders, logging companies and others and that activities of ALL logging companies that are also engaged in PUP activities are hereby suspended until the moratorium is lifted.
“Appropriate administrative actions, including dismissals, will be taken against all government employees across every agency and ministry with connection to the forestry sector, that are named in the report to have taken some inappropriate or unauthorized action in relation to the granting of PUPs,” [and that] With immediate effect, the Board of Directors of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) is dissolved and will be reconstituted,” the President noted.
Among others, the President said a full audit of the FDA will be conducted as well as a full review of the legal and regulatory framework governing the management of community forest and private user permits to ensure that the intended reforms of the forestry sector, as embodied in the National Forestry Reform Law and the Community Rights Law, can be assured.
A National Inventory Team, the President said, will begin an inventory of logs across the country. Logs harvested in contravention of the moratorium or under PUPs will be subject to appropriate legal action to include confiscation and public auctions. Proceeds will be used to settle tax obligations to government and to benefit communities affected by PUP abuse.