“Withdraw Merab’s Appointment”-Forestry Professionals -Say “His CHOICE as MD VIOLATES THE FDA ACT

MONROVIA:  As condemnation continues to trail the recent appointment of Mr. Rudolph Merab as the new Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority(FDA) to the extent that some stakeholders have been urging President Joseph Nyuma Boakai to withdraw the appointment, the Association of Liberian Foresters, a professional body of trained foresters has also added its voice against the appointment, adding that the idea of having Merab as the MD of the entity should not have been considered as it flagrantly violated the act of the institution that created it in 1976.

In a press statement released to the media yesterday, Thursday, February 22, 2024, the group in giving background to their position said every institute of government, be it ministries or agencies are established or created by legislation and similarly, appointments made in government by presidents for heads of these public institutions are based on the laws that created them – not arbitrary decisions.

“One classic example of a public institution established by law is the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). The FDA had been enacted into law on December 20, 1976. Section 2 of the FDA Act provides: “Creation of the Forestry Development Authority: An authority to be known as the ‘Forestry Development Authority’ is hereby created as a corporate body pursuant to the Public Authorities Law.” On appointment/recruitment of officers, Section Seven 7 of the Act provides: …the Managing Director shall be professionally qualified in Forestry”- emphasis is on “professionally qualified in Forestry.”

“This means the person to be Managing Director (MD) of the FDA should receive specialized education and training in Forestry above the Bachelor’s degree level in the discipline.  According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English – New Edition for Advanced Learners (2012), “a profession is a job that needs a high level of education and training, and a professional is someone who works in a job that needs special education and training, such as doctors, lawyers or foresters

“Therefore, the preferment of Mr. Rudolph J. Merab, Sr. as MD of the FDA is not only illegal but crassly self-contradictory, as President Boakai has assured us Liberians that he would govern Liberia according to the rule of law. The FDA Act is a law. President Boakai vividly stressed to the hearing of all and sundry during his inaugural as well as State of the Nation (SONA) address that his presidency would divorce itself from the “business as usual” mentalities that have plagued the Liberian governance system for ages”, the statement said.

The release went in memory lane to give historical backgrounds on those who have served as MD of FDA from one dispensation to another where it painted a mixed bag of individuals who served in the portfolio with some being eminently qualified and competent while others fell short of the threshold for the position.

“With the benefit of hindsight, the last time the FDA Act was adhered to was from 1980-1989, when the late Mr. Shad Kaydea, a PhD Candidate in Wood Science was appointed by then President Samuel K. Doe as Managing Director.

In 2006, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf opened the floodgates and appointed Mr. John Woods as the FDA Managing Director. Mr. Woods was and is not a forester; hence, he was not “professionally qualified in Forestry” to head the agency. That was a stark violation of the Act. Since then, the FDA has been treated like a dump site where people favored by the power – that – be usually dumped their associates.

“2012, when the FDA Managing Director Mr. Moses Wogbeh, slightly below the qualification standard was appointed; but Wogbeh soon became exposed and indicted in a Global Witness’s investigation into illegal awarding of forest concessions in southeast of Liberia under private use permit (PUP) licenses. Mr. Wogbeh and others were subsequently fired. That was “business as usual.” Mr. Augustine Johnson (FDA former GIS Manager) was also sacked for the same reason. Mr. Ekema Whitherspoon, former Deputy Managing Director for Administration and Finance of FDA, who was dismissed by former President Johnson-Sirleaf for gross incompetence, is being brought back for the same position.

“In 2018, former President George M. Weah continued the “business as usual” that President Boakai talked about in his SONA and inaugural addresses – by appointing Mr. Mike Doryen as MD of the FDA. Mr. Doryen had a bachelor’s degree in political science when he was made the MD”, the group said.

ALIFOR asserted that for President Boakai to choose Mr. Rudolph J. Merab, a banned logger with tainted records speaks volumes to which the sector will be damaged and it was highly disappointing, adding the story has been “narrated in the Liberian Observer online newspaper (liberianobserver.com) article captioned, “Liberia: Boakai Picks Wartime, Anti-Regulation Logger for FDA” published on February 13, 2024, and Frontpage Newspaper online version’s article “Liberia: Organizations Representing Forest Communities Keen on Who Becomes Next FDA Managing Director”.

“President Johnson-Sirleaf set the pace by putting the wrong individuals in charge of the FDA; President Weah came in and followed suit. However, former President Weah’s action in that respect had been dismissed by people that he was not highly educated so he might not have known better. He was just following former President Johnson-Sirleaf’s footsteps. But since President Boakai is former President Weah’s direct opposite – educated and with widely boasted 40 years plus of experience in life and government – he should know far better than his predecessor.

“In short, Mr. Merab should not head the FDA. President Boakai should heed this expert advice. Otherwise, genuine professional Liberian foresters and forestry students will come out to protect their profession and the Forestry Development Authority.

“We heard on the radio that a group of paid agents bribed by Rudolph Merab, Mike Doryen, John Woods, and current illegal commercial logger calling themselves “Forestry Society of Liberia (FOSOLIB)” has congratulated and accepted Mr. Merab’s appointment. We would like to tell the Liberian people that FOSOLIB is fake; there is no such organization as FOSOLIB.

“Finally, if President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr. does not listen to us professionals to recall Mr. Merab and appoint a Managing Director for the FDA who is “professionally qualified in Forestry, then the assurance that his administration would not do “business as usual” is mere rhetoric – the President will not walk the talk – “business as usual” or lawlessness as a culture continues in government. We will continue the struggle until the right and legal appointment for Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority is done”, ALIFOR concluded its release.

Meanwhile, the Spokesman of ALIFOR, Sam Slawon, speaking to The Analyst in an exclusive interview yesterday said they are resolute in their quest to have Merab withdrawn from the position and that they are looking forward to President Boakai “being a man of wisdom and vast experience will see reason to reverse the decision he made with the appointment so that the sector will once again be a sector that we will be proud of”

Asked what could be the next option open to them if the President does not positively respond to their request, Slawon said they do not intend to imagine such response as they have strong trust in President Boakai to do the right thing but will not leave their agitation to the point where it will be defeated.

“At this time we do not want to be doubtful that President Boakai will not listen to us. We trust him as a leader who believes in the rule of law and will want the best to handle for the country.

“However, if at all our request is not granted, we will proceed to the Supreme Court of Liberia for redress. We will ask the court to interpret the act that created the FDA especially the aspect that has to do with who should be appointed to the position of MD of the institution. We are not relenting”, Slawon said.

Comments are closed.