Environment Minister, Former LRR Governor Accused of Involvement in Illegal Transactions of Seized Logs

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Environment Minister Rohey John Manjang

By: Kebba Ansu Manneh 

An inquiry by the TAT has uncovered signs of corruption and significant participation by the Minister of Environment, Rohey John Manjang, and the ex-governor of the Lower River Region, Seedy Lamin Bah after they were implicated in disposing of remnants from an illegally cut Mahogany tree in Kaif Village, Kiang East District.

Multiple sources in the country’s Lower River Region (LRR) have disclosed to TAT the involvement of Rohey John Manjang, Minister of Environment, and Seedy Lamin Bah, former Governor of the Lower River Region, in disposing of remnants from a Mahogany tree that was illegally cut down in Kaif Village, Kiang East District.

TAT Investigations and informed sources reported that the Environment Minister and former LRR Governor Bah tried to sell the remnants of the illegally cut Mahogany tree in Kaif to buyers, but all attempts were unsuccessful.

A source familiar with the entire incident reported that on May 23rd, 2024, barely two days after Abdou Fatty and Sanna Sanneh, two natives of Kiaf, were arrested for cutting down a Mahogany tree on the village’s outskirts, the sound of a chainsaw alerted residents. They rushed to the location, and upon confronting the individuals operating the chainsaw, they were informed that Lamin Jassey of Pakalinding had authorized the action to remove the tree and take it to Kombo with the Minister of Environment’s approval.

The fallen Mahogany tree which the environment minister and former LRR Governor are allegedly planning to sell illegally.

The source told TAT that the villagers of Kiaf insisted that the cutting stop and Forestry officials authenticate the claim. The gentlemen also confessed that the Mahogany tree was bought for D200,000, out of which D150,000 was paid into an account allegedly belonging to Minister Rohey Manjang, and the remaining D50,000 was paid into the account of Bakary Fatty, a renowned local politician in the area.

 

Another source who spoke with TAT also disclosed that former Governor Seedy Lamin Njie attempted to sell the same tree but could not agree on terms with the Regional Forestry Officer (RFO). The confrontation between the Governor and the RFO was reported to the Minister for intervention.

“It is very surprising that the gentlemen who were caught felling the Mahogany tree insisted that they got the authority from the Minister and even disclosed the amount paid for the Mahogany tree. As far as I know, it is not the responsibility of the Minister or the Governor to sell seized logs and charcoal; that is the job of the Forestry,” our Source revealed.

He added, “I can confirm that both the Minister and the then Governor have a lot to answer regarding their involvement in interfering with the Department of Forestry’s work. I can recall the issue of the former RFO, who has now been transferred to Brikama after having an issue with the Minister when she was serving as Governor of the region.
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Another Source in Jattaba, Kiang West District, also revealed to this medium the involvement of the Ward Councilor of Jattaba, Musa Sowe, in aiding the perpetrators in falling down one Mahogany tree at the outskirts of Jattaba village, alleging that the Ward Councilor of Jattaba received D40, 000 from the buyer of the tree on the promise that half of the money will be going to his office while the other will be paid to the Regional Forestry Office.

The Jattaba source proceeded to reveal that after the agreement and payment were completed and made to the Councilor, forestry officers impounded the vehicle and seized all the logs onboard, saying these forfeited logs were packed in the backyard of the Alkalo of Jattaba, while forestry officials file a lawsuit against one Lamin Darboe for the illegally cutting down of the Mahogany tree believed to have existed for 136years.

According to our Source, when forestry officials impounded the vehicle and further probed for documents, it was uncovered that it was the Councilor, Modou Sowe, who authorized the activity after receiving D40,000 from the buyer of the tree, noting that the Councilor later returned the money to the buyer upon hearing that the matter is with the Forestry Department for processing and subsequently, for litigation.

TAT spoke with Lamin Bajo, Regional Forestry Officer (RFO), LRR, who confirmed various court cases involving illegal cutting down of trees and charcoal burning in the region, affirming that court actions have been initiated against offenders at Wudayba, Jattaba, and Kiaf for felling down ‘Dutabuto’ and Mahogany trees resulting in payment of court fines to the Forestry Office.

However, TAT investigations revealed that Gillen, a renowned chainsaw user, was contracted by Lamin Jassey, the buyer of the Mahogany, to cut down the tree into logs.

TAT findings further revealed that Lamin Jassey bought the Mahogany tree from Minister John Manjang for D200,000, which was paid into two accounts; D150,000 has allegedly been credited into an account provided by the Minister, while the outstanding D50,000 has been deposited into the account of one Bakary Fatty of Kaif.

In her reaction to the allegations against her, Environment Minister Rohey John Manjang described the allegations as misplaced and blue lies meant to tarnish her personality and office. She warned of consequences for any journalist who publishes the development on mainstream or social media.

“Who alleges that they have sent D150,000 into my account? I said who because sometimes I don’t want to bother myself with these cooked-up stories. Then the reliable Source and the one who received it are all gossipers,” Environment Minister Rohey John Manjang reacted.

She added, “The Reliable Source and the person who received it are all blue liars; it’s a blue lie. Let them give you the bank details because that will be clear evidence. I don’t want to clarify them, to say whether they have paid it or they did not pay it; let them provide me with these details.”

The Environment Minister insisted that she knew nothing about the payment of D150,000 into her alleged account, warning that she would take anybody to court who goes against her personality in mainstream media or social media.

She continued to state that it might be possible that someone paid the money into her account and didn’t know about it, emphasizing that she would not confirm anything with TAT just because certain people were telling lies against her.

Ebrima Jawara, Permanent Secretary to Minister Rohey John Manjang, also threatened the TAT reporter, branding TAT’s findings as lies.

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