By Francis Ogwo
Following an oil spillage in the Bonga oilfield in 2011, a group known as Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has appealed to the government to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed on it by oil industry regulators.
This was disclosed by Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta in a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa on Monday.
According to Ayadi, the fishermen have not recovered from the adverse impact of the 2020 lockdown on the fisheries sector, and lamented that they were excluded from the palliatives given to the agric sector to guarantee food security.
Speaking further, Ayadi noted that the fishermen had faced untold hardship fishing at the nation’s territorial waters since 2011 when an equipment failure from the Bonga Offshore field operated by SNEPC discharged some 40,000 barrels of crude into the waters while adding that another lockdown following the spread of the Coronavirus would be unbearable for fishermen.
According to recent reports, on December 20, 2011, during loading of crude at Bonga fields within OML 118 situated at 120 kilometres off the Atlantic coastline, the export line ruptured and discharged crude oil into the sea.
The export line, according to a Joint Investigation Report by National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and SNEPCO spewed about 40,000 barrels (6.4 million litres) of crude oil into the sea.
Ayadi therefore appealed to the federal government to prevail on Shell to obey the courts and pay a $3.6bn imposed by regulators for the Bonga spill incident, which would go a long way in helping the fishermen who were thrown out of businesses to recover.
Ayadi noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish that could compromise public health, they deserved to be indemnified for loss of income whilst the clean up lasted.
In March 2015, NOSDRA imposed the fine on Shell for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 20, 2011.
The fine comprised a $1.8 billion as compensation for the damages done to natural resources and consequential loss of income by the affected shoreline communities as well as a punitive damage of $1.8 bn.