July 16, 2024

N’Delta fishermen hails Buhari on assent to PIB, seeks compensation for Bonga spill

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Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa

Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) on Tuesday commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta who made the commendation while reacting to the President’s assent to the PIB noted that the new law holds promises for the Niger Delta region.

He said that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 which became law on Monday among other provisions, made it statutory for oil firms to develop and involve communities where they operate.

He expressed optimism that the new legislation would be implemented to herald a new era in the oil communities and end the situation where oil exploration activities stifled the fishing activities.

He equally appealed to the President to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the oil industry regulators over the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

The fishermen noted that they were yet to recover 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.

Ayadi noted that the fishermen had suffered 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.

It would be recalled that On December 20, 2011, during loading of crude at Bonga fields within OML 118 situated 120 kilometres off the Atlantic coastline, the export line ruptured and discharged crude oil into the waters.

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 Atlantic Ocean.

Ayadi further appealed to the Buhari-led federal government to resolve the Bonga spill incident by setting up a committee to address the concerns of loss of income whilst the clean-up exercise for the incident lasted.

According to him, the fishermen were advised by NOSDRA to pull out from fishing in the impacted waters for several weeks to avoid catching contaminated fish that could jeopardise public health.

Ayadi noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish out of patriotism, they deserved to be indemnified for loss of income for the period the clean-up lasted.

NODRA had in March 2015 imposed the fine on SNEPCol for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 20, 2011.

The fine comprised a $1.8 bn 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.

Following a legal action instituted by Shell, at a Federal High Court in Lagos, Trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on June 20, 2018, dismissed the suit challenging the imposing of $3.6 bin fine on it by NOSDRA.

The fishermen impacted by the Dec. 20, 2011, spill from the Bonga Oilfields applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.

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