Bonga 2011 Spill: Fishermen Group Urge Shell to Pay $3.6bn Fine
……….Decry Shell Delay Tactic
A group known as Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has condemned the delay tactic being applied by the authorities concerned in the course of justice for the infamous, December 20, 2011, Bonga oil spill from the facility of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO).
Reports said the oil spill incident from an offshore field affected at least 168,000 victims in 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa, all in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The oil spill victims were mostly fishermen, who thereafter were ordered by oil industry regulators to withdraw from fishing activities to avoid netting contaminated fish.
In a statement yesterday, ARFAN appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on SNEPCO to comply with the verdict of the regulators and courts to rekindle the hope of the fishermen and the society.
The Joint Investigative Visit report stated that spill which occurred in the Bonga offshore oil field operated by, SNEPCO, discharged 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic.
The group in a communiqué issued after a New Year Review and Agenda Setting meeting, regretted that the incident had crippled the business of thousands fishermen in the Niger Delta, jeopardizing the livelihood of many households.
According to the communiqué signed by representatives of the group from the impacted states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Rivers, the federal government of Nigeria have not been fair to people from the impacted areas.
They noted that following the order by the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to fishermen to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish, the oil firm refused to show empathy or indemnify their loss.
NOSDRA had in March 2015 imposed the fine on SNEPCO for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 20, 2011.
The fine comprised a $1.8billion 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 $1.8billion.
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 the $3.6billion fine on Shell by NOSDRA.
The communiqué stated: “This hardship which has led to the untimely death of many of the members of the Association is as a result of the attitude of Shell towards the victims. That Shell never empathised with the victims even during the height of the spill impacts.
“Even when it had been determined through a Post Impact Assessment that the spill was as a result of operational failures and an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil had been pumped into the waters, operational fields of the fishermen/women.
“That the present federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria victims of the Shell Bonga Oil Spill the most listening ears.
“That the struggles for justice and faith in a peaceful and lawful resolution of the issues of the spill coupled with the fatherly disposition of Mr. President provided the opportunity for NOSDRA to pronounce fines and awards against Shell to the tune of $3.6 billion.
“That the Parliamentary approval of the fines/awards and the litigations and their outcomes are considered SNEPCO for the benefit of the victims of the spill and all other impacted stakeholders.
“ARFAN is still hopeful that Mr. President in his reputed commitment to justice, sympathy for the downtrodden, voiceless and needy, shall disentangle all impediments and cause the implementation of our plea for immediate restitution/compensation.”
By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja