Nembe Spill: N/Delta Fishermen Demand for Compensation

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.… Also $1.8bn over 2021 Bonga Spill

By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa

Artisanal fishermen in the Niger Delta region have called for compensation from Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company following the lingering November 5 oil spill in Santa Barbra wells, in Nembe, Bayelsa state
The fishermen under the auspices Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) also urged the Nigerian government to compel Shell to comply with a court judgment 2015, which upheld a NOSDRA imposition of $1.8billion against SNEPCO for discharging 40, 000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 20, 2011.

The fine was said to have represented compensation for the damages done to natural resources and consequential loss of income by the affected shoreline communities as well as a punitive damage for SNEPCO.

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 fine. The fishermen coordinator said his sector operators had applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine, but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.

Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), urged the Buhari-led government to prevail on the international oil company (IOC) to comply with the court decision and compensate the victims.

Meanwhile the fishermen commended President Muhamadu Buhari for his quick response and concern on the ongoing oil leak from OML29 at Santa Barbra, Nembe in Bayelsa state. The oil well is operated by Aiteo The oil spill was reported on Nov 5 and has been discharging crude oil and gas into the Santa Barbra River and Nembe creeks.

However, reports say well experts have long been mobilized at the site and efforts are being made to return the situation to normal. 

The Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) coordinator Rev Sam Ayadi, expressed delight over President Muhammadu Buhari’s prompt response to the spill. The group noted that Buhari’s concerns and prompt dispatch of Chief Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum to the spill site was a welcomed development and sent a signal of hope to fishermen who say their business is threatened frequently by spills.

Ayadi, said the visit by the minister to the spill site and the empathy shown speaks volumes. According to him,  the message conveyed by Sylva who made it clear that the visit was on a directive by the President following earlier consultation with the minister on Wednesday, was an encouragement to impacted residents, predominantly fishermen.

“The visit must have sent signals to the oil firm which operates the oil field that it cannot be business as usual and hence the renewed approach to response where the emphasis is on oil recovery and restraining crude from spreading.

“Hitherto what the oil firms do is to use chemical dispersants which in itself is toxic to marine life to mop up the oil and further degrade the environment, but the current approach of intensive recovery of spilled oil is very acceptable and better.

“From what we have seen by observing the response by Aiteo which we understand is a Nigerian company that acquired the asset following Shell’s divestment in 2015, it means that we have the capabilities to do things well. Even though this was an emergency, in very little time many oil companies came together to help out and the oil firm has retained the services of Boots and Coot, a Halliburton company to assist in stopping the well leakage,” Rev Ayadi stated.

He pointed out that the coordinated effort by a Nigerian company is very patriotic and should be emulated by even the international oil companies operating in Nigeria. The country has not witnessed this magnitude of response even in worse incidents in the past, the fishermen coordinator stated.

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

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