The Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has decried the delay in getting justice on impact of oil spill from Shell Nigeria Exploration and Exploration Company (SNEPCO) facility.
ARFAN disclosed this in a communique issued on Monday, January 24, 2022, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, after a New Year Review and Agenda Setting meeting.
The association said it was regrettable that the incident had crippled the business of thousands of fishermen in the Niger Delta.
The communique was signed by representatives of the group from the impacted states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Rivers.
The Joint Investigative Visit report showed that the spill, which occurred in Bonga offshore oil field on Dec. 20, 2011, discharged 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic.
The pollution which covered 185 kilometre along the Nigerian coast, compelled fishermen in the area to desert the sea.
According to the communique, the Federal Government has given listening ear to the plight of the impacted people.
ARFAN appealed to President Muhamadu Buhari, to prevail on SNEPCO, operator of Bonga offshore oil field, to comply with verdict of the regulators and Courts to rekindle the hope of fishermen and the society.
The communique 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 comprises $1.8 billon 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 billion.
“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 billion fine on it by NOSDRA,’’ it said.
The communique stated that the hardship which had led to the untimely death of many of the association members was as a result of the attitude of Shell toward 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 and women.
“That the present Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, has given ARFAN 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 and awards and the litigations and their outcomes are considered SNEPCO for the benefit of the victims of the spill and all other impacted stakeholders,’’ stated the communique.
The communique added that ARFAN was still hopeful that the president would disentangle all impediments and cause the implementation of the immediate restitution and compensation.
By Nathan Nwakamma