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Bonga oil spill: Government urged to prevail on Shell to pay $3.6bn fine

Artisanal fishermen in the Niger Delta, affected by the Dec. 2011 Bonga oil spill, have urged the Federal Government to compel Shell to pay the $3.6 billion fine for the spill.

Oil spill pollution

A water body in the Niger Delta polluted by crude oil

Rev Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator, Niger Delta zone, Artisana Fishermen Association of Nigeria, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Lagos Federal High Court, on June 20, upheld the $3.6 billion fine imposed on Shell by the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), dismissing Shell’s appeal.

Ayadi lamented that Shell Nigeria Production and Exploration Company (SNEPCO) was yet to comply with the court order, saying that the judgment was a lifeline to the fishermen.

Following the Dec. 20, 2011 spill, NOSDRA in March 2015 imposed a $3.6 billion fine on Shell for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean.

The fine comprised $1.8 billion as compensation for the damage to the natural resources and consequential loss of income by the affected shoreline communities as well as a punitive damage of $1.8 billion.

The Chairman of NOSDRA board, Sen. Ayo Akinyerule, had urged SNEPCO to pay the fine to enable the agency to compensate the impacted fishermen and communities.

Ayadi said that the fishermen thrown out of business by the incident had patiently waited for the litigation processes to end.

“The Bonga oil spill was a heavy blow to us artisanal fishermen.  Ironically the spill from the oilfield named after the local fish specie, Bonga, was what led to the near extinction of the specie.

“We can no longer see Bonga fish in our dishes because the spill wiped out generations of the specie.

“The chemical dispersant spread to dissolve the leaked crude is very toxic to fish and other marine creatures.

“We were directed by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish that would jeopardise public health.

“The income loss is in addition to the damage done by the contamination of our fishing gear, outboard engines and nets.

“Since the three months appeal window has lapsed, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on SNEPCO to comply with the court judgment and pay the fine so that NOSDRA can compensate the victims.

“We are counting on the fatherly disposition of President Buhari to prevail on Shell to comply with the court’s judgment so that we shall return to our traditional fishing occupation.

“Our return to sea will also guarantee that we play our own part in ensuring food security and reducing our dependence on imported fish,” Ayadi said.

On Dec. 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 into the sea.

The export line, according to a joint investigation report by NOSDRA and SNEPCO, spewed about 40,000 barrels (6.4 million litres) of crude oil into the sea.

By Nathan Nwakamma