The Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has asked ExxonMobil to as a matter of urgency clean up the Niger Delta and rid it of “environmental hazards caused by oil spill occurring from the company’s activities”.
Mr Inyang Ekong, the Niger Delta Coordinator of the Association, made the allegation in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.
Ekong also called on ExxonMobil to do a thorough clean-up of an oil spill that allegedly occurred on July 2, 2019 at the shores of Ibeno, where its facilities are located.
But in a separate interview with NAN, Mr Ogechukwu Udeagha, Manager, Media and Communications of the company, said there were no evidence of any spill from ExxonMobil facilities as alleged by Ekong.
He said, “There is no evidence to support the claim and none of its activities has been reported to having the potential to spill as was being alleged.”
He restated the company’s continued commitment to maintaining high safety, health and environmental standards in its operations, as well as to the wellbeing of the host communities.
Ekong had also said that urgent clean-up of the alleged spill by ExxonMobil would restore the livelihood of fishermen in the area.
He added that after a thorough clean up exercise, the affected fishermen would be compelled to stay off the water for three months for proper restoration to take place.
He explained that fishermen were the worst hit whenever oil spills occurred, adding that the development had caused scarcity and increase in the prices of fish in the state.
Ekong alleged that the spill affected the livelihood of fishermen who stayed at the fishing communities for one month without going for fishing.
He also alleged that the communities and fishermen suffered the impact of oil spill without due compensation paid by the multinational oil company.
He said, “Whenever there is oil spill in the state, there will be no catch. The impact damages the fishing nets.
“Once the oil touches the nets, the fish get scared and run to other neighbouring countries.”
He further called on the multinational oil company “to pay compensation to fishermen and affected communities, as it is done in foreign countries and not to pay palliatives.
“It is their duty to compensate fishermen so that we have something to depend on, before the water can be restored again and the fish come back.
“This is rainy season that we are supposed to catch fish, but we are at home due to oil spill from ExxonMobil facilities.”
He also urged the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum and the National Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency, to sanction oil companies found guilty of oil spill.
“We have been complaining to Nigerians. We have written series of letters, we have talked to leaders of National Assembly, House of Representatives to no avail,” Ekong said.
By Sunday Bassey