Artisanal fishermen in the Niger Delta on Tuesday urged the federal government to prevail on Shell to obey the courts and pay a $3.6 bn fine imposed by regulators for the Bonga spill incident.
National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NODRA) had in March 2015 imposed the fine on Shell for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on December 20, 2011.
The fine comprised $1.8 bn 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 bn.
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 bin fine on it by NOSDRA.
The fishermen impacted by the December 20, 2011 spill from the Bonga oilfields operated by Shell Nigeria Production and Exploration Company (SNEPCO) applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine.
Coordinator of the impacted artisanal fishermen under the auspices of Niger Delta zone of the Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Rev Samuel Ayadi said that the ruling of the court was a lifeline to fishermen.
Ayadi who spoke in an interview in Yenagoa said that fishermen thrown out of business by the incident had followed the incident patiently since 2011.
“The Bonga oil spill incident was a heavy blow to us artisanal fishermen. Ironically the spill from the oilfield named after a local fish specie known as the Bonga fish is what led to the near extinction of the specie.
“We can no longer see the Bonga fish on our dishes because the Bonga spill incident wiped generations of the specie out, 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 jeopardize public health, so for more than three months we did not go for fishing and hence lost income for the period.
“The income loss is in addition to damages done by the contamination of our fishing gear, outboard engines and nets.
“Since the three months appeal window has lapsed we appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on SNEPCO to comply with the court’s ruling 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 judgement as an advocate of the rule of law 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 reduction of dependence on imported fish,” Ayadi said.
It would be recalled that on December 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 oil 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