Bonga Oil Spill: 10 Years After, We’re Yet to Get Justice, Fisher Folks Cry Out, Plead with Buhari

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

Ten years after the devastating impact of an oil spill that occurred at a facility of the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major, Shell, fisher folks say they are yet to get justice.

Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) is currently decrying the delay in getting justice on the impact of the December 20, 2011 spill from the facility of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Exploration Company (SNE0CO).

ARFAN is, therefore, appealing to President Muhamadu Buhari to prevail on SNEPCO to comply with the verdict of the regulators and courts to rekindle the hope of the fishermen and the society.

A Joint Investigative Visit report stated that a spill that occurred in the Bonga offshore oil field operated by SNEPCO, discharged 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic.

The pollution which occurred on December 20, 2011, and covered 185 kilometres along the Nigerian coast compelled fisher folks in the area to desert the sea.

The group in a communique issued after a New Year Review and Agenda Setting meeting regretted that the incident had crippled the business of thousands of fishermen in the Niger Delta.

According to the communique signed by representatives of the group from the impacted states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Rivers the Federal Government had given listening ear to the plight of the impacted people

They note 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 December 20, 2011.

The fine comprised a $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 communique states, “this hardship which has led to the untimely death of many of the members of the Association is as a result of the attitude of Shell towards the victims.

“That Shell never empathise 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/women.

“That the present Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria 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/awards and the litigations and their outcomes are considered SNEPCO for the benefit of the victims of the spill and all other impacted stakeholders.

“ARFAN is still hopeful that Mr. President in his reputed commitment to justice, sympathy for the downtrodden, voiceless and needy, shall disentangle all impediments and cause the implementation of our plea for immediate restitution/compensation,”.

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