Artisanal Fishermen Tackle Shell for $3.6 Billion Pollution Fine, Oppose Fresh Lockdown

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Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has started expressing fears that a fresh COVID-19 lockdown will result in unpleasant calamities. The association is therefore, appealing to the Federal Government to leverage on its successes in containing the pandemic to avert another lockdown.

ARFAN is also appealing to the government to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major, Shell, to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the oil industry regulators over the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

The fishermen have noted that they were yet to recover from the adverse impact of the 2020 lockdown on the fisheries sector, and lamented that they were excluded from the palliatives given to the agric sector to guarantee food security.

ARFAN Coordinator in the Niger Delta, Reverend Samuel Ayadi, in an interview from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, says another lockdown following the second wave of the coronavirus in the country will be unbearable for fishermen.

Ayadi is lamenting that fishermen had suffered untold hardship fishing at the nation’s territorial waters since 2011 when an equipment failure from the Bonga Offshore field operated by SNEPC discharged some 40,000 barrels of crude into the waters.

On December 20, 2011, during loading of crude at Bonga fields within OML 118 situated at 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 National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA} and SNEPCO spewed about 40,000 barrels (6.4 million litres) of crude oil into the sea.

Ayadi further appealed to the federal government to prevail on Shell to obey the courts and pay a $3.6 billion imposed by regulators for the Bonga spill incident adding that the compensation would ensure that fishermen thrown out of business would recover.

Ayadi noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catch contaminated fish that could compromise public health, they deserved to be indemnified for loss of income whilst the clean up lasted.

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 a $1.8 billion 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 billion fine on it by NOSDRA.

The fishermen impacted by the December 20, 2011 spill from the Bonga Oilfields applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine, but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.

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