Artisanal fishermen want Shell to pay $3.6bn Bonga spill court fine

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By:Bamidele Fashube

Fishermen under the aegis of Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) have appealed to the government to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed on it by oil industry regulators over the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

They said the compensation would ensure that fishermen thrown out of business  recover.

Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview in Yenagoa, 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.

Ayadi noted that the 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.

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Shell on 20th December 2011 while loading 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 noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA for fishermen to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fishes 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 Dec. 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 bn fine on it by NOSDRA.

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