The Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has urged the Federal Government to leverage its successes in containing the COVID-19 pandemic to avert another lockdown in the Country this year.
ARFAN equally appealed to the Government to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the oil industry regulators over the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.
The fishermen noted that they were yet to recover from the adverse impact of the 2020 lockdown on the fishery sector and lamented that they were excluded from the palliatives given to the agricultural sector to guarantee food security.
Coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta, Rev. Samuel Ayadi, said in an interview in Yenagoa yesterday that another lockdown following the second wave of coronavirus would be unbearable for fishermen.
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 SNEPCO discharged some 40,000 barrels of crude into the waters.
Recall that on December 20, 2011, during the 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 court and pay the $3.6 billion imposed by regulators for the Bonga incident, adding that the compensation would ensure that fishermen thrown out of business would recover.
He noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish that could compromise public health, they deserved to be indemnified for loss of income while the clean-up lasted.
NODRA 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 $1.8 billion as compensation for the damage 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, the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on June 20, 2018 dismissed the suit imposing $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 another judgment which upheld the fine, but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.