• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Niger Delta fishermen applaud Buhari on PIB

Nigerian fish farmers

Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) saying the new law holds promises for the Niger Delta region.

The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 became law on Monday and amongst other provisions, made it statutory for oil firms to develop and involve the communities where they operate.

ARFAN Coordinator in the Niger Delta, Samuel Ayadi, on Tuesday, expressed optimism that the new legislation would be implemented to herald a new era in the oil communities and end the situation where oil exploration activities stifled fishing activities in the creeks and the Atlantic Ocean.

Ayadi equally appealed to President Buhari 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.

Read also: Five major changes expected as Buhari signs PIB

The fishermen disclosed that though they were yet to recover from the adverse impact of the 2020 lockdown on the fisheries sector, they were excluded from the palliatives given to the agricultural sector to guarantee food security.

Ayadi noted that the fishermen had suffered untold hardships while fishing in the nation’s territorial waters since 2011 when an equipment failure from the Bonga Offshore field operated by SNEPO discharged some 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the waters.

On December 20, 2011, during loading of crude oil at Bonga fields within OML 118 situated at 120 kilometres off the Atlantic coastline, the export line ruptured and discharged crude oil into the waters.

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 Atlantic Ocean.

Ayadi further appealed to the Federal Government to resolve the Bonga spill incident by setting up a committee to address the concerns of loss of income whilst the cleanup exercise for the incident lasted.

According to him, the fishermen were advised by NOSDRA to pull out from fishing in the impacted waters for several weeks to avoid catching contaminated fish that could jeopardise public health.

Ayadi noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish out of patriotism, they deserved to be indemnified for the loss of income for the period 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 Dec. 20, 2011.

The fine comprised $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 punitive damage of $1.8 billion.

Following a legal action instituted by Shell at a Federal High Court in Lagos, Trial judge, Mojisola Olatoregun on June 20, 2018, dismissed the suit challenging the imposition of the $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.