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Fishermen lament Shell’s unpaid $3.6 billion fine, praise Buhari PIB assent

Niger Delta fishermen under the aegis of the Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria have praised President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the PIB into law.

• August 18, 2021

Niger Delta fishermen under the aegis of the Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria have praised President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law and appealed to him to make Shell pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the federal government for the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

Samuel Ayadi, the coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta, on Wednesday in Yenagoa noted that the new law held promises for the region.

He stated that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, which became law on Monday, made it statutory for oil firms to develop host communities.

Mr Ayadi expressed optimism that the government would implement the new legislation, appealing to Mr Buhari to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the oil industry regulators for the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

He disclosed that ARFAN members had suffered untold hardship fishing since 2011 when an equipment failure at the Bonga Offshore field operated by SNEPCO discharged some 40,000 barrels of oil 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 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.

Mr Ayadi further appealed to Mr Buhari to resolve the Bonga spill incident by setting up a committee to address the loss of income while the clean-up exercise lasted.

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

He noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to stop fishing to avoid contaminated fish, they deserved to be indemnified for the loss of income for the period the clean-up lasted.

NOSDRA had in March 2015 imposed the fine on SNEPCol 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 the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, the trial judge, Mojisola Olatoregun, on June 20, 2018, dismissed the suit challenging the imposing of a $3.6 billion fine on it by NOSDRA.


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