Fishermen lament withdrawal from sea over Bonga oil spill

FishermenGroup tasks Shell on clean-up exercise

FISHERMEN in Akwa Ibom State are complaining about the directive by the Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) that fishing be suspended because of the recent Bonga Oil field spillage.

Meanwhile, the oil spill has been described as the biggest in the country and that it is spreading fast and impacting several communities along the coast.

The fishermen who alleged that the order had affected their livelihood, said NOSDRA did not consider the negative economic implications of the directive to the people in the area.

Chairman of Akwa Ibom chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), Rev. Samuel Ayadi, made the group’s position known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Eket, Akwa Ibom yesterday.

Ayadi acknowledged that the order was sequel to the December 20 oil spill but said that the suspension of fishing had taken a negative toll on the people of the state, including short supply of fish and rise in price.

Shell Petroleum Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) on December 21, 2011 announced that about 40,000 barrels of crude from its Bonga deep offshore field leaked into the Atlantic Ocean.

It consequently shut down the facility to forestall further leakage and immediately commenced the process of assessing the situation.

Ayadi said that the fishermen in the state complied with the NOSDRA’s directive out of patriotism, especially to avert catching oil contaminated fish, which could pose a threat to public health.

His words: “We received the directive from the NOSDRA urging fishermen to withdraw from the Atlantic Ocean and immediately mobilised our members to pull out from all fishing activities in the sea.
It is the health danger in continuing with our routine that made us to obey the directive, but it has practically crippled our means of livelihood for over a week now, making our families to suffer.

“Unfortunately, Shell, the oil firm responsible for the spill, has not said anything about our losses due to the spill, which has polluted the waters where we fish.’’

According to him, the chemical component of the dispersants used by Shell to contain the spill is toxic to marine life and had wiped out the fish stock within Nigerian territorial waters.

A group, the Niger Delta Indigenous Movement for Radical Change has urged the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) against treating the spillage with kid gloves, saying it had commenced the mobilisation of both local and international monitors to beam searchlight on the spill.

In an online statement yesterday signed by its President, Nelly Emma, Secretary, John Sailor and Public Relations Officer, Mukoro Stanley, the group described the Bonga Oil Spillage as the worst ever in the region in more than a decade and said it must be treated with all seriousness by Shell.

According to the group, Shell must take practical steps to clean up the Bonga Oil Spillage and should take up responsibility and take steps to do something about the damage caused by the spill to fishermen and farmers.

“We are determined to see that a proper probe panel is put in place to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the Bonga Oil Spillage. Right now, many of our people affected by the spillage are facing serious starvation and this is one spillage that Shell cannot treat like that in Ogoni land. We are not satisfied with Shell’s claims that the Bonga Oil Spillage has been brought under control. We are deeply worried by the amount of the spillage and we will stop at nothing to see that the Bonga Oil Spillage comparable to that of the BP Gulf of Mexico of last year is treated with the desired seriousness,” the group said.


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