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Monday, 7 April 2014
Bonga Oil Spill: Rights Activist Wants Shell To Compensate Fishermen
A human rights activist, Mrs Elizabeth Egbe, has appealed to the Federal Government to prevail on Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to compensate fishermen affected by the Bonga oil spill.
Egbe, who made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday said that the company, being an international oil exploration giant, should comply with international best practice and do the right thing.
NAN recalls that the oil spill which occurred on Dec. 20, 2011, spilling 35,000 barrels of crude oil, affected Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Rivers states.
According to her, the fishermen are demanding that SPDC pays them N433 billon as compensation for depriving them of their livelihood.
Egbe, who is also the Chairman, Bayelsa State Chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), said the company should also proceed to properly clean up the waters and the affected communities.
“Let SPDC pay us what is due so that justice will prevail and when justice prevails, everybody will be happy and the fish we bring on the table will be good and healthy.
“So, we are calling the oil company to do the right thing to avoid problem.’’
The chairman accused Shell and other oil companies of exhibiting a culture of impunity in the Niger Delta, claiming that they had no regard for the lives of the people of the area or the environment.
Egbe expressed fears that the whole existence of fishermen in the region might go into extinction, if the situation was not addressed.
“If everything goes into extinction, there is nobody that will live in the Niger Delta again; if the present situation is not addressed, it could lead to war.
“If the existence of the people is threatened to a certain level, survival instinct will come and they will want to look for ways of meeting their needs by all means.’’
Egbe described fishermen as voiceless people who had been neglected in spite of their significant contribution to the wealth of the nation and well-being of Nigerians in general.
“What we are crying for affects everybody; the oil pollutes the fish and other seafoods that we provide in the markets and people eat contaminated fish.
“ If you eat that fish, you are also eating the chemicals the fish has consumed as a result of pollution from the oil spill. So, it is going to affect the health of anybody that consumes such fish.
“There is no way you will say, you will not eat seafood or fish; all of us are in it together. It is just that the rate of impact that is different.’’
The chairman recalled the oil spill in New Mexico, U.S., and the immediate response of U.S. President Barack Obama and other relevant authorities that ensured justice.
NAN recalls that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which occurred on April 20, 2010, claimed 11 lives and is considered the largest accidental marine oil disaster in the history of the petroleum industry.
“You know what happened in the Gulf of Mexico; the people did not cry for the president to fight for them. The president, legislators and everybody were on board to address it.
“They fought to protect the right of the people and they were adequately compensated in every facet of life. How come that in Nigeria, the story is different? ” she asked.
Egbe, however, commended the National Assembly and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) for their support so far, calling on the Presidency to act promptly.
“Now that we are seeing a ray of hope from the National Assembly and NOSDRA, we are calling on Mr President to come to our aid.
“Members of our association numbering about 30,000 were compelled to leave their sources of livelihood and nobody cares to find out how they have been surviving since then,’’ she added. (NAN)