Artisanal fishermen in the Niger Delta region on Saturday commended President Muhamadu Buhari for his response and concern on the ongoing oil leak from an oil well at Nembe in Bayelsa.

An oil spill was reported from Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production on Nov 5 and has been spewing crude oil and gas into the Santa Barbra River and Nembe creeks till date.

The fishermen noted that Buhari’s concerns and prompt dispatch of Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum to the spill site was plausible and sent a signal of hope to fishermen whose vocation was threatened by frequent spills.

Rev Samuel Ayadi, Niger Delta Coordinator, Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) said while reacting to the development that the empathy shown by the visit speaks volumes.

According to him, the message conveyed by Sylva who made it clear that the visit was on a directive by the President following earlier consultation with the minister on Wednesday was an encouragement to impacted residents, predominantly fishermen.


Ayadi noted that the visit must have sent sent signals to the oil firm which operates the oil field that it cannot be business as usual and hence the renewd approach to response where the emphasis is on oil recovery and restraining crude from spreading.

“Hitherto what the oil firms do is to use chemical dispersants which in itself is toxic to marine life to mop up the oil and further degrade the environment, but the current approach of intensive recovery of spilled oil is very acceptable and better.

“From what we have seen by observing the response by Aiteo which we understand is a Nigerian company which acquired the asset following Shell’s divestment in 2015, it means that we have the capabilities to do things well.

“Even though this was an emergency, in very little time many oil companies came together to help out and the oil firm has retained the services of Boots and Coot, a Halliburton company to assist in stopping the well leakage.

“This type of coordinated efforts by a Nigerian Oil company is very patriotic and should be emulated by even the international oil companies operating in Nigeria, we have not witnessed this magnitude of response even in worse incidents in the past,: Ayadi said.

He appealed to the federal government to postpone the removal of subsidy on petrol until the economy recovers substantially to bear the shock adding that fishermen use large volumes of petrol to power outboard engines.

He argued that any increase in pump price will spell doom to fishermen who are suffering dwindling catch due to oil pollution and threaten the nation’s food security.

Ayadi further appealed to the Buhari-led federal government to resolve the Bonga spill incident by address the concerns of loss of income whilst the clean up 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 catch contaminated fish out of patriotism, they deserved to be indemnified for 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 a $1.8 bn as compensation for the damages 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, Trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on June 20, 2018 dismissed the suit challenging the imposing of $3.6 bin fine on it by NOSDRA.

The fishermen impacted by the Dec. 20, 2011 spill from the Bonga Oil Fields had applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine, but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.

Ayadi urged the Buhari-led government to prevail on Shell to comply with the court decision and compensate the victims.

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