168,000 fishermen, 350 Delta, Bayelsa communities affected by Bonga spill
THE Bonga 2011 oil spill incident from an offshore oil field operated by Shell Nigeria Production and Exploration Company (SNEPCO) affected 168,000 victims in 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa.
The Paramount Ruler of Olobia Community Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Council of Bayelsa Chief Howells Levi, said on Monday in Yenagoa that the oil spill victims were fishermen ordered by oil industry regulators to withdraw from fishing activities so as not to catch contaminated fish.
The ruler said the fishermen were deprived of their income and livelihood throughout the period the oil spill response and cleanup activities lasted and deserved to be compensated for the loss of income.
It will be recalled that an operational error at SNEPCO in 2011 led to the discharge of 40,000 barrels of oil into the Atlantic Ocean.
The House of Representatives and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had in December 2014 recommended a compensation of $3.96 billion for victims of the incident.
Levi said that the just concluded verification of claims of impacted people revealed that six local councils along the Atlantic coastline in Delta and Bayelsa were negatively affected by the spill .
“The Bonga spill incident elicited a lot of claims many of which were very frivolous; initially more than 2,000 communities inundated Shell asking for compensation.
“But when we appointed attorneys and conducted a verification exercise, it was streamlined and we found out that 168,000 persons in 350 communities suffered the impact of the spill.
“The impacted councils are Ekeremo, Southern Ijaw and Brass in Brass while Warri North, Warri South and Burutu in Delta and each of the councils produced 28,000 victims,” Levi said.
The monarch explained that the coastal settlements affected by the Bonga spill in Delta and Bayelsa resolved to set up a Spill Impact Verification Committee to fashion out a framework for compensation by SNEPCO.
According to him, the victims were scrutinized to ensure that only fishermen who reside along the Atlantic were verified and each person was made to depose to an affidavit.
“The purpose was to verify the claims before they are submitted to SNEPCO for payment because we do not want people with frivolous and unsubstantiated claims to endanger the case of genuine victims,” Levi said.