Four years after the 2011 Bonga oil spillage from an offshore oil field operated by Shell Nigeria Production and Exploration Company, SNEPCO, the victims are still counting their losses.
One of the monarchs of the affected communities, Chief Howells Levi, the Paramount Ruler of Olobia Community at Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, declared yesterday in Yenagoa that 168,000 fishermen in 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa lost their means of livelihood to the spill.
He said that the victims were ordered by oil industry regulators to withdraw from fishing activities to avoid catching contaminated fishes.
Levi said that the fishermen were deprived of their income whilst the oil spill response and clean-up activities lasted and deserved to be compensated.
Nigerian Pilot recalls 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 the victims of the incident.
Levi said that the just-concluded verification of claims of impacted people revealed that six local government areas along the Atlantic coastline in Delta and Bayelsa states were 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 negative impact of the spill.
“The impacted councils are Ekeremo, Southern Ijaw and Brass while Warri North, Warri South and Burutu in Delta and each of the council areas produced 28,000 victims,” Levi said.
The monarch further explained that the coastal settlements affected by the Bonga spill in Delta and Bayelsa resolved to setup a Spill Impact Verification Committee to fashion out a framework for compensation by SNEPCO.
According to him, the victims were scrutinised to ensure that only fishermen who reside along the Atlantic were verified and each person deposed 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.