Fishermen in Bayelsa State, under the aegis of the Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria, have applauded the Federal Government for seeking legal redress over the January 2011 oil spill from Bonga oil fields.
The fishermen said the government by taking Shell Petroleum Development Company to court was an indication that the days of impunity by oil firms were numbered.
The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency had directed Shell to pay a compensation of $3.96bn.
It had also dragged the oil firm to court for failure to comply with the directive.
The Director, Oil fields Assessment at NOSDRA, Dr. Idris Musa, had said that about 40,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Atlantic Ocean polluted the waters and forced fishermen to suspend fishing.
The Chairperson, AFAN, Bayelsa State chapter, Princess Elizabeth Egbe, said on Friday in Yenagoa that the steps taken by NOSDRA to get redress for communities and fishermen were commendable.
She said, “For the first time, government has taken a giant stride by taking Shell to court to seek compensation for fishermen and communities in the Niger Delta region.
“The spill has taken a negative toll on fishermen from the region. The intervention showed that the government is genuinely interested in the welfare of Niger Delta people..
“We commend the Federal Government for taking Shell to court to press for the compensation of impacted fishermen. Since the spill occurred, fishermen have been adversely affected.
“The spill had also wiped out the Bonga fish species which the oilfield was named after, the bonga fish species and its like have gone into extinction. Bonga fish is the mainstay of Niger Delta fishermen.
“The move by government to protect the economic interest of the citizens of the Niger Delta is very encouraging and we have never had it this well in the past.”
“She urged the Federal Government to work out palliatives to assist the fishermen to revive their fishing business and boost fish production while awaiting the resolution of the court.
” Egbe also applauded the moves by the Nigerian government to clean up Ogoni land in Rivers State.
She urged the federal government to extend the clean-up to the Niger Delta region as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme.