Nigeria slams $11.5bn fine on Shell over Bonga spill

Bonga oil spillToju Vincent

29 January 2014, Lagos – THE Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the National Oil Spill Response and Emergency Agency, NOSREA, have fined Shell Nigeria Exploration and production Company, SNEPCO, $11.5billion, about N1.84 trillion over the Bonga spill incident of 2011.

Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, the NIMASA’s Director General made the disclosure while speaking at a Public Hearing organised by the House of Representative Committee on Environment, saying that the maritime agency calculated a total of $6.5billion as compensation to be paid to the communities affected by the spill as damages.

Also speaking, Sir Peter Idabo, the Director General of NOSREA, said that his agency has imposed a $5bn fine on SNEPCO as a result of the spill.

The NIMASA helmsman diclosed that Shell tried to frustrate the agency’s moves to get to the site of the spill adding that the agency provided some stop-gap measure by providing relief material to some of the spill impacted communities.

He criticized Shell and its allies over their non-chalant attitude towards spill incidents management in the Niger Delta area and called for an immediate stop to this.

“The kind of impunity Shell and its allies have demonstrated so far in the Niger Delta area in the past must stop if the future of the people of Nigeria and the environment are to be protected.

“And in other climes when spills like this occur, the first thing is remediation, attention to the affected communities and finding ways of reducing the sufferings of the people and restoring the eco-system but Shell fell short of all these criteria and of course it is sad that it is only in Nigeria that we can witness this degree of impunity.

“In NIMASA, we see this as a serious infraction on our laws; the damage done to the communities and the eco-system can be seen as genocide.

“When a similar spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell was alive to its responsibilities, they were made to pay compensation to the affected communities but today in Nigeria, any spill that occur, a claim of sabotage or third party claims are the order of the day.

“We made presentations before this honourable Committee and asked SNEPCO to pay compensation, ours is not an administrative fee, but compensation to the communities totalling $6.5billion.

“The response from Shell was evasive and does not suggest that it is a company that is alive to its responsibilities, it believes that the culture of impunity can continue to go on because it plays with our legal system.

“May we use this opportunity to correct the wrong that has been done to the Nigerian environment because of the callousness of the this company and we stand by our argument that compensation must be paid to the communities.

“What we expect Shell to do is to come to the negotiating table and discuss with the affected communities on the means of payment so that the communities can get back their natural eco-system.

In her response, Mrs Linda Ekwunife, Chairman of the Committee expressed anger at the management of Shell for coming to the meeting without proper preparation.

She said Shell has succeeded in dragging the committee back, adding that the Committee will still move ahead despite SNEPCO’s delay tactics.

Also speaking at the meeting, the Managing Director of SNEPCO, Mr. Chike Onyejekwe said he could not discuss the matter as some of the communities have taken Shell to court over incident.

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