23 May 2016, Yenagoa – Fishermen operating on the Atlantic coastline of the Niger Delta have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the payment of their outstanding oil spill compensation at the Qua Iboe oilfields.
The Niger Delta Coordinator, Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Rev. Samuel Ayadi, made the call in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, on Monday.
Ayadi noted that the fishermen were awaiting the intervention of Buhari as a first anniversary gift to give a new lease of life to the sector in line with the economic diversification policy of the present administration.
He stated that the fishermen had a consolidated compensation claims from the Qua Iboe oil fields operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from 2000 to 2010 pending at the Presidency.
Ayadi said the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had mediated between the oil firm and the impacted communities, but regretted that the fund had yet to get to the artisan fishermen and other fishing communities in Akwa Ibom.
He said, “We have suffered untold hardship over the non-payment of the consolidated claims, a development that has crippled fishing activities and reduced fish output and hence the high cost of fishes in the market.
“We learnt that the Presidency in the immediate past administration stepped into the matter and received some funds to settle the victims, unfortunately the fund was not released before they left office.
“We appeal to the President in line with his change agenda to authorise the release of the funds to pay us our claims, it is our belief that this will reduce fish imports which will ease pressure on foreign exchange and firm up the Naira.
“We have unshaken confidence in the fatherly disposition of the President who belongs to everybody to champion the course of the downtrodden people in search of justice.
“We have not been able to get out of the problems caused by incessant oil spills as more than 7,000 of our members were impacted by the spills, our members lost fishing gear and accessories over the period.”
He said that a lot of their members had been thrown out of business as a result of frequent spills which wiped out generations of fishes from the waters.
He added that the spills explained why the Bonga fish had almost gone into extinct and scarce in the market.
He explained that artisanal fishing required the protection of government to enable the fishermen to provide fish which remains the cheapest source of protein to guarantee food security in the country.