The Federal Government through two of its agencies; the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Oil Spill Response and Emergency Agency (NOSREA) have slammed Shell Nigeria Exploration and production Company (SNEPCO) with a bill of $11.5billion (N1.84trillion) over the Bonga spill incident of 2011.
Speaking at a Public Hearing organised by the House of Representative Committee on Environment, NIMASA’s Director General, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi said that the maritime agency calculated a total of $6.5billion as compensation to be paid to the communities affected by the spill as damages.
While the Director General of NOSREA, Sir Peter Idabo, said that on its part, the $5billion it billed SNEPCO was a fine it placed on Shell was a fine resulting from the incident.
Explaining his experience during the incident, the NIMASA boss said that Shell tried as much as possible to frustrate the agency 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 communities.
He lampooned Shell and its allies over their non-chalant attitude towards spill incidents in the Niger Delta area and called for an immediate stop to this.
His words “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 clans when spills like this occur, the first thing is remuneration, 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.
“We in NIMASA see this as a serious infraction to our laws, communities and the damage done to the communities and the eco-system can be seen as a 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, to the communities totalling $6.5billion.
“The response from Shell was evasive and do not suggest that it is a company that is alive to its responsibility, it believes that the culture of impunity can continue to go on because it play 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 the that the communities can get back their natural eco-system.
Speaking in similar vein, the Chairman of the Committee Mrs Linda Ekwenife expressed anger at the management of Shell for coming to the meeting without proper preparation.
She stated that Shell has only succeeded in drawing the Committee back but added that the Committee will still move ahead despite SNEPCO’s delay tactics.
Speaking at the meeting, the Managing Director of SNEPCO, Mr. Chike Onyejekwe said that he could discuss the matter as some of the communities have Shell to court over incident