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Fishermen decry frequent oil spills

26 December 2012, 08:52

Eket - Residents along the Atlantic coast in Akwa Ibom have decried frequent spills at the Qua Iboe Oil Fields, operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that MPN, an affiliate of the U.S. oil major ExxonMobil on Dec. 19, reported a fresh oil spill near the Akwa Ibom coastline.

NAN recalls that separate spills had occurred at the oil field on August 13, August 24, November 9, and December 19.

Reacting to the development in separate interviews with NAN on Tuesday, the residents said that incessant spills in the area had destroyed fishing at the coastal communities.

Chief Inyang Ekong, Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria, said the impact of spills on the fishing communities in Southern Akwa Ibom had led to dwindling fortunes for fishermen.

"The spill seriously contaminated the waters, causing fish drought and distorting the marine food chain because of the toxic chemicals the oil company uses to disperse the oil.

"Whenever a spill occurs, fishermen are thrown out of business because when the waters become toxic, fishes migrate from the reach of fishermen and for you to have any catch you have to go beyond Nigeria's territorial waters at the mercy of the Cameroon gendarmes.

"The first thing we do is to instruct our members to withdraw from fishing to avoid catching contaminated fish and we have asked Mobil to compensate us for the lost income within the period they are cleaning the spill," Ekong said.

Chief John Etim, a community leader in Ibeno Local Government Area, noted that the frequent spills were depriving the communities their  economic rights.

He said that the frequent spills had impoverished the fishing communities along the coastline.

"Oil spills have been a major obstacle to us who depend on the marine environment for survival, it is very worrisome that rather than contain the spills and mitigate the impact the oil firm looks the other way.

''The previous spill of Nov. 9 is currently under investigation and this one occurred so which one are they investigating, the same thing applies to the recent spills they have always been swept under the carpet," Etim said.

Mr Effiong Victor, a fisherman in Ibeno, said the news of the spill had thrown the communities into uncertainty.

"We fishermen were shocked and surprised at the latest disaster while the pain of the last one is still with us, what a Christmas gift from Mobil?" Victor said.

When contacted on the latest spill , Mobil’s Communications Manager, Nigel Cookey-Gam, confirmed that the oil firm had received reports of fresh oil spills from members of its host communities in Akwa Ibom.

"Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/MPN Joint Venture, confirmed that on Dec. 19, 2012, community representatives notified the company of slight oiling on short sections of the shoreline of Ibeno, Akwa Ibom.

"MPN immediately deployed a team to inspect the site and samples of oiling were taken for analysis to help determine the source.

"Sections of shoreline with any oiling will be cleaned immediately.

"MPN restates its commitment to maintaining high safety, health and environmental standards in our operations and is also committed to the well-being of our neighbouring communities," he said.



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