Nigeria has fined the country’s subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell US$5billion over the massive oil spill that occurred at its offshore Bonga oil field 20 Dec. 2011, according to the Director General, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Dr. Peter Idabor.
Dr. Idabor was quoted by the local media Tuesday as announcing the fine against Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Environment Monday.
He said the sum was an “administrative penalty” considering the large quantity of crude oil discharged into the environment by SNEPCo and the impact of the incident on the water and aquatic life.
According to Idabor, the penalty was also consistent with what obtains in other oil producing countries such as Venezuela, Brazil and the United States of America.
However, he said the penalty was not the same as compensation, since compensation could only be demanded from a polluting company after a proper post impact assessment has been conducted and scientific evidence of impact established.
Dr. Idabor disclosed that NOSDRA, Shell and other relevant stakeholders have concluded plans to conduct the post impact assessment on the spill, as soon as approval for funding is secured from National Petroleum Investment Management Services.
However, Shell has contested the fine, saying it did nothing wrong.
The private Vanguard newspaper quoted a spokesman for Shell, Mr Tony Okonedo, as saying: “We do not believe there is any basis in law for such a fine. Neither do we believe that SNEPCo has committed any infraction of Nigerian law to warrant such a fine.
“SNEPCo responded to this incident with professionalism and acted with the consent of the necessary authorities at all times to prevent environmental impact as a result of the incident.”
The 40,000 barrels of crude oil that were spilled at Bonga impacted approximately on 950 square kilometres of water surface; affected a great number of sensitive environmental resources across the impacted area and has direct social impact on the livelihood of people in the riverine areas whose primary occupation is fishing, NOSDRA officials said.