Professional fishermen operating on the Atlantic coastline of Nigeria have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the outstanding compensation for the oil spills at the Qua Iboe oil fields.
The announcement was made on Monday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, by Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Niger Delta Coordinator of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN).
Mr. Ayadi noted that the fishermen are hoping that the president's intervention will be his gift to them on his first anniversary in office. This, he said, would give a new lease of life to the sector and would be in tandem with the economic diversification policy of the present administration.
He stated that the fishermen had consolidated compensation claims from the Qua Iboe Oil fields operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited from the year 2000 to 2010 pending at the Presidency.
According to Mr. Ayadi, the immediate past administration had mediated between the oil firm and the affected communities but regretted that the fund was yet to reach the fishermen and other fishing communities in Akwa Ibom State.
“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 the commodity in the market.
“We learned that the Presidency under the immediate past administration stepped into the matter and received some funds to settle the victims but unfortunately the fund was not handed over before they left office.
“We appeal to the President in line with his change agenda to authorize 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 down-trodden people in search for 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.
Mr. Ayadi added that many members of his association had been thrown out of business by frequent spills, which have wiped out generations of fish from the waters. He said the spills were the reason why the Bonga fish is near-extinct and hard to find in the market.
He explained that professional fishing requires the government protection to enable fishermen to provide fish, which remains the cheapest source of protein, to guarantee food security in the country.