Eket (Akwa Ibom) – Fishermen in Akwa Ibom, have appealed to oil industry regulators to ensure an oil spill-free operation in the state in 2011.

They also sought God’s intervention in oil activities in the state, praying that operations in the Qua Iboe oil fields should be devoid of industrial accidents and strife.

The fishermen who operate under the aegis of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) said that a safe operational environment at the oil fields would support fishing activities and ensure food security in the country.

Chairman of ARFAN in the state, Rev. Samuel Ayadi, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview, in Eket, that fishermen in the state suffered untold hardship in 2010 due to frequent oil spills.

“Last year was particularly very challenging to us in the fishing business. It was the worst year in more than a decade for us as we recorded more than seven major oil spills which destroyed aquatic life.

“Besides, many fishermen were forced out of business for the greater part of the year due to pollution of the Atlantic by oil and gas companies operating within our territorial waters,” Ayadi said.

He called on the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and other agencies concerned with marine environment safety to insist on implementation of environmental laws to prevent the incidence of oil spills.

The association’s chairman said that due to the tedious oil spill compensation process, fishermen were always at the losing side whenever a spill occurred.

He said: “Our existing laws on oil spill compensation favour the International Oil companies to the detriment of fishermen who lack the resources to pursue their claims.

“We have oil spill compensation claims that have been pending for more than 10 years and even the cases we won in court, the companies refused to comply with such judgments.

“Sometimes, the companies deliberately appeal against our victories in court just to buy time and frustrate the poor fishermen.

“It is in our interest that spills do not occur at all because when it does, our operations are halted and we do not get anything from the polluters and this is why we are praying that it should not occur any more.”

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