Peter Idabor, head of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency said on Thursday that American oil giant, Chevron, must pay a whopping $3 billion fine to the Nigerian Federal Government for environmental damages to the oil-rich south caused by an offshore rig fire that burned for over one month.
Speaking to the House Committee on Environment, Idabor said the gas explosion aversely affected several impoverished fishing communities in oil-rich Bayelsa state, particulary the Koluama community.
The Chevron fire, which erupted after a gas explosion on 16 January, raged uncontrollably until 2 March. It claimed the lives of two contract workers, the company said and completely destroyed the rig at the Fumiwa fields, which sat just 10 km off the Bayelsa coast.
While the oil company is yet to definitively ascertain the cause of the fire, Idabor said his Agency has “investigated the incident; the fire was caused by equipment failure. Chevron is to take responsibility for the millions of cubic feet of gas blown into the air,” he said.
Community residents blamed the Chevron fire for damaging not only their health, but also their livelihoods, contaminating fish and making it unfit for consumption.
“The $3 billion administrative fine will go to the federal government; and the federal government will determine how to distribute it to rehabilitate the affected communities. We’re tired of oil companies polluting our environment,” Idabor said
But chairman of the committee, Hon. UcheEkwunife said that the committee would take its time to deliberate on the $3 billion fine proposed by NOSDRA, and communicate its decision to Chevron at a later date, This Day reported.