* Exxon says has notified government agencies
* Fisherman say can't access toxic fishing waters
* Oil spills common in Africa's top producer
LAGOS/PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Aug 15 (Reuters) -
E xxonMobil's Nigeria unit said it was investigating an
oil spill near its facility off the country's southeast coast,
which local fishermen said had covered the waters where they
fish with a toxic film.
Mobil Producing Nigeria, a joint venture between ExxonMobil
and the state oil firm, said on Wednesday that relevant
government agencies had been notified of the spill.
"Mobil Producing Nigeria ... confirms that oiling from an
unknown source has been sighted along the shoreline near Ibeno,
Akwa Ibom State," spokesman Nigel Cookey-Gam said.
"An emergency response team was immediately dispatched to
the shoreline, and samples of the substance were collected for
fingerprinting to determine its source, which remains unknown."
Sam Ayadi, a fisherman in Ibeno, said by telephone that no
one had been able to go fishing since the spill was first
noticed on Sunday.
"The fishermen are still off the waters due to the spill. We
cannot return yet. We are waiting for Mobil to open to
discussions with us about what happened," he said.
Oil spills are common in Africa's top energy producer.
Stretches of the Niger Delta, a fragile wetlands environment,
are coated in crude. Thousands of barrels are spilled every
year, and lax enforcement means there are few penalties.
The companies say the majority of spills are from armed oil
thieves hacking into or blowing up pipelines to steal crude, an
activity they estimate saps nearly a fifth of Nigeria's output.
A landmark U.N. report in August last year slammed the
government and multinational oil companies, particularly leading
operator Royal Dutch Shell for 50 years of oil
pollution that has devastated the Ogoniland region.
The government and oil majors have pledged to clean up the
region and other parts of the delta, but residents say they have
seen very little action.
"Because of this spill we have not been going to fish again
since Sunday. So we are suffering because this is the only work
we do as fishermen," Inyang Ekong said.
"This is what we go through each time there is a spill, and
that is why the prices of fish are going higher everyday."
Several communities have taken Shell to court over a failure
to clean up spills, although the oil major says insecurity and
rampant oil theft are hampering clean up efforts.