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Press Release

Press Statement on the Cause of Oil Spills in the Niger Delta
23/ 08/ 2010

Press Statement on the Cause of Oil Spills in the Niger DeltaAt the request of the government of Nigeria, UNEP is conducting an environmental assessment of the impacts of oil spills in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta. The UNEP study represents an unprecedented effort to examine the location, nature and extent and implications of oil contamination in Ogoniland.

Nairobi, 23 August 2010 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at the request of the government of Nigeria, is conducting an environmental assessment of the impacts of oil spills in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, and options for remediation.

UNEP's decision to respond to this request by a member state recognizes the human and environmental tragedy associated with oil contamination in Ogoniland and the fact this needs to be addressed.

The UNEP study represents an unprecedented effort to examine the location, nature and extent and implications of oil contamination in Ogoniland. It is part of a longer term goal to clean up contaminated sites for the benefit of local communities and people living in parts of the Niger Delta and for the region's sustainable development.

The fieldwork by UNEP's scientific teams collecting samples of water, soil, sediment, air and plant and animal tissue is due to be completed in October 2010, and will be followed by laboratory analysis. As this process of sample collection is still under way no draft or final report currently exists. Once finalized, the report will provide a compilation of all results and present options to the government and all interested parties on the most appropriate measures to clean up the area's environment. It is due to be presented to the government of Nigeria and interested parties in early 2011.

Media reports over the past days and weeks have indicated that it is UNEP's determination that 90 per cent of oil spills are linked with so-called 'bunkering' and criminal activity.

In referring to this data, UNEP clearly indicated that these figures represented official estimates of the Government of Nigeria, based in part on data supplied by the oil industry.

They therefore do not represent nor reflect results of UNEP's current assessment process which is still ongoing. To link this data with UNEP's study or indeed any future attribution of responsibility is incorrect.

UNEP would ask all parties within and outside Nigeria to recognize this fact and to respect the multi-disciplinary team carrying out this important task. UNEP wishes to assure all concerned that the assessment will be concluded to the highest standards of independence, integrity and transparency.

UNEP has over several years secured the confidence of the international community in many challenging regions of the world from the Balkans and Afghanistan to Gaza and Sudan.

The same professionalism and independence shown in these situations is being exercised in respect to UNEP's work in Nigeria.

The funding of the assessment was negotiated over a period of one and a half years to ensure the independence and integrity of the assessment. In keeping with the polluter pays principle the Government of Nigeria, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria and UNEP agreed that costs of USD 9.5 million would be borne by SPDC.

For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson:
Tel. +254 733 632 755, nick.nuttall@unep.org

Further Resources
Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland