UN Body Apologises Over Ogoni Oil SpillsNigeria
Port Harcourt — The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) involved in investigating the extent of oil spills in Ogoniland has apologised for what it called a mistake on the part of one of its officials who relied on the Federal Government figures on the causes of spills to pass a judgment on the issue.
UNEP Chief, Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, Mr. Henrik Slotte, who spoke with THISDAY in Port Harcourt weekend, regretted the controversy that attended the alleged attribution of spill causes to sabotage in Ogoni. He said the body was still investigating and yet to compile its report.
A UNEP official was quoted recently as attributing oil spillage in Ogoniland to sabotage and absorbed Shell of much blame.
But distancing UNEP from the statement, Slotte said the result of the laboratory tests would be compiled around October this year after which the results would be made public.
So far, he said the body had collected 1227 samples from four local government areas in Ogoniland and was yet to do laboratory analysis on them, and therefore could not have had its own figures to reel out to the public.
"There is no report from us. What happened was that there was a press conference in Geneva and our official (John Carwin) expressed concern that new spills were being noticed. There was the mistake of relying on figures that are not ours. We know that the mistake is weighing heavily on our integrity but I want to assure you that it was a mistake.
"We are still collecting samples, which we ship abroad for various tests by experts and facilities at accredited centres in the United Kingdom. We collect, test, file reports and after, we have peer reviews so that at the end of the day, we will come out with a very solid report that is comprehensive and can be translated," Slotte said.
He said the body was only investigating in accordance with the directives of the authorities after which a report would be published and after which the Federal Government could decide whether to go to the next stage of asking Shell to clean up the spills.
Slotte admitted that there had been some stormy meetings but denied that he had ever come under any influence by the funders of the project, pointing out that Shell Petroleum Developing Company (SPDC) was funding the project on the principle that the polluter pays.
"The UNEP study represents unprecedented efforts to examine the extent, nature and implications of oil contamination in Ogoniland, which remains unmediated, or only partially mediated today. It is part of a national goal to clean up contaminated sites for the benefit of local communities, where environmental degradation has reduced fish stocks, crop yields and access to safe drinking water, and to support the region's sustainable development.
"The UNEP project is well advanced. The fieldwork by scientific teams collecting samples of water, soil, sediment, air, plant and animal tissue is due to be completed in October 2010, and will be followed by laboratory analysis. A preliminary health study and institutional review of key environmental regulators will also feed into UNEP's assessment report which is due to be presented to the government and interested parties in early 2011," he said.
He pleaded with the Ogoni to understand the mistake and to have confidence that the body would do a good job with the template it had already put in place and asked that the mix up be taken for what it is.
September 5, 2010
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