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By UNDP Newsroom

23 August - An assessment of the environmental impact of oil spills across Ogoniland and the Niger Delta regions in Nigeria is not yet complete, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stressed today as it refuted allegations in the media that it has already reached key findings.

The fieldwork involved in carrying out a $9.5 million environmental assessment will not be finished until October and a report is not expected to be ready until early next year, after laboratory analysis has concluded, UNEP said in a press statement.

In recent days some media reports have suggested that UNEP has already found that 90 per cent of the contamination is from criminal activity by locals or from so-called bunkering, where oil pipelines are tapped and the contents siphoned out.

“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,” the statement noted.

“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 said the assessment “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 agency emphasized that the study, which began late last year, is independent and that the funding – from the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) – for it is in keeping with the polluter-pays principle.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa /