`Mobs' Hindering Assessment of Nigerian Delta Oil Spills, UN Official Says

Assessment of damage from crude spills in part of Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger River delta is being hindered by “angry mobs,” an official of the United Nations Environment Program said.

Work in the Gokana local government area, one of four councils where studies of the impact of the oil industry in the Nigerian region are being conducted, is “on hold,” Mike Cowing said at a meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan today in the capital, Abuja.

“We had to withdraw from Gokana until such a time as the security situation will allow us to return,” he said, without saying why the residents are objecting.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigerian unit is funding the study, with a report planned to be submitted by January, Cowing said.

The Niger Delta region, where people from the Ogoni ethnicity live, was a hotbed of protests against Shell and the Nigerian government in the 1990s in campaigns led by writer and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged in 1995.

Samples of ground water, plants and animal tissue have been taken from three council areas where the people aren’t posing problems. Scientific studies on the material are in progress, the UN’s environmental branch said in a statement handed to reporters.

The team investigated 171 spill sites, said Cowing. While many of them constituted “low risk,” a few were of high risk “in terms of size and nature of the spills,” he said.

Shell has a 30 percent stake in a joint venture with state- owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., which controls 55 percent. Total SA has 10 percent and Eni SpA holds the remaining 5 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Okolo in Abuja at pokolo@bloomberg.net

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