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Human rights impacts of oil pollution: Nigeria

Killing, injury and alleged torture of protesters on Chevron oil platform

In May 1998, Nigerian villagers demonstrated on a Chevron offshore oil platform in the Niger Delta, in protest against Chevron’s environmental practices.  After several days of occupation by the protesters, the Nigerian military boarded the platform.  Larry Bowoto, one of the protesters and lead plaintiff in the subsequent lawsuit, said that “Nigerian military and police forces…opened fire on us; it is our contention that they did this without warning.  Two of the protesters were killed; I and more than 10 others were wounded. Still others were arrested and beaten by the Nigerian authorities.” One protester was taken into custody and claimed that the military tortured him.  The victims and their families alleged that the military acted at Chevron’s request and used Chevron helicopters in the attack.  Chevron said that the protesters were “extortionists” and that Chevron personnel “were held for ransom and threatened with acts of violence”.  Chevron said that it requested the military action as a “reasonable response to a dangerous invasion of the Parabe platform…It was never Chevron Nigeria Ltd.’s intent that anyone on the platform be harmed, and we deeply regret the loss of life and injuries that occurred.” 

Summary profile of the lawsuit against Chevron, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre – includes links to further information
“In 1999, a group of Nigerians of the Niger Delta region, where Chevron engages in oil production activities, brought a lawsuit against Chevron in US federal court.  The plaintiffs allege that they suffered human rights violations, including torture and summary execution, at the hands of the Nigerian military and police acting in concert with Chevron to suppress the plaintiffs’ protests against Chevron’s environmental practices in the Niger Delta.  The claims against Chevron are based on two incidents.  First, two protestors were shot by Nigerian military and police allegedly recruited by Chevron at its Parabe offshore platform.  Second, two Nigerian villages, Opia and Ikenyan, were attacked by Nigerian soldiers using helicopters and boats allegedly leased and/or owned by Chevron, and these attacks allegedly caused the death and injury of a number of villagers.

In March of 2007, a federal judge dismissed the federal racketeering claims against Chevron, but the judge declined to dismiss the remaining nine claims made by the plaintiffs.  In August of 2007, a federal judge issued a series of decisions regarding Chevron's motions for summary judgment.  The judge's orders narrowed the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs' central claims regarding Chevron's complicity in human rights violations were allowed to stand.  On 1 December 2008, the federal jury cleared Chevron of the charges in this case.  In March 2009, the federal judge denied the plaintiffs' request for a new trial, finding that the evidence presented at trial supported the jury's verdict.  The plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2009.  The Court of Appeals heard the appeal in June 2010.  In September 2010 the Court of Appeals issued a decision upholding the verdict of the trial court.”

Chevron cleared in 1998 shootings at Nigerian oil platform”, Richard Paddock, Los Angeles Times, 2 Dec 2008
“A federal jury Monday cleared Chevron Corp. of any responsibility in the shooting of Nigerian villagers by military forces during a protest at an offshore oil platform... Survivors of the 1998 incident had argued that the oil company should be held accountable because it paid the police and soldiers and transported them by helicopter to the oil platform, where they shot and killed two unarmed protesters and wounded two others... Chevron...countered that the villagers were holding workers hostage at the platform and that the company acted responsibly by calling in local authorities to protect them.”

Nigerians appeal Chevron win of platform clash case”, Braden Reddall, Reuters, 3 Apr 2009
“Nigerians who sought to blame Chevron Corp for a violent clash on an oil platform off their country's coast more than a decade ago have appealed a verdict in the U.S. company's favor…The jury rejected claims that the San Ramon, California-based company was liable for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, torture, assault, battery and negligence. ‘A jury unanimously found that Chevron was not liable for any of the claims by [Larry] Bowoto and the other plaintiffs,’ Chevron said in a statement on Friday. ‘We believe the plaintiffs appeal is without merit.’”

Verdict clearing Chevron is upheld", Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Sep 2010
“A federal appeals court…upheld a San Francisco jury's verdict clearing Chevron Corp. of wrongdoing for the shootings of Nigerian villagers who occupied an offshore barge in 1998 to protest the company's hiring and environmental policies. Government security forces summoned by Chevron killed two men and wounded two on a barge tethered to a company platform nine miles off the oil-rich Niger Delta after three days of negotiations with leaders of about 150 tribesmen. Villagers…testified at the trial in 2008 that the protest was unarmed and peaceful, but Chevron's witnesses said the protesters threatened violence, held crew members captive and demanded ransom. In a lawsuit by 19 plaintiffs…the jury rejected their claims that California-based Chevron was responsible for assault, inhumane treatment and wrongful death.”

Chevron should pay”, Larry Bowoto, in Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2008
“Ten years ago this week, I was shot by Nigerian soldiers who, my federal lawsuit will show, were paid for by Chevron Nigeria Ltd., a subsidiary of Chevron Corp. I was standing on a drilling platform in the Niger Delta run by Chevron Nigeria Ltd. More than 100 unarmed villagers joined me there to protest the loss of our fish, our clean water and our trees because of Chevron's oil production activities in our region, and to protest the loss of our traditional ways of supporting ourselves as a result of these activities. The lawsuit I (and others) filed in 1999 contends that Chevron Nigeria's own documents show that it paid for, transported and supervised Nigerian military and police forces that responded to our protests. They opened fire on us; it is our contention that they did this without warning. Two of the protesters were killed; I and more than 10 others were wounded. Still others were arrested and beaten by the Nigerian authorities.”

[video] “Bowoto on Chevron in Nigeria”, Larry Bowoto, 28 May 2008
“Ten years ago, on May 28, 1998, Nigerian security forces hired, paid for and ‘closely supervised’ by Chevron opened fire on peaceful demonstrators on an off-shore barge in the oil-rich Niger Delta, killing two men and injuring at least two more. On the anniversary of the attack, one of the injured, Larry Bowoto, speaks out.”

Bowoto v. Chevron - Hostage Taking Incident in Nigeria”, Chevron website
“In the spring of 1998, Larry Bowoto and 150 other Nigerians took control of a Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (CNL) oil platform, located nine miles offshore Nigeria. They demanded money and jobs before they would agree to release more than 100 workers…On the 4th day, the Nigerian Navy sent a rescue team to free the workers. CNL immediately investigated the incident and was later told that shots were fired during the rescue effort, when some of the Illaje attacked the rescue team.”

[video] “Chevron Wins Bowoto v. Chevron Case of Nigeria Crime”, Zennie Abraham, 2 Dec 2008
“After over a month of court legal battles in the case of Larry Bowoto v. Chevron Corporation, the jury only took three days to find the oil company not guilty of 58 counts of assault, torture, and other alleged violations…I talked to Chevron spokesperson Don Campbell about today's outcome. Campbell said that it was a victory for American companies doing business around the World who need to protect their employees from harm.”

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Article
11 September 2010

Verdict clearing Chevron is upheld [USA]

Author: Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle

A federal appeals court…upheld a San Francisco jury's verdict clearing Chevron Corp. of wrongdoing for the shootings of Nigerian villagers who occupied an offshore barge in 1998 to protest the company's hiring and environmental policies. Government...

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Article
2 December 2008

Chevron cleared in 1998 shootings at Nigerian oil platform

Author: Richard Paddock, Los Angeles Times

A federal jury Monday cleared Chevron Corp. of any responsibility in the shooting of Nigerian villagers by military forces during a protest at an offshore oil platform... Survivors of the 1998 incident had argued that the oil company should be held...

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