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Conflict Mining/Resources, Environment, Niger Delta, Nigeria

Chevron on trial

Multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta have time and time again colluded with the Nigerian government in police and military action against local communities including women and children. In Etche Ogoni Egi and Ijaw, Shell Elf and Chevron have all paid for and employed the services of the para military police locally known as MoPo as well as the Nigerian army to attack local communities protesting against the environmental destruction of their lands. Shell and Chevron have particularly been guilty of pursing and directing acts of violence such as rape, beatings, destruction of land and property through their proxy army of Nigerian government militia.

The relationship between the oil companies and the Nigerian state is a complex and shifting one which goes back to the colonial period and the beginnings of the militarization of commerce in the Niger Delta. Initially the oil companies had complete control and through legislation such as the 1959 Petroleum Profit Tax Ordinance where able to keep a disproportionately large share of the profits from oil. As the Nigerian state became more and more dependent on oil it sought ways to strengthen it’s relationship with the oil companies and increase it’s control over the Niger Delta. The oil companies who in turn sought the protection of their profits along with the freedom to operate outside of international standards and environmental laws.

Now finally after years of trying to prosecute oil companies for these crimes, a landmark case is due to take place against Chevron…The law…….

suit is based on a 1998 incident in which Nigerian soldiers shot nonviolent protesters at Chevron’s Parabe offshore platform. The soldiers, who were paid by Chevron, were ferried to the platform in Chevron-leased helicopters and supervised by Chevron personnel. Two protesters were killed in the brutal attack and others were injured. Another protester brings claims based on the subsequent torture inflicted on him by the Nigerian authorities after Chevron claimed that he was a pirate.

In a recent ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston found evidence that Chevron’s personnel “were directly involved” in this attack, transporting the soldiers despite knowing that they were “prone to use excessive force,” and concluded that the evidence would allow a jury to find not only that Chevron assisted the soldiers knowing that they would attack the protestors, but also that Chevron actually agreed to the militarys plan.

But having got this far in a show of solidarity with the multinationals (success against Chevron would set a precedent in a series of prosecutions against multinational which would include huge sums in compensation to local communities) the United States government is refusing to give visas to the many villagers who could testify against the brutal attacks in 1998 against women by Chevron…………

The lead plaintiff in the case, Larry Bowoto, has visited the United States three times without encountering visa problems. “But now that the trial is going forward, women and children whose husbands and fathers were tortured and killed, and individuals who witnessed the killings, are being blocked,” added plaintiffs’ counsel Marco Simons, Legal Director of Earthrights International (ERI). “The U.S. government should be facilitating justice for human rights victims, not hindering it.” Chevron has not answered questions about whether it has had any role in the denial of the visas.

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