Chevron cleared in ND shootings
Chevron oil has just be cleared of any responsibility for the May 1998 shooting and killing of protesters from Ilaje in the Niger Delta. Some 100 local villagers occupied Chevron Platform for 3 days protesting over compensation for environmental damage and demanding jobs. The Nigerian army who were flown to the platform on Chevron helicopters and paid by Chevron to disperse protesters, killed two people and wounded many others. Despite Chevron winning, the case has serious implications for local communities suing multinationals for human and environmental rights violations…
The case is one of several currently pending against Big Oil companies accused of assisting brutal governments in abusing the human rights of local populations in the oil-producing regions. Because such cases rarely go to trial, the outcome of this one is likely to be precedent setting. Already, the district court has ruled that Chevron could be liable if it encouraged or assisted government-sponsored brutality against the plaintiffs.
Although this initial case has been lost, [the plaintiffs will appeal] this is still a victory as multinationals now know that they can and will be held to account for their obnoxious behaviour towards local communities.
This is the first time a case against a company for aiding and abetting human rights violations overseas has even gone before a jury. And although we are disappointed that the plaintiffs did not prevail in this case, we are heartened by the fact that we are now entering a new era in the United States and abroad where people have seen the results of unregulated corporate excess (in the financial system and elsewhere) and want corporations to be reined in to prevent serious harms. Bringing this case to trial in the United States is a step on the path to corporate accountability. In the near future, corporations will no longer have a free ride to do operate with impunity in ways that are destructive and dehumanizing,” said Laura Livoti, founder of the group Justice in Nigeria Now.
“Regardless of the verdict, the Bowoto v. Chevron case represented a watershed in terms of corporate accountability. The details of the Nigerian case — of human rights abuses in the global operations of the oil and gas industry — can be replicated many times over in different industrial sectors in different parts of the world. Now communities around the world know that they have recourse to legal mechanisms to bring corporations that violate their human rights to justice,” said Michael Watts, a professor at UC Berkeley and author of numerous books on the Niger Delta, including Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta.
Oil and oil companies are central to the political economy of Nigeria. Since the discovery of this resource in 1958 billions of dollars have been stolen by corrupt leaders and officials, in collaboration with the multinational oil companies (MNCs) – Shell, Agip, Elf, Chevron and Exxon-Mobil. The relationship between these oil companies and the Nigerian state is a complex and shifting one that goes back to the colonial period. Initially the oil companies were completely in control. In particular the Mineral Oil Ordinance and the Petroleum Profit Tax Ordinance of 1959 enabled oil companies to keep a disproportionately large share of oil profits. The major beneficiaries of this policy were British Petroleum and Royal Dutch/Shell, companies in which Britain had substantial interests. In post-colonial Nigeria, the monopoly of Shell/BP was to a large extent broken by the entry of other oil companies such as Esso, Agip, and later Chevron, Elf and Mobil. As the Nigerian state became more and more dependent on oil it sought ways to strengthen its relationship with the oil companies and at the same time, through a series of repressive decrees, increase its control over the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta.
The Nigerian state and the oil companies consolidated their relationship which was based on profit over and above any other consideration. In exchange for the oil and gas that is removed from the Niger Delta, the oil companies with the support of the Nigerian state and it’s military forces, have left behind ecological destruction, towns and communities reduced to rubble, poverty, prostitution, death by fire, murder and rape. The attacks against communities continues to day as the environmental destruction continues unabated.
Chevron [along with Texaco] is also facing another suit for abuses by it’s security forces in Nigeria plus they face a class action suit for polluting the Ecuadorean Amazon.