The True Cost of Oil

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Human Rights Violations in the Niger Delta

American oil giants Shell and Chevron have been operating in the Niger Delta for decades. While the region is one of the world’s most productive oil fields, the local communities are among the world’s poorest. The indigenous peoples of the Niger Delta suffer from pollution, destruction of the mangrove forests and depletion of fish stocks that sustained them. The companies operate with support of the oppressive Nigerian dictatorship and military– spurring violent and deadly backlash against activists who oppose them.

Activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa led an international, nonviolent campaign targeting Shell. For his commitment, Saro-Wiwa was arrested by the Nigerian dictatorship, subjected to a sham trial and hanged with eight other Ogoni activists in 1995. In 1998 over a hundred people occupied the Chevron-owned oil platform to demand compensation and jobs for the environmental damage caused by Chevron’s drilling. The Nigerian military shot and killed two unarmed protesters and wounded several others. Eleven of the protesters were arrested and reportedly tortured in the prison.

These incidents became the centerpiece to two landmark trials that came before courts in the United States. Over a decade after the killings, Chevron was cleared of responsibility by a federal jury in San Francisco. In June of 2009, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay a $15.5 million dollar settlement.

Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill traveled to Nigeria in 1998, where they produced their award-winning documentary, "Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship" (watch below)

June 09, 2009: Shell To Pay Out $15.5 Million To Settle Landmark Lawsuit Over Death of Nigerian Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a $15.5 million dollar settlement to avoid a trial over its alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta. The case was brought on behalf of ten plaintiffs who accused Shell of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. We speak to Ken Wiwa, the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and attorney Judith Brown Chomsky.

May 26, 2009: Shell on Trial: Landmark Trial Set to Begin Over Shell’s Role in 1995 Execution of Nigerian Human Rights Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
Fourteen years after the widely condemned execution of the acclaimed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the court will hear allegations that Shell was complicit in his torture and execution.

May 26, 2009: Antonia Juhasz on 'The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report'
Now Chevron’s annual report reports that 2008 was the company’s most profitable year in history. Just ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting, a new report released today tells shareholders more about the hidden and underreported costs of these profits. The alternative annual report is called “The True Cost of Chevron.” It brings together stories from communities across the world—Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States—all directly affected by and in struggle against Chevron’s operations.

May 21, 2009: Massive Casualties Feared in Nigerian Military Attack on Niger Delta Villages
The Nigerian military has been accused of killing hundreds, maybe thousands, of civilians in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The military offensive began eight days ago but has received little international attention. We go to Nigeria to speak with Denzil Amagbe Kentebe of the Ijaw National Congress. We’re also joined by Sandy Cioffi, director of the new documentary Sweet Crude about the Niger Delta. The village of Oporoza, where much of the film was shot, has just been burned down.

December 02, 2008: Chevron Cleared in 1998 Shooting Deaths of Protesters in Niger Delta
A federal jury in San Francisco has just cleared oil giant Chevron of any responsibility for the May 1998 shooting and killing of protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta. A decade ago, over 100 protesters had occupied a Chevron-owned oil platform to demand compensation and jobs for the environmental damage caused by Chevron’s drilling. The Nigerian military shot and killed two unarmed protesters and wounded several others.

October 28, 2008: Drilling and Killing: Landmark Trial Against Chevron Begins Over Its Role in the Niger Delta
A landmark trial has begun against the oil giant Chevron. A San Francisco district court is hearing a case brought by Nigerian plaintiffs who accuse Chevron of recruiting and supplying Nigerian military forces involved in the May 1998 shooting and killing of protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The protesters were occupying a Chevron-owned oil platform called the Parabe, demanding jobs and compensation for environmental damage to their communities. We play an excerpt of Democracy Now!‘s award-winning documentary, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship, and we speak with two activists.

May 09, 2008": Free from Nigerian Military Custody, 'Sweet Crude' Director Sandy Cioffi on Oil Politics in the Niger Delta
The Nigerian government, along with foreign oil companies, have reaped enormous profits over the years from the sale of oil and gas reserves, while the residents of the Niger Delta live in abject poverty. We speak to Sandy Cioffi, director of the the upcoming documentary Sweet Crude. She was recently arrested by the Nigerian military and held for a week before being released following international pressure.

May 17, 2007: 'Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil’
Historian and Journalist John Ghazvinian discusses his recent trip to Nigeria and the African oil boom. The U.S. now imports more oil from African nations than from Saudi Arabia.

December 26, 2006: As Hundreds Die in an Oil Pipeline Explosion in Lagos, A Look At the Fight Over Nigeria’s Natural Resources
Sandy Cioffi, the director of the film "Sweet Crude." joins us in New York just hours after she returned from Nigeria. She talks about how the popular resistance movement in the Niger Delta continues to fight multinational oil companies for control of the country’s natural wealth.

March 10, 2006: The Next Gulf: London, Washington & the Oil Conflict in Nigeria
In recent months, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta—MEND—has intensified its conflict with the Nigerian government and its largest commercial partner, the oil giant Shell. Government forces have bombarded villages and oil rigs in its attacks on MEND’s ethnic Ijaw rebels. We speak with James Marriot, author of "The Next Gulf."

September 20, 2005: Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai and Son of Executed Nigerian Activist Ken Wiwa Discuss Oil and the Environment
We take a look at oil and the environment with Ken Wiwa–the son of Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed in 1995 by the Nigerian military dictatorship and Nobel Peace prize-winner and leading environmentalist Wangari Maathai.

July 11, 2003: Drilling and Killing: As President Bush Meets with the CEO of Chevron Texaco in Nigeria, a Look at Chevron’s Role in the Killing of Two Nigerian Villagers
President Bush arrives in Nigeria today. As he wraps up his five-day Africa tour, he is accompanied by a large entourage of corporate executives. Front and center are the oil executives. Bush is set to meet with Chevron Texaco CEO and chairman Dave O’Reilly. Other transnational corporations attending include Exxon-Mobil and Shell Petroleum.
July 11, 2003: Transcript of Drilling and Killing Documentary
Produced by Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill. Mixed and engineered by Dred Scott Keyes

July 23, 2002: U.S. Oil Giant Chevrontexaco Suspends Some of Its Exports After Lightening Strikes and Women Stage An Unprecedented, Peaceful, 10-Day Occupation
The US oil giant ChevronTexaco has been forced to suspend exports from its main Nigerian terminal following fire and protest.

July 19, 2002: 150 Nigerian Women End Their Unprecedented Peaceful Protest Against Chevron, Winning Major Concessions
Over 150 Nigerian women ended their peaceful protest against Chevron in Escravos today. Fifteen women were arrested.

August 27, 2001: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship: A One Hour Documentary
Almost as regularly as the US bombs oil-rich Iraq, an oil pipeline of one multinational or other bursts somewhere in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. President Clinton has just returned from Africa’s most populous country.

September 04, 2000: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship
Democracy Now! documents for the first time Chevron’s role in the killing of two Nigerian activists. The San Francisco-based oil company helped facilitate an attack by the feared Nigerian Navy and notorious Mobile Police (MOPOL). In an interview with Democracy Now!, a company spokesperson acknowledged that on May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to their Parabe oil platform and barge in the Niger Delta, which dozens of community activists had occupied. The protesters were demanding that Chevron contribute more to the development of the impoverished oil region where they live.

August 25, 2000: The Niger Delta–Clinton’s Trip to Nigeria
President Clinton kicks off his second trip to Africa tomorrow with a high profile visit to Nigeria which he pointedly avoided in a 1998 trip to Africa. Then longtime dictator Sani Abacha was still in power. He was backed by the US throughout Clinton’s Administration. Well, at issue on this trip are a variety of issues including military aid, oil and debt reduction.

July 12, 2000: Niger Delta Oil Explosion
As US consumers worry about the rising cost of gas, Nigerians are paying a much heavier price. A pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta yesterday killed an estimated 250 villagers near the southern Nigerian town Warri. This explosion occurred just miles from the Niger Delta town of Jesse, where about 1,000 people died in a similar explosion in 1998.

April 25, 2000: Thousands Attend Funeral of Ken Saro Wiwa in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Niger Delta yesterday, thousands attended the funeral of Ogoni environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian Government of Sani Abacha almost five years ago.

May 10, 1999: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship Wins Project Censored Award, As Chevron Talks of Merging with Texaco
Democracy Now! won a Project Censored award this year for its documentary “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship.”

April 29, 1999: Democracy Now! Confronts Chevron CEO Ken Derr
Tonight, Project Censored honors some of the most censored stories from this past year–and one of those selected for an award was “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship,” Democracy Now!’s expose on the role that the San Francisco-based oil giant played in the killing of two Nigerian activists last May 28.

February 24, 1999: Chevron Linked to Violence in Nigeria
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is close to making a decision on whether to approve the introduction of a Chevron shareholders’ resolution. The resolution calls for a review of Chevron’s code of business conduct, which would include an explicit commitment to human rights, social justice and environmental responsibility.

February 24, 1999: Nigeria Human Rights Watch
In a new report released this week, Human Rights Watch is charging that oil companies operating in the Niger Delta are directly benefiting from human rights abuses and repression by the Nigerian military. The report says that the companies have failed to respond adequately to serious human rights abuses in the region.

February 11, 1999: Chevron Under Fire for Nigerian Killings
Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S. multinational Chevron are under fire for their roles in the recent killings of Nigerian activists. A U.S. Congressman is pressing for hearings to determine the precise role that U.S. multinationals play in facilitating and encouraging human rights violations abroad.

February 02, 1999: Death in the Niger Delta
At least 19 people were killed and another 10 were seriously injured in the Niger Delta this weekend when Nigerian military forces opened fire on a group of protesters at a Shell oil facility. Community activists had come to the Forcados oil terminal, located about 150 miles southeast of Lagos, to protest the oil giant’s continued devastation of their land.

January 27, 1999: Chevron and Nigeria
Throughout the year, the Niger Delta has been the scene of conflict between local people and the oil multinationals. Big oil companies are responsible for widespread environmental destruction in the Delta region. Residents in the Delta who have been outspoken against the oil companies have been the victims of extreme repression at the hands of the Nigerian government.

January 05, 1999: Bloodbath in the Niger Delta
Activists say Nigerian soldiers have killed between 26 and 200 people since December 30. Ijaw youth set that day as the deadline for multinational oil companies to leave the country. Demonstrations are still illegal although the military regime says it is no longer imposing martial law.

November 26, 1998": Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship
Democracy Now! documents for the first time Chevron’s role in the killing of two Nigerian activists. The San Francisco-based oil company helped facilitate an attack by the feared Nigerian Navy and notorious Mobile Police (MOPOL). In an interview with Democracy Now!, a company spokesperson acknowledged that on May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to their Parabe oil platform and barge in the Niger Delta, which dozens of community activists had occupied.

November 20, 1998: Nigerian Attorney Demands Meeting with Chevron
On May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to an offshore drilling platform in the Atlantic Ocean. There, dozens of community activists had peacefully occupied the Parabe oil platform and barge demanding that Chevron contribute more to development of the impoverished oil region of the Niger Delta.

November 10, 1998: Execution Anniversary of Nigerian Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
This week, President Clinton’s special envoy to Africa, Jesse Jackson, is visiting Ogoniland. Owens Wiwa, brother of Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders are calling on Jackson to demand that Ken’s body be turned over to the Ogoni for a proper burial.

October 13, 1998: Nigerian Activists Plan to Sue Chevron for Nigerian human rights activists are preparing to file a lawsuit in the United States against the Chevron Corporation, alleging that the U.S. oil giant was complicit in the deaths of two protesters who were killed on a Chevron oil barge in the Niger Delta in May.

October 01, 1998: Voices From Nigeria’s Resistance—Nigeria’s Democratic Transition
Nigeria’s military junta ordered all senior government administrators and ministers to disclose their personal assets in a crackdown on corruption. Meanwhile, groups continue to organize against the so-called democratic transition program of Nigeria’s military ruler General Abdulsalam Abubakar.

October 01, 1998: Resistance in the Niger Delta
Democracy Now! documents for the first time Chevron’s role in the killing of two Nigerian activists. The San Francisco-based oil company helped facilitate an attack by the feared Nigerian Navy and notorious Mobile Police (MOPOL).

September 30, 1998: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship
In an interview with Democracy Now!, a company spokesperson acknowledged that on May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to their Parabe oil platform and barge in the Niger Delta, which dozens of community activists had occupied.

August 14, 1998: Shell Oil Lawsuit Continues Despite New Image
Earlier this month, the Washington Post ran a story called “Shell’s New Worldview” which was ostensibly a profile of Mark Moody-Stuart the new head of Royal Dutch Shell.