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Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship

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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. [includes rush transcript]

Soon after landing in Chevron-leased helicopters, the Nigerian military shot to death two protesters, Jola Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irowaninu, and wounded several others. Eleven activists were detained for three weeks.

During their imprisonment, one activist said he was hung from a ceiling fan hook for hours for refusing to sign a statement written by federal authorities.

Chevron is the third largest oil producer in Nigeria.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Almost as regularly as the US bombs oil-rich Iraq, an oil pipeline of one multinational or another explodes somewhere in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. President Clinton has just returned from Africa’s most populous country. He went to Nigeria’s capital Abuja, but cancelled his trip south to the Delta, angering many. Last month it was Chevron’s pipeline that exploded. After demanding compensation, a spokesperson for twenty-six communities near the oil city of Warri called on Clinton to intervene. It seems that as community leaders headed off for a meeting, called by Chevron, they got word from back home that their communities had been taken over by a combined team of soldiers and naval personnel with two gunboats.

And the militarization of the Delta is only increasing. Listen to this commentary in Nigeria’s Vanguard Daily. It says, “The Americans can be quite subtle. They took a look at our country and the restlessness in the Niger Delta. Their conclusion is that our coup-prone armed forces need be further strengthened.

“First, in the guise of professionalising our military and assisting it in peace keeping, the Americans are ready to provide financial and logistical support. In the specific case of the Niger Delta which has produced the so-called troublesome people like Ken Saro-Wiwa […] the Americans have decided to promote a military rather than a democratic solution. So they have offered our Navy eight fast attack patrol vessels, […] vessels […] specifically made for the [US Coast Guard…] meant to strengthen the Navy’s capacity to bring the undisguised rebellion in the oil producing Niger Delta to an end.

“Even under the murderous military regime, American interests remained how to make the Niger Delta stable for oily business by trans-national oil companies especially those with American links.”

Those words from last week’s Vanguard Daily of Nigeria.

Now let’s go to last year’s archives of Democracy Now!

    AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

    The Niger Delta is on fire. October’s explosion of a gas pipeline in Nigeria’s oil-producing region has killed more than 700 people. Once again a leaky pipeline leads to tragedy. And is so often the case in Nigeria, the military regime and the transnational oil companies, without presenting any evidence, call it sabotage. The reason is simple. That way, the military dictator, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, rules out compensation for the families of the deceased, as he flies to the scene in a Shell Oil helicopter.

    Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, cranking out more than two million barrels per day, it suffers from massive fuel shortages for its own people. It’s no surprise that thousands flocked to the leaky pipeline with cups and cans to scoop up what gas they could, their bodies found charred still holding those cups. But are they thieves and vandals, as the Associated Press called them? The terms might be more appropriate for the past and present leaders of Nigeria, one of the world’s greatest oil kleptocracies.

    Fuel shortages are merely one part of a larger frustration felt throughout the Niger Delta. Perhaps the most powerful symbol of the Delta is the gas flare, hundreds as high as buildings burning night and day. In some cases, these flares have roared continuously for forty years, since oil was discovered in Nigeria. Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa spoke often of the irony of children in the Delta growing up without electricity, but who have never known a dark night living in the shadow of the flame.

    But now a new fire is burning in the Delta. It is the rage of millions of people kept in desperate poverty, providing power to the most powerful countries in the world while being kept powerless themselves. Three years after the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other minority rights activists, communities from the Delta have shut down a third of the country’s oil production through unprecedented acts of resistance, infuriating transnational oil corporations and their Nigerian military business partners. Helicopters, barges and oil-mining facilities belonging to corporations like Shell, Chevron, Mobil and Texaco are being seized in protest of horrid living conditions and environmental devastation.

    Today, we will take a look at one of the protests that took place last May in the Niger Delta and the response of one of the transnational corporations, Chevron, the third-largest oil company in Nigeria. But before we go to that documentary, we wanted to play for you an interview done on Pacifica station WBAI four years ago with Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. I did it with WBAI producer Bernard White, as Ken Saro-Wiwa came to the United States for the final time to let this country know what transnational corporations were doing in his country, Nigeria. This is Ken Saro-Wiwa in the United States just before he returned, was arrested and executed.

      KEN SARO-WIWA: Shell does not want to negotiate with the Ogoni people. Each time they’ve come under pressure from local people, their want has always been to run to the Nigerian government and to say to the Nigerian government, “Oil is 90 percent of your foreign exchange earning. If anything happens to oil, your economy will be destroyed. Therefore, you must go and deal with these people, these troublemakers.” And most times, the government will oblige them and visit local communities of poor, dispossessed people with a lot of violence.

      And when these communities then protested and said, “Look. Look at the amount of violence that is being used against us, even though we are only protesting peacefully,” then the oil companies will come and say, “Well, there is no way we can determine how much violence a government decides to use against its own people.” So, basically, the local communities have no leverage with the oil companies at all.

      AMY GOODMAN: Who is the government now of Nigeria?

      KEN SARO-WIWA: There is a military government in power at this time. And indeed, military people have been in power in the country for a long time.

      AMY GOODMAN: Because they suspended the results of the elections?

      KEN SARO-WIWA: Yes, indeed. But for a long time now, Nigeria has been under military dictatorships. And the oil companies like military dictatorships, because basically they can cheat with these dictatorships. The dictatorships are brutal to people, and they can deny the rights of — human rights of individuals and of communities quite easily, without compunction.

      AMY GOODMAN: Ken Saro-Wiwa, how does the oil companies — how do Shell and Chevron deal with you as the president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People?

      KEN SARO-WIWA: Well, recently, when the protests started, Shell, they had a meeting. And the operatives of Shell in Nigeria and of those at The Hague in the Netherlands, and in London, held a meeting, and they decided that they would have to keep an eye on me, watch wherever I go to, follow me constantly, to ensure that I do not embarrass Shell. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a marked man.

    AMY GOODMAN: Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni rights activists were executed by the Nigerian military on November 10th, 1995. It was that interview that inspired me to one day go to Nigeria, the meeting of Ken Saro-Wiwa, as he explained what was happening in his country. Four years later, in August of 1998, I got a chance to go to Africa’s largest nation with Democracy Now! producer Jeremy Scahill. This is the documentary that comes from that trip.

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Abiola?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Saro-Wiwa?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed my nation?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Chevron, just like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities.

      STEVE LAUTERBACH: The policy for all embassies overseas to support American companies and their operations abroad and to, as far as possible, promote American exports.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Don’t pollute my water. Don’t destroy our mangrove forest. Don’t devastate our ecology.

      They drill. And they kill.

    AMY GOODMAN: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: An investigative report produced by Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill.

    AMY GOODMAN: Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, a nation that’s lived more than thirty years under a succession of military dictatorships, infamous for their corruption and ruthlessness.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Oil was discovered in Nigeria just before the country gained independence from the British in 1960. Since then there have been several coups and assassinations. But one thing has remained constant: the role of multinational oil companies in propping up the country’s military dictatorships.

      CHIMA UBANI: They are simply continuing what the Transatlantic slave trade and British colonialism did to us in the past.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Chima Ubani is a member of Nigeria’s oldest human rights group, the Civil Liberties Organization. He has been imprisoned several times resisting military regimes.

      CHIMA UBANI: And the struggles of our people today to rid ourselves of these agencies is merely an extension of our struggle for national independence. And our independence is not yet won, until we send these exploitative forces packing from our soil.

    AMY GOODMAN: Oil is the lifeblood of the Nigerian regime, supplying the military with nearly 80 percent of its revenue, pumping more than $10 billion a year into the government, enriching corrupt generals and their cronies.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: For nearly forty years, oil giants like Shell, Mobil and Chevron have worked in joint ventures with Nigeria’s dictatorships to exploit the country’s vast petroleum resources, often against the wishes of the local communities of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Protest against these oil giants has often resulted in a bloody response from their military business partners. Again, pro-democracy activist Chima Ubani.

      CHIMA UBANI: Yes, it is the same kind of relationship that the slave masters had with those traditional rulers and local chiefs of that period who actually sold our people into slavery to the European and American slave masters. That is exactly what has happened all over. What we find is that the Nigerian military creates the conducive environment for these multinational companies to come and exploit our people. They impose laws that favor such an exploitation and disempower our people. And most importantly, when our people rise to fight against this exploitation, it is the Nigerian government that uses its own troops to suppress and kill our people for fighting against exploitation by foreign companies.

    AMY GOODMAN: On November 10th, 1995, Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha hanged Ogoni activist and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. They were convicted by a kangaroo military court of murder. But their real crime was protesting the presence of Shell Oil on their land and the oil giant’s support for the military junta. Three years later, Ken Saro-Wiwa has become a martyr in the cause for justice in the Niger Delta.

    And resistance to multinational oil companies is on the rise. Oronto Douglas is the founder of the Chicoco movement, named after the rich soil of the Delta.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: The Chicoco movement is a pan-Niger Delta resistance movement committed to reclaiming our humanity. We — over the years we have been dehumanized, our environment has been plundered, our people raped, some jailed, others hanged. And we feel the time has come that we should put our hands together to struggle together so that we can achieve justice together, because we live on the same ecosystem right across the Niger Delta.

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Abiola?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Saro-Wiwa?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed my nation?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: What follows is the story of a group of communities from the Niger Delta known as Ilajeland that plays host to a hungry guest: Chevron, the San Francisco-based multinational oil corporation. Last May, the company facilitated the killing of two indigenous activists who dared to demand compensation for the use of their oil-rich land.

    AMY GOODMAN: Lagos is a city that reeks of fuel. Its busy streets are full of the commotion of motorcycles whizzing back and forth. Air-conditioned Mercedes Benzes and Peugeots crash through pothole-covered streets alongside decrepit buses stuffed with people. Children chase cars up and down the streets, selling everything from newspapers to bread to toothpaste. Little girls weave in and out of slowed traffic with large bowls of peanuts balanced carefully on their heads.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Many of the merchants on the street gravitate toward the long lines at gas stations, where people wait hours, sometimes days, for gas. These lines tell the sad story of a country that exports more oil than almost any other country on the continent, but suffers severe shortages for its own people. It is not unheard of in Nigeria for a gas station attendant who tells a soldier there is no gas left at his station to be shot and killed for bearing the bad news.

    Nigeria has four oil refineries that refine fuel for domestic consumption, but it is rare that more than one is fully operational at any given time. This makes importing fuel a necessity for Nigeria.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so the odd picture: in one of Africa’s largest oil-producing countries, gas stations with no gas are set against a backdrop of the headquarters of the world’s most powerful multinational oil corporations.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: In August and September, we traveled to Nigeria to trace the flow of billions of petro-dollars back to its source, the heartland of oil country: the Niger Delta.

    AMY GOODMAN: After searching Lagos for a car that would have enough fuel for a long trip, we drive five hours south of the city. Along the way, we pass more than a dozen military roadblocks manned by soldiers holding semi-automatic machine guns and horsewhips. At some of these roadblocks along the way, soldiers force our driver out of the car and demand money from him in order to pass.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: We knew the reports of soldiers murdering drivers who refused to pay. Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The extortion at these stops can be as routine as paying a toll. The difference is the imminent threat of violence at every point.

    AMY GOODMAN: Approaching the port town of Igbokoda, we’re forced out of the car. This particular checkpoint is manned not only by the military, but also by the police, the feared state security service, and a Nigerian customs agent. As they demand to see our passports, one of the officers begins to let the air out of our tires. Even with angry threats of detention, our guides manage to diffuse the situation, and we move on to Igbokoda.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: There we rent a speedboat. As we head down one of the hundreds of creeks of the Niger Delta, we pass women canoeing slowly by, many transporting large plastic containers for water. The water in these riverain communities is too polluted to drink, as canals dug by Chevron have caused the saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean to invade the freshwater of Ilajeland. Villagers also complain that the canals, which the oil company contends facilitate local commerce, have led to severe erosion, causing whole communities to up and move.

    AMY GOODMAN: Dead pigs dot the shallow banks. Villagers say the pigs and other animals have been dying in droves after a recent Chevron oil spill.

      VILLAGER: I depend on the pigs and some other domestic animals for my livelihood. And now all of them are dead. I don’t know how I can survive, I am hungry.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: This recent spill hits especially hard, coming just two months after two members of the community were shot dead protesting the desperate conditions in Ilajeland. That is what the villagers want to talk about today.

    AMY GOODMAN: We walk along planks above the swampy ground to a shack on stilts with walls of raffia palm. As the sun goes down, villagers crowd into the dimly lit space to tell us their story.

      MALUMI: We welcome you on behalf of the forty-two communities in the Chevron operational area in Ilajeland. We thank you sincerely for taking the pains to come to our community. And you can see our environment, how it is. It has been devastated. But once again, we welcome you on behalf of the forty-two communities.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: The room is packed with people. It is a sweaty, hot Delta evening. Little kids peer over the shoulders of their parents outside the windows as one of the elders of the community recounts their story. It begins on Monday May 25th, 1998. The villagers say on that day more than 100 youths from forty-two communities of Ilajeland traveled by canoe and speedboat miles into the Atlantic Ocean, where Chevron has an offshore drilling facility known as the Parabe platform. The youths then proceeded to occupy the barge that was servicing the platform. Chief Nicolas Amamoa is an Ilaje elder.

      CHIEF NICOLAS AMAMOA: [translated] When our children went to offshore, they went there to demand for their rights, our rights.

    AMY GOODMAN: The villagers say they were fed up. They had written Chevron several unanswered letters and scheduled meetings that didn’t happen. While the Nigerian military regime says Chevron’s offshore facilities lie in federal territorial waters, the people of Ilajeland see it differently. They see themselves as host communities paying the price of oil exploitation and reaping little benefit.

    Environmentalist Oronto Douglas is a lawyer from the Niger Delta. He says the demands of the community were modest.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: I said that, “Don’t pollute my water. Don’t destroy our mangrove forest. Don’t devastate our ecology. Come and listen to us. Come and talk to our elders.”

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Coming up, activists occupy the barge. Chevron and the military respond.

      LARRY BOWOTO: Soldiers, they don’t give any warning. They care their shooting. They don’t even care to listen to anything. They just care their shooting.

    AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now!

    's investigative report, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship. We’ll be back in a minute.


    AMY GOODMAN: This is Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, an investigative special, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. I’m Amy Goodman, with Jeremy Scahill.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: On May 25th, 1998, more than 100 activists from the forty-two communities of Ilajeland went by speedboat and canoe to Chevron’s Parabe platform and the barge that was servicing it miles into the Atlantic Ocean. They say it was the only way to get the attention of Chevron’s management. Larry Bowoto is one of the activists who occupied Chevron’s facility.

      LARRY BOWOTO: I went there for peaceful demonstration, because of the activities of Chevron in our area. We went there to just protest for the development of our community, because for thirty years — or thirty-two years now which Chevron is operating, we don’t have anything. So that is the reason we went there.

    AMY GOODMAN: According to the activists, they boarded the barge, approached a member of the Nigerian navy, and told him they were there to express their grievances to Chevron’s management. Bola Oyinbo was one of the leaders of the occupation.

      BOLA OYINBO: We don’t even have any weapon, not even a placard. But this is our grievances. We have been marginalized. That is why we are here. We’ve called Chevron. They refused to come. That is why we are here and want them to come to us here on the barge.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: The activists demanded to meet with Chevron’s managing director, an American named George Kirkland. But instead, Chevron sent a helicopter to the barge with a Nigerian employee in charge of community relations. The activists told him to go and speak with their elders onshore.

    When Chevron’s representative arrived at the community, the people presented their demands: clean drinking water, electricity, environmental reparations, employment and scholarships for youths, and rebuilding the eroding riverbanks. Chevron agreed to more jobs on the current project, but the company’s representative said he’d have to get back to the community in the next few days on the issue of reparations.

    AMY GOODMAN: The demands of the villagers were hardly unusual, and neither were the actions they took. Barge occupations at offshore sites, roadblocks at onshore facilities, taking tugboats hostage, they’re all part of an increasingly angry resistance movement in the Niger Delta. Communities are fed up with providing fuel that powers the wealthiest countries in the world, while being left powerless themselves. In fact, just a few months earlier, another community in the area with grievances against Chevron had occupied its offshore facility, as well. What was different this time was Chevron’s response.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: At this point, the work onboard the barge had been stopped for almost four days, which meant Chevron was losing money. But villagers say they thought they were still waiting for Chevron’s final response to their demands when helicopters descended on the platform.

    Parrere is one of the youth leaders who occupied Chevron’s facility.

      PARRERE: We just saw three helicopters coming. We were looking at all these helicopters, thinking that probably people inside these helicopters might have been Chevron’s reps who are actually coming to dialogue with us here. But I was at the top of the platform looking at the helicopters when they were about to land. They were about to land, when we heard shooting of tear gases and guns.

    AMY GOODMAN: Larry Bowoto , another of the activists onboard, describes what he saw.

      LARRY BOWOTO: About three chopper helicopters came there early in the morning when everybody’s sleeping, when we see that the helicopter landed with soldier men.

      AMY GOODMAN: With soldier men?

      LARRY BOWOTO: With soldier men. Before we discover, we hear the sound of gunshot. The next thing, they shot two of our guys.

    AMY GOODMAN: The two protesters who were shot and killed on the barge were named Jola Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irowaninu. Again, Larry Bowoto.

      LARRY BOWOTO: When they shot these two guys, I was rushing there to rescue this guy. When I am trying to rescue them, it is then they shot me. When they shot me with gun, I fell. It is then one of them stabbed me. From there, I don’t know what happened again.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Larry Bowoto was shot several times, including in the buttocks, which meant he was shot from behind. He was also stabbed. He remained in the hospital for nearly a month.

    AMY GOODMAN: The brother of one of the two men killed that day was also on the barge. His name is Tayee Irowaninu. He speaks through a translator.

      TAYEE IROWANINU: [translated] What happened is, when my brother now fell down and I saw that he was dead, I now decided I’m not going to leave my brother there. And what happened is they now locked us up in a particular container.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: When we returned to Lagos, we looked up Bill Spencer, resident area manager of ETPM Services, the company that leased the barge to Chevron. We find him in his office in Lagos. Listen carefully.

      AMY GOODMAN: What is the twenty-foot —- what are containers used for?

      BILL SPENCER: It’s just a regular shipping containers that you see on the boats. They usually take supplies out in them. They take stores in them. Sometimes they use them as a store.

      AMY GOODMAN: Uh-huh, to store things. Are they plastic?

      BILL SPENCER: No, they’re metal. Just an ordinary, everyday shipping container. You know, they’re twenty foot by eight feet by eight feet, with big doors on the end.

    AMY GOODMAN: Spencer is talking about the container onboard the barge.

      BILL SPENCER: Be a good a place to put people as any. We don’t actually have a prison onboard. A brig. I guess we should put one in.

    AMY GOODMAN: He says, “We don’t actually have a prison onboard. A brig,” then adds, “I guess we should put one in.”

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Though we talked with several contractors working for Chevron at the time of the killings, only Bill Spencer was willing to go on the record. His company ETPM Services provides barges and workers for most of the oil multinationals in Nigeria. We talked with Spencer for more than five hours at his office on Victoria Island, a wealthy area of Lagos that houses foreign embassies and the Nigerian headquarters of multinational corporations. It was on this island that we visited the Chevron compound, a heavily secured, walled-in community. Behind those well-guarded walls looks like any American suburb, complete with its own bank and supermarket.

    AMY GOODMAN: It was in this compound we found Sola Omole, Chevron’s general manager of public affairs. He talked about the occupation of the barge.

      SOLA OMOLE: We’re talking about an invasion. We’re talking about kidnap. We’re talking about piracy of the highest order.

    AMY GOODMAN: Until now, Chevron has claimed that its only action against the occupation was to call the federal authorities and tell them what was happening. But in a startling admission in a three-hour interview with Democracy Now!, Chevron spokesperson Sola Omole acknowledged that Chevron did much more. He admitted that Chevron actually flew in the soldiers who did the killing. And he further admitted that those men were from the notorious Nigerian navy.

      SOLA OMOLE: I guess -—

      AMY GOODMAN: Who took them in?

      SOLA OMOLE: What’s that?

      AMY GOODMAN: Who took them in?

      SOLA OMOLE: Who took them in?

      AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday morning, the Mobile Police, the navy?

      SOLA OMOLE: We did. We did. We did. We, Chevron, did. We took them there.

      AMY GOODMAN: By how?

      SOLA OMOLE: Helicopters. Yes, we took them in.

      AMY GOODMAN: Who authorized the call for the military to come in?

      SOLA OMOLE: Chevron’s management.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Chevron’s management.

    AMY GOODMAN: And we should also mention that Sola Omole speaks for the Chevron Corporation based in San Francisco. A letter to Pacifica from the corporation’s manager of media relations, Mike Libbey, states Sola Omole’s comments, quote, “fully represent the views of both our Nigerian business unit and of Chevron,” unquote.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: So, Chevron authorized the call for the military and transported the navy to the barge. On top of that, Chevron’s acting head of security, James Neku, flew in with the military the day of the attack.

      AMY GOODMAN: Were you on that helicopter?

      JAMES NEKU: Yes, I was in the helicopter.

      AMY GOODMAN: And how many people were there in that helicopter?

      JAMES NEKU: That helicopter had seven — six of us. There were six of us, six officers.

      AMY GOODMAN: Including the Chevron pilot or not including?

      JAMES NEKU: I think excluding the pilot. Including the pilot would be seven.

      AMY GOODMAN: And then, was it a mix of navy and —-

      JAMES NEKU: A mix of navy and the police. The police were armed with tear smokes.

      AMY GOODMAN: Was it the regular police or the Mobile Police?

      JAMES NEKU: Mobile Police.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Mobile Police, also known as the “Kill ‘n’ Go.” That’s the Kill and Go. Shell Oil, the largest producer of oil in Nigeria, came under heavy international condemnation in recent years for their use of the Mobile Police, forcing them to publicly renounce the use of the Kill and Go because of their brutal record in Ogoniland.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They shoot without question. They kill. They maim. They rape. They destroy.

    AMY GOODMAN: Environmental lawyer Oronto Douglas was one of the lawyers on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s defense team.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: The Kill and Go are a murderous band of undisciplined paramilitary Mobile Police force. Their order is to kill. When they go to a community, it’s not to maintain peace, it is not to maintain order.

    AMY GOODMAN: It was for exposing the relationship between the Mobile Police, the Nigerian regime’s henchmen, and a multinational oil giant that Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was ultimately executed.

      OGONI MAN: Great Ogoni people!

      CROWD: Great!

      OGONI MAN: Great Ogoni people!

      CROWD: Great!

      OGONI MAN: I have devoted all my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be intimidated or blackmailed.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: An Ogoni man reciting the last speech of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

      OGONI MAN: I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Neither imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory. I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial, and it is as well that…

    JEREMY SCAHILL: When we visited the parents of Ken Saro-Wiwa a few days before coming to Ilajeland, this man stood up and recited Saro-Wiwa’s closing statement before the military tribunal that would ultimately hang him.

      OGONI MAN: In my innocence of the false charge I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger Delta and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. Bene Ogoni!

    AMY GOODMAN: Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa’s final words of resistance continue to echo throughout the Niger Delta, but so does the fierce response from the Nigerian regime and its multinational partners.

    This is a Democracy Now! special, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: And so, here we have, on May 28th, 1998, Chevron flying in the Nigerian navy and the Mobile Police to confront a group of villagers who thought they were in the midst of a negotiation with the oil giant, which brings us to another admission by Chevron spokesperson Sola Omole. Again, listen carefully.

      AMY GOODMAN: Were any of the youths armed?

      SOLA OMOLE: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. So I cannot say that they came armed with -— there was talk about local charms and all that, but that’s neither here nor there.

      AMY GOODMAN: So, you don’t think that they came onto the boat armed, you’re saying?

      SOLA OMOLE: No. No.

      AMY GOODMAN: The youths.

      SOLA OMOLE: Mm-hmm.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: It is very clear that Chevron, just like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities. They drill. And they kill.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Again, environmentalist Oronto Douglas.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They are shooting our people for just demanding for their right.

    AMY GOODMAN: Chevron contends that when the helicopters landed on the barge, the soldiers got out and issued a warning that if the villagers calmly dispersed, they would not be hurt. Villagers say there was no such warning, that the soldiers simply started shooting. Either way, where could those who had occupied the barge disperse to? The barge was surrounded by water in the Atlantic Ocean, miles from shore.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: They were then tear-gassed and shot. While Chevron security chief James Neku says that two of the villagers tried to disarm a soldier, which is why they were shot dead, Chevron contractor Bill Spencer says one of the men who was killed was actually trying to mediate the situation.

    The final tally: two dead, one shot and seriously wounded, and reports of other injuries. And what of the eleven activists locked in the shipping container? They say they were held there for hours in what they described as suffocating heat. They were then transported to several jails in the dreaded Nigerian prison system. After three weeks, they were released.

    AMY GOODMAN: Bola Oyinbo was one of the eleven activists imprisoned after the barge occupation. He says the prison authorities tried to extract a confession of piracy and destruction of property from him by torturing him. They began with handcuffs.

      BOLA OYINBO: They used the handcuff to hang me on a fan for almost five hours.

      AMY GOODMAN: Wait a second. They put you in handcuffs and hung you?

      BOLA OYINBO: Hung me. And there’s a hook they use for ceiling fans. So they put me there for almost five hours.

      AMY GOODMAN: They hung you from a ceiling fan hook?

      BOLA OYINBO: Hook, yes.

      AMY GOODMAN: For five hours.

      BOLA OYINBO: Five good hours.

      AMY GOODMAN: Your feet weren’t on the floor?

      BOLA OYINBO: My feet were not on the floor. I was hung, suspended in the air.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: We asked Bill Spencer what he thinks of the torture Bola Oyinbo says he endured.

      BILL SPENCER: I don’t think anybody here really is under the impression that when you go to jail in Nigeria, it’s pleasant.

      AMY GOODMAN: Was there concern about the young people who were held in detention? Was there any follow-up?

      BILL SPENCER: By me? Not at all. No.

      AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned about them in detention?

      BILL SPENCER: I was more concerned about the 200 people that work for me. I could care less about the people from the village, quite frankly.

      AMY GOODMAN: But once your people were safe?

      BILL SPENCER: Did I personally have any concern for them? Not one little bit.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Two people dead, several people injured, and there is now still a threat of clampdown on the local people.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Again, environmentalist Oronto Douglas.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: What have they done? They have simply asked for: take care on our environment; give us a cup of water to drink, because you have polluted our water; give us the means of livelihood so that we can survive as a people. Is that too much?

    AMY GOODMAN: Coming up in the final segment of this special investigation.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They are professional undertakers. They are here to kill, because they must produce oil for the American people.

      STEVE LAUTERBACH: It’s, generally speaking, the policy for all embassies overseas to support American companies and their operations abroad and to, as far as possible, promote American exports.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They drill. And they kill.

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Abiola?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed Saro-Wiwa?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: Who killed my nation?

      CROWD: Soldier!

      OGONI MAN: For oil money?

      CROWD: Soldier!

    AMY GOODMAN: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. If you’d like a copy of today’s program, you can order a cassette by calling 1 (800) 735-0230. That’s 1 (800) 735-0230. Stay tuned for the final segment of this special investigation here on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.


    AMY GOODMAN: This is Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, an investigative special, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. I’m Amy Goodman, with Jeremy Scahill.

    In all of our conversations with contractors, we asked them their thoughts on working with a military government. One said, quote, “In uncivilized countries like these, democracy brings nothing to the table.” Chevron contractor Bill Spencer expressed similar thoughts.

      BILL SPENCER: My thoughts on it? I don’t have any. That’s their business. It isn’t mine, you know?

      AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm.

      BILL SPENCER: I’m not leading a moral campaign. Just here to do our — to work. Strictly commercial venture. Not a political one.

      JEREMY SCAHILL: When you talk about the Mobile Police or the navy, and, you know, you acknowledge that they can be quite ruthless or could be prone to, you know, beating people on the street, do you have any reservation about working with those forces, knowing or acknowledging that they can, in fact, be ruthless?

      BILL SPENCER: No, I don’t know. Life is tough here. And people, I think — you know, you often hear it said that life is cheap here. And I guess it is. And it’s looked at a little differently. I think that that’s something that doesn’t happen in our society. Our life is a little more — maybe a little more precious or whatever. But I think here it’s — in any of these, any of the countries, developing countries, it tends to be a little cheaper.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: But who thinks life is cheap? The general population or the generals? Chief Gani Fawehinmi is Nigeria’s leading human rights activist. He says the Nigerian government revolves around a gun.

      CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI: They govern with a gun. They loot with a gun. They rob the resources of this country with a gun. The gun in Nigeria is not used to protect and advance the liberty of Nigerian people. It’s used to suppress and repress the hopes and aspirations of Nigerian people.

    AMY GOODMAN: Among human rights activists, it’s accepted as fact that the Nigerian military serve as hired guns that protect the interests of the multinational oil companies in the Delta. But most oil companies do not want to admit this. Chevron spokesperson Sola Omole.

      AMY GOODMAN: Does Chevron give special duty pay to the naval officers who are onboard, you know, for the whole time, not to the Mobile Police who are onboard on these barges?

      SOLA OMOLE: Those guys were working for the contractor. I guess you have to ask the contractor that.

      AMY GOODMAN: In terms of special duty pay. But ultimately you said that since they’re all working for Chevron, that Chevron’s ultimately responsible for that, because you’re paying the contractor.

      SOLA OMOLE: Well, you’ll have to ask the contractor, really.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: And so we did. We headed back to Chevron contractor Bill Spencer’s office and asked him who paid for the military housed onboard the barge, as well as those who came in by helicopter the day of the attack. To be absolutely sure, Bill Spencer called his head of operations in the Delta, Habib Fadel. In fact, we had visited Habib several days before in the Delta, but he did not want to go on record. Now, through Spencer, he did.

      BILL SPENCER: Yeah. Habib. Say, on the day of the brig 101, we seem to be — we’re doing an inquest here for the benefit of who knows who, but… Who paid for the military that day? Were they ours, or were they Chevron’s? The ones actually that were living on the barge in the long term. Mm-hmm. Were they Chevron’s regular guys from — do you know? Oh, OK, from Escravos. Anytime we hire the navy, we go through the — I hesitate to say the high command, but anyway. Yeah, I knew we went through — OK, yeah. So we went — we usually — if it’s Chevron, we go through Chevron to do it. And then, in that — if we do it that way, if it’s done that way, we would pay whatever that is to the navy base. Oh, OK. OK.

      AMY GOODMAN: What about on Thursday morning?

      BILL SPENCER: Just I’ve already asked that.

      AMY GOODMAN: Oh.

      BILL SPENCER: Yeah, OK, that’s it. If there’s anything else, I’ll give you a call. Yeah, bye.

      They were not ours. They were paid — they were supplied by Chevron.

      AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday morning, too.

      BILL SPENCER: All of them. Everybody that was out there.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how does Chevron feel about its partnership with the Nigerian military? Company spokesperson Sola Omole.

      AMY GOODMAN: You can’t speak for the military, but if Chevron is working with the military, calling the military in, then doesn’t Chevron bear some of the responsibility for what the military does?

      SOLA OMOLE: No. We told you that this is a joint vent… We’re just using military. This thing is owned by Nigeria. Sixty percent by Nigeria. Military is just one component.

      JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s a military government.

      SOLA OMOLE: Excuse me, please. I’m not talking about government.

      AMY GOODMAN: You would not be willing to criticize the Nigerian military for illegal detentions, for deaths in custody?

      SOLA OMOLE: Now we’re going — now we’re going into other areas, and I think we need to bring this to a close.

      AMY GOODMAN: But it’s the same area —-

      SOLA OMOLE: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

      AMY GOODMAN: —- because the military killed two people on your barge.

      SOLA OMOLE: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. We’ve got to bring this to a close now. Thank you very much.

    AMY GOODMAN: So you have a deadly combination: a military with a miserable human rights record that’s employed by one sector of society — corporations with an interest in suppressing dissent and maintaining their free and open access to oil in the Delta. It’s this relationship, says Nigerian environmental activist Oronto Douglas, that killed the villagers of Ilaje.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Two people shot dead, several injured, and the community is in poverty. Look at the darkness. Look at the wretchedness. Look at the helplessness. This is what cannot be tolerated in the United States of America, where Chevron comes from.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: And what about the United States, where Chevron is based? Though the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists drew widespread international condemnation, the United States government refused to impose oil sanctions against the Nigerian regime. The US continues to buy nearly half of the dictatorship’s oil.

    Steve Lauterbach is the spokesperson for the US embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.

      STEVE LAUTERBACH: It’s, generally speaking, the policy for all embassies overseas to support American companies and their operations abroad and to, as far as possible, promote American exports overseas. That applies in Nigeria, and it applies in almost every embassy overseas.

      AMY GOODMAN: It’s general practice here, just going around the country, we have found, through the Niger Delta and all around, that the US multinationals and the oil corporations here hire the military as security, either the Nigerian military or the Mobile Police. Does the US embassy have a position on that?

      STEVE LAUTERBACH: I’m not aware of any position that we — official position we have on that. No, I can’t comment on that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Commenting on US policy is something Gani Fawehinmi has no trouble doing. As the leading human rights lawyer in Nigeria, he knows the military regimes of his country. He’s been imprisoned by them dozens of times. He was the lead counsel for Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and represents dozens of other Delta activists in and out of jail. He says if the United States and the European Union or EU countries would impose oil sanctions, the Nigerian regime would fall in less than two to three months.

      CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI: If America imposes oil sanctions today, and it is supported by the EU countries, this government military will be brought down to its knees in less than two to three months.

    AMY GOODMAN: Chief Fawhinmi says the military would never find its way back to the body politic of Nigeria.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: As for the two men killed during the attack, Chevron returned their bodies to the families more than a month after they were killed. The company has agreed to pay what it calls burial expenses to the families, but says this is not compensation. Nigerian environmental attorney Oronto Douglas scoffs at the payment.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Now, they have improved by now paying 450,000 naira. They are professional undertakers. They are here to kill, because they must produce this oil for the American people. So it is important to note that this kind of situation has continued without any remorse whatsoever from Chevron. And I am very sure that more killings in Chevron’s area of operation will continue in the years to come, in the months ahead, because as the company gets more desperate, as the community continues to resist environmental degradation, exploitation and the continuous neglect of their local ecology and their way of life, there will be that protest, that resistance for survival.

    AMY GOODMAN: After a brief hiatus following the killing, Chevron has just resumed its operations off the shore of Ilajeland. And Chevron’s contractor, Bill Spencer, says that once again Chevron is bringing in the navy.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: And the young people of Ilajeland are coming out in force, as well. Sowore Omoyele was born there. He went on to study at the University of Lagos, where he became student body president. When he learned of the killings, he called Ilaje students together at the university to organize a fitting memorial service for the two men killed onboard the Chevron barge.

      SOWORE OMOYELE: What we are saying is that Chevron have come to destroy our lands, doing what they cannot tolerate in America. They would never have tolerated a black man to come and mine oil in America, talk less of allowing this such a black person to kill American youths. But that is what is happening here. The youths will take over this fight effectively on behalf of our fathers. Those of our colleagues that were murdered, we are coming for a proper, befitting remembrance for these youths. I want to draw the attention of the whole world for a proper, befitting remembrance for these youths. I want to draw the attention of the whole world to our community and the fact that we are becoming fast, even faster than the Ogonis, an endangered species of human beings.

    AMY GOODMAN: And the attention is slowly beginning to focus on Chevron’s activities in Nigeria. While Sowore Omoyele was arrested, detained and tortured in the midst of organizing a memorial service for the two protesters killed May 28th at Chevron’s offshore drilling site, people in the United States are beginning to mobilize. Chevron is the largest corporation headquartered in California. Its revenues exceed the gross domestic product of Nigeria. Last Friday, on November 20th, 200 people gathered outside Chevron’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco to take the protest home.

    Uche Onyeagucha is a lawyer with the Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action. He was turned back by Chevron security as he tried to enter the building to meet with Chevron chief executive officer Ken Derr. Onyeagucha is demanding Chevron stop drilling in Nigeria until the crisis is resolved. And he had a question for Ken Derr.

      UCHE ONYEAGUCHA: Who in the Market headquarter —- Market Street headquarters of Chevron authorized the killing of these youths? Because the way it has been carried out, everybody is like hiding and pretending that nobody gave the orders. Chevron provided the helicopter, the fleet of people. Chevron got their chief security officer to direct this oppression. So we want to know, inside Chevron, who gave the authorization for these kids to be killed and the rest that were injured.

    AMY GOODMAN: Onyeagucha’s group in Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action, is working with a number of environmental groups in United States, including the California-based Corporate Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Project Underground and Communities for a Better Environment. Some of these groups also have been organizing around Chevron’s pollution of the low-income African American Bay Area community of Richmond, where Chevron’s first oil refinery is located.

    Again, Uche Onyeagucha.

      UCHE ONYEAGUCHA: Chevron would prefer for these issues to be seen as isolated incidents. However, our primary interest now by working with these community groups in the United States is to set up an international network, whereby we will continue to link effectively the environmental destruction that’s carried out by Chevron in Richmond, California, and in Ilaje in Ondo state, Nigeria, and to carry out a sufficiently global action against them.

    AMY GOODMAN: As for lessons Chevron has learned from its facilitation of the Nigerian military attack on the Ilaje protesters in May of 1998, well, last year at a Chevron shareholders’ meeting, I got a chance to question then-CEO Ken Derr about whether Chevron would tell the Nigerian military to stop shooting protesters on their sites.

      AMY GOODMAN: But have you officially demanded that they not shoot protesters on your site?

      KEN DERR: I don’t know if we officially demanded it, but I think it goes without saying that nobody -—

      AMY GOODMAN: Will you officially demand it?

      KEN DERR: No! I mean, that’s ridiculous. OK, next question please?

    AMY GOODMAN: If you have a question for Chevron’s CEO, you can call the oil company’s headquarters in California at (415) 894-7700. That’s (415) 894-7700.

    To find out more information about the movement against Chevron, you can call Project Underground at (510) 705-8981. That’s (510) 705-8981.

    And since this documentary was produced two years ago, the wounded and survivors of those killed by the Nigerian military with the help of Chevron have sued the oil giant in San Francisco.

      LARRY BOWOTO: It was about 6:15 a.m. Nigeria local time. We just saw TV and helicopters, heard the sound of gunshots. The next thing, they shot two of our guys.

      BOLA OYINBO: We don’t even have any weapon. We have been marginalized. That is why we are here.

      AMY GOODMAN: Who took them in?

      SOLA OMOLE: Who took them in?

      AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday morning, the Mobile Police, the navy?

      SOLA OMOLE: We did. We did. We did. We, Chevron, did. We took them there.

      AMY GOODMAN: By how?

      SOLA OMOLE: Helicopters. Yes, we took them in.

      SOWORE OMOYELE: What we are saying is that Chevron have come to destroy our lands.

      STEVE LAUTERBACH: The policy for all embassies overseas to support American companies and their operations abroad and to, as far as possible, promote American exports.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Don’t pollute my water. Don’t destroy our mangrove forest. Don’t devastate our ecology.

      SOWORE OMOYELE: Chevron has turned this place to another Ogoniland.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They are professional undertakers. They are here to kill, because they must produce oil for the American people.

      BILL SPENCER: Life is cheap here. In any of these, any of the countries, developing countries, it tends to be a little cheaper.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: Chevron, just like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities.

      CHIMA UBANI: They are simply continuing what the Transatlantic slave trade and British colonialism did to us in the past.

      ORONTO DOUGLAS: They drill. And they kill.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship was produced by Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill. It was mixed and engineered by Dred-Scott Keyes at the studios of WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York.

    AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Allan Nairn, Grayson Challenger, Samori Marksman, Elombe Brath, Jebel Fai [phon.], Michael G. Haskins, Paul Wonder, Monica Wilson, Julie Cohen, Christina Roessler.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Diana Cohn, Bernard White, Catherine Powell and the Data Center, Mike Fleishman, Michael Ratner and Mel Wolf, Janice K. Bryant, Maria Carrion, Joe Wilson, Valerie Van Isler and Suzette Irma [phon].

    AMY GOODMAN: Our technical director is Errol Maitland. Julie Drizen is our executive producer. Our web meister, Michelle Garcia. Our website is That’s Our email address, democracy(at) To order a cassette copy of today’s program, you can call the Pacifica Archives at 1 (800) 735-0230. That’s 1 (800) 735-0230.

    Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship is dedicated to the Nigerian journalists who risk their lives day in and day out.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: In prison and out of prison, in the struggle to bring freedom and democracy to their country.

    AMY GOODMAN: Throughout today’s program, we’ve played the music of Fela, one of Nigeria’s leading musicians. Fela died last year, but his music lives on.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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