DRILLING AND KILLING: CHEVRON AND NIGERIA’S OIL DICTATORSHIP Produced by Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill. Mixed and engineered by Dred Scott Keyes
Sound montage NIGERIA. AFRICA’S MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY, A NATION THAT HAS LIVED MORE THAN 30 YEARS UNDER A SUCCESSION OF MILITARY DICTATORSHIPS INFAMOUS FOR THEIR CORRUPTION AND RUTHLESSNESS.
Oil was discovered in Nigeria at almost the same time the country gained independence from the British in 1960. Since then there have been several coups and assassinations. But one thing has remained a constant—the role of multinational oil companies in propping up the country’s military dictatorships.
Chima Ubani “they are simply continuing what theTransAtlantic slave trade and British colonialism did to us in the past.”
Chima Ubani is a member of Nigeria’s oldest human rights group, the civil liberties organization and has been imprisoned several times, resisting successive 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.”
Oil is the lifeblood of the Nigerian regime, supplying the military with nearly 80% of its revenue, pumping more than $10 billion a year into the government, enriching corrupt generals and their cronies.
For nearly 40 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: “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”
OGONI CHANT & ANTHEM
On November 10, 1995, Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, hanged Ogoni activist and playwright Ken Saro-wiwa and 8 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 giants 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 that 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.”
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
Fela: chaos everybody run run run chaos everybody scatter.
Sound: motorcycle and streets of Lagos
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.
Many of the merchants on the street gravitate toward the long lines at gas stations, where people wait 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.
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.
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.
(Motorcycle city sounds) 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.
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.
Approaching the port town of Igbokoda, we are 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.
PORT TOWN SOUND SPEEDBOAT
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 salt water 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.
Dead pigs dot the shallow banks. Villagers say the pigs and other animals have been dying in droves after a recent Chevron oil spill.
CUT: WOMAN CRYING 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.
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.
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 42 communities in Chevron’s 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 42 communities.”
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 25, 1998. The villagers say on that day more than 100 youths from 42 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 Amamoais an Ilaje elder.
ELDER “When our children went to offshore, they went there to demand for our rights”
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: “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.”
On May 25 1998, more than 100 activists from the 42 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: “We 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 30 years, or 33 years now, in which Chevron is operating we don’t have anything(fade)so that’s the reason we went there”
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 called Chevron and want them to come they refused to come. That is why they are here and want them to come to barge.”
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.
The demands of the villagers were hardly unusual and neither were the actions they took. Barge occupations at off-shore sites, roadblocks at on-shore facilities, taking tugboats hostage, they are 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.
At this point the work on board the barge had been stopped for almost 4 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 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 teargasses and guns.”
Larry Bowoto , another of the activists on board describes what he saw.
Larry Bowoto: “about three chopper helicopters came there early in the morning even everybody’s sleeping when we see that the helicopter landed with soldier men. Q: with soldier men? A: with soldier men. Before we discover we hear the sound of gunshot, the next thing they shot two of our guys.
The two protestors who were shot and killed on the barge were named Jola Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irwaninu. Again Larry Bowoto.
Larry Bowoto: “When they shot these 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.”
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.
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 RUWANINU (TRANSLATED): “What happened is when my brother now fell down and I saw that he was dead I now decided I was not going to leave my brother there. What happened is they now locked us up in a particular container.”
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.
Q: WHAT ARE CONTAINERS USED FOR? SPENCER: JUST A REGULAR SHIPPING CONTAINER THAT YOU SEE ON THE BOATS. THEY USUALLY TAKE SUPPLIES OUT IN THEM, THEY TAKES STORES IN. SOMETIMES THEY USE THEM AS A STORE. Q: ARE THEY PLASTIC? SPENCER: NO THEY’RE METAL. JUST ORDINARY EVERYDAY SHIPPING CONTAINERS 20FOOT BY8FTX8FT WITH BIG DOORS ON THE END.
SPENCER IS TALKING ABOUT THE CONTAINER ON BOARD THE BARGE.
Spencer: be a good a place to put people as any. We don’t actually have a prison on board. A brig. I guess we should put one in.
He says “we don’t actually have a prison on board. A brig.” Then adds, “I guess we should put one in.”
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.
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.”
Until now Chevron has claimed 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 mole 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.
Q: WHO TOOK THEM IN? ON THURSDAY MORNING, THE MOBILE POLICE, THE NAVY? OMOLE: WE DID. WE DID. WE DID. CHEVRON DID. WE TOOK THEM THERE. Q: BY HOW OMOLE: HELICOPTERS. YES. WE TOOK THEM IN. Q:WHO AUTHORIZED THE CALL FOR THE MILITARY TO COME IN? OMOLE: THAT’S CHEVRON’S MANAGEMENT.
Chevron’s management. We should add that Sola Omole speaks for the Chevron corporation based in San Francisco. A letter to Pacifica radio from mike Libby, Chevron’s manager of media relations states Sola Omole’s comments “fully represent the views of both our Nigerian business unit and of Chevron.”
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.
Q: WERE YOU ON THAT HELICOPTER? NEKU: YES I WAS ON THAT HELICOPTER Q: AND HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE IN THAT HELICOPTER? NEKU: THAT HELICOPTER HAD 6 OF US.6 OF US.6 OFFICERS Q: INCLUDING THE CHEVRON PILOT, OR NOT INCLUDING? NEKU: I THINK EXCLUDING THE PILOT. INCLUDING THE PILOT WOULD BE 7. Q: AND THEN WAS IT A MIX OF NAVY AND WHO? NEKU: IT WAS A MIX—AND THE POLICE. THE POLICE WERE ARMED WITH TEARSMOKES Q:WAS IT THE REGULAR POLICE OR THE MOBILE POLICE? NEKU: MOBILE POLICE.
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.”
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 interdisciplined paramilitary Mobile police force. Their order is to kill. When they go to a community their order is not to maintain peace, it is not to maintain order.
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.
“I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief. And from which I an not be blackmailed or intimidated.”
AN OGONI MAN RECITING THE LAST SPEECH OF KEN SAROWIWA.
“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. Nor 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… ”
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.
” In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the people 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! SONG
Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa’s words continue to echo throughout the Niger delta, but so does the fierce response of the Nigerian regime and its multinational partners.
And so here we have on may 28, 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.
Q:” WERE ANY OF THE YOUTHS ARMED? OMOLE: I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW. I CANNOT SAY THEY CAME ARMED THERE WAS TALK OF LOCAL CHARMS AND ALL THAT BUT THAT’S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. Q:SO YOU DON’T THINK THEY CAME ON TO THE BOAT ARMED? A: NO. Q:THE YOUTHS.. A:UM..HMMM…”
Oronto Douglas “It is very clear that Chevron just like Shell uses the military to protect its oil activities. They drill and they kill.”
Nigerian environmentalist Oronto Douglas was of the lawyers who defended Ken Saro-Wiwa. Oronto Douglas “they are shooting our people for just demanding for their right.”
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.
They were then teargassed 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. Eventually they were transported to several jails in the dreaded Nigerian prison system. After three weeks they were released.
Bola Oyinbo was one of the 11 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 handcuffs to hang me. On the fan for almost five hours. Q:wait a second. They put you in handcuffs and hung you? Oyinbo: on this a hook they use for ceiling fans so they put me there for almost five hours
Q:THEY HUNG YOU FROM A CEILING FAN HOOK FOR FIVE HOURS OYINBO: FIVE GOOD HOURS. . Q:YOUR FEET WEREN’T ON THE FLOOR? OYINBO: MY FEET WERE NOT ON THE FLOOR. I WAS HANGING. SUSPENDED. IN THE AIR
WE ASKED BILL SPENCER WHAT HE THINKS OF THE TORTURE BOLA OYINBO SAYS HE ENDURED.
Bill Spencer: “I don’t think anybody here was under the impression that when you go to jail in Nigeria, it’s pleasant.
Q: WAS THERE CONCERN ABOUT THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WERE HELD IN DETENTION. WAS THERE ANY FOLLOW-UP? SPENCER: BY ME? NOT AT ALL. NO Q: WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THEM IN DETENTION? SPENCER: I WAS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT 200 PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR ME. I COULD CARE LESS ABOUT THE PEOPLE FROM THE VILLAGE QUITE FRANKLY. Q: ONCE YOU’RE PEOPLE WERE SAFE SPENCER: DID I PERSONALLY HAVE ANY CONCERN FOR THEM NOT ONE LITTLE BIT. NO
ORONTO DOUGLAS: “Two people dead several people injured and there is now still a threat of clamp down on the local people
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?”
(FELA MUSIC SORROW TEARS AND BLOOD)
In all of our conversations with contractors, we asked them their thoughts on working with a military government. One said, “in uncivilized countries like these democracy brings nothing to the table. Chevron contractor Bill Spencer expressed similar thoughts.
BILL SPENCER: “I’m not leading a moral campaign. We’re just here to work. Strictly commercial venture. Not a political one
Q:WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MOBILE POLICE YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THEY CAN BE QUITE RUTHLESS OR BE PRONE TO BEATING PEOPLE ON THE STREET, DO YOU HAVE ANY RESERVATION ABOUT WORKING WITH THOSE FORCES KNOWING OR ACKNOWLEDGING THEY CAN IN FACT BE RUTHLESS SPENCER: NO, I DON’T KNOW. LIFE IS TOUGH HERE. AND PEOPLE YOU OFTEN HEAR IT SAID THAT LIFE IS CHEAP HERE. I GUESS IT IS . IT’S LOOKED AT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY. I THINK THAT THAT’S SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN OUR SOCIETY. LIFE IS A LITTLE MORE MAYBE PRECIOUS OR SOMETHING. I THINK HERE OR ANY OF THESE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES IT TENDS TO BE A LITTLE CHEAPER.”
But who thinks life is cheap. The general population or the generals.. Chief Gani Fawenhinmiis Nigeria’s leading human rights activist . He says the Nigerian government revolves around a gun.
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. The gun is used to suppress and repress the hopes and aspirations of the Nigerian people, and is worst in the delta.
Among human rights advocates, it is accepted as a 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:
Q: DOES CHEVRON GIVE SPECIAL DUTY PAY TO THE NAVAL OFFICERS WHO ARE ON BOARD YOU KNOW FOR THE WHOLE TIME NOT UH, TO THE MOBILE POLICE WHO ARE ON BOARD ON THESE BARGES? OMOLE: THOSE GUYS WERE WORKING FOR THE CONTRACTOR, I GUESS YOU HAVE TO ASK THE CONTRACTOR THAT Q: IN TERMS OF SPECIAL DUTY PAY. BUT ULTIMATELY YOU SAID THAT SINCE THERE ALL WORKING FOR CHEVRON, THAT’S CHEVRONS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT, BECAUSE YOU’RE PAYING THE CONTRACTOR OMOLE: YOU’LL HAVE TO ASK THE CONTRACTOR REALLY.....
And so we did. We headed back to Chevron contractor Bill Spencer’s office and asked him who paid for the military housed on board 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…
PHONE RING BILL SPENCER: “Yep. Habib. Say on the day of the brig 101, we’re doing an inquest here for the benefit of who knows who. Who paid for the military that day. Were they ours or were they Chevron, the ones actually that were living on the barge in the long-term. Umhmm. Were they Chevrons regular guys, do you know? Oh ok from Escravos. Anytime we hire the navy we go through, I hesitate to say the high command, but anyway. Yeah, ok yeah. Ok so if its Chevron, we go through Chevron to do it. Uh hmm…if we do it that way if it’s done that way we would pay what ever that is to the navy base, ok
Q: WHAT ABOUT ON THURSDAY MORNING. SPENCER: I JUST..ALREADY ASKED THAT.. YEAH OK, IF THERE’S ANYTHING ELSE GIVE ME A CALL.. BYE.. THEY WERE NOT OURS. THEY WERE PAID, THEY WERE SUPPLIED BY CHEVRON Q: ON THURSDAY MORNING TOO? SPENCER: ALL OF THEM. EVERYBODY THAT WAS OUT THERE.”
How does Chevron feel about working with the Nigerian military? Company spokesperson Sola Omole:
Q: 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? Omole: no. We told you that this is a joint vent.. We’re just using military. This thing is owned by Nigeria. 60% by Nigeria. Military’s just one component…
Q:IT’S A MILITARY GOVERNMENT…
OMOLE: EXCUSE ME PLEASE, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT A MILITARY GOVERNMENT Q YOU WOULD NOT BE WILLING TO CRITICIZE THE NIGERIAN MILITARY FOR ILLEGAL DETENTIONS FOR DEATHS IN CUSTODY OMOLE:NOW YOU’RE GOING INTO OTHER AREAS AND I THINK WE NEED TO BRING THIS TO A CLOSE. Q:BUT ITS THE SAME AREA BECAUSE THE MILITARY KILLED TWO PEOPLE ON YOUR BARGE. OMOLE: I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY. WE HAVE TO BRING THIS TO A CLOSE NOW. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
So you have a deadly combination: a military with a miserable human rights record that is 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 IS 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, helplessness. This is what cannot be tolerated in the united states of America where Chevron comes from.:
And what about the united states where Chevron is based? Though the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the 8 other Ogoni activists drew widespread international condemnation, the us government refused to impose oil sanctions against the Nigerian regime. The united states continues to buy nearly half of the dictatorship’s oil.
STEVE LAUTERBACH IS THE SPOKESPERSON FOR US EMBASSY IN LAGOS
“It’s generally speaking, the policy for all embassies overseas To support American companies and their operations abroad and to as far as possible support American exports overseas. That applies in Nigeria and applies almost every embassy overseas
Q: is it general practice here just going around the country we have found through the Niger delta and all around that the us multinational 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. Luterbach: i’m not aware of any official position on that. No. I can’t comment on that.
Commenting on us policy is something Gani Fawehinmi has no trouble doing. He is 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 knows the history of the military’s repression in the Niger delta. He was the lead counsel or Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and represents dozens of other delta based activists in and out of jail. He says if the us and the European union countries would impose oil sanctions, the Nigerian regime would fall in less than two to three months.
GANI FAWEHINMI: IF AMERICA IMPOSES OIL SANCTIONS TODAY AND IT IS SUPPORTED BY THE EU COUNTRIES, THIS GOVERNMENT WOULD BE BROUGHT DOWN TO ITS KNEES IN LESS THAN TWO TO THREE MONTHS.
CHIEF FAWEHINMI SAYS THE MILITARY WOULD NEVER FIND ITS WAY BACK TO THE BODY POLITIC OF NIGERIA.
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 they say this is not compensation
ORONTO DOUGLAS: They have improved to pay 450,000 Naira. They are professional undertakers they are here to kill because they must produce this oil for the American people. It is important to note that this kind of situation has continued without any remorse whatsoever from Chevron and I’m 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, the continuous neglect of their local ecology and way of life, there will be that protest, that resistance for survival.”
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.
And the young people of Ilajeland are coming out in force as well. Sowore Omoyole was born there. He went to college at the university of Lagos where he served as student body president until 1996. Just after he heard about the may killings he called together Ilaje students to plan a proper memorial for the two men killed on the Chevron barge..
SOWORE OMOYELE “What we are saying is that Chevron has come here to destroy our land doing here what they cannot tolerate in America. They would never tolerate a black man mining oil in America, talkless of allowing 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 faster than the Ogonis, an endangered species of human beings.”
At the time of the recording of this report, Democracy Now got word that Sowere Omoyele has been arrested. He was in the midst of organizing a memorial service for the two protesters killed on may 28 at Chevron’s offshore drilling site.