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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 a 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 platform, demanding jobs and compensation for environmental damage to their communities.

Soon after landing in Chevron-leased helicopters, the Nigerian military shot to death two protesters and wounded several others. The eleven activists were detained for three weeks, thrown into the notorious Nigerian jails. During their imprisonment, one activist said he was handcuffed and hung from a ceiling fan hook for hours for refusing to sign a statement written by Nigerian federal authorities. Chevron claims force was used to defend the platform from a violent assault and hostage-taking by the protesters.

Chevron is being sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign nationals to take legal action over crimes against them overseas.

An excerpt of the documentary Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill and I traveled to the Niger Delta to investigate Chevron’s role in the killings in 1998. In the documentary, a Chevron official acknowledged to us that on May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to the Parabe oil platform. This is an excerpt of Drilling & Killing.

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. 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 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.

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 is under the impression that when you go to jail in Nigeria, it’s pleasant.

AMY GOODMAN: Was their 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 who 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?

And also, it’s important to say here that the Nigerian government does not tolerate people who are armed protesters. If these guys were armed in any way, after they were arrested and tortured and jailed for several weeks, they would have been arraigned before a kangaroo tribunal, like they did to Ken Saro-Wiwa, and they are still doing now, to be prosecuted for being in possession of weapons to attack Chevron facilities, because Nigerian government does not play with those facilities at all. When it comes to enforcing justice, they won’t do lightly. And broadly in the society, justices are not available to the people of Nigeria and the Niger Delta region, in particular.

So, we don’t have any evidence that anybody was ever prosecuted or any attempt was made to prosecute any of the so-called hostage takers from Ilajeland. So this is part of Chevron’s elaborate blackmail against the people of Ilajeland and particularly these protesters. Somebody has died, someone is injured. Chevron is unable to present anybody in court from the security team that they claim were attacked by these villagers, except just constantly fishing and putting around information in American mainstream media that it is hostage takers. And it’s very unfortunate that they continue to do this. And I hope that the jury will not let them get away with this.

Discussion Sowore Omoyele, Laura Livoti and Amy Goodman

Laura Livoti, founder of Justice in Nigeria Now, a group that’s helped bring this case to the United States—their website is justiceinnigeria.wordpress.com.

Sowore Omoyele is a longtime Nigerian human rights activist, arrested and tortured by the Nigerian military government for his political activities. He runs the Nigerian news website saharareporters.com and went with us to the Niger Delta.

– from democracynow

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