A potentially landmark trial (Boweto vs. Chevron) opens up next week in San Francisco involving the Chevron corporation. The trial, in case you’re not familiar with it, alleges Chevron is liable for the shootings of four protesters on an oil facility in Nigeria in 1998. Two protesters were killed and two others badly wounded by Nigerian soldiers allegedly hired by Chevron to carry out an attack on the protesters occupying the Parambe oil platform – claiming they were in fact kidnappers holding the rig hostage. The surviving protesters claim that they had reached a point of desperation in response to the foul environmental conditions caused by drilling that ruined their fishing livelihood and that they occupied the platform to demand attention from Chevron – peacefully.
Chevron claims that the only reason anyone knows about the incident is that they voluntarily reported it as a crime, saying that they had no idea violence would result by calling in the Nigerian military and lending them Chevron helicopters.
Aside from the fascinating multi-national legal depth this takes, one has to wonder whether Chevron is trying to brush this story under the rug rather than taking some sort of appropriate action. Whether or not the protesters were peaceful, everyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes looking at the situation in Nigeria knows that the quest for oil in the Niger Delta has made a colossal mess of the place. Wealth has funneled enormous corruption, been concentrated in pathetically few hands, and most people, pardon my French, have been screwed.
Obviously oil companies are not 100% to blame, but I’d certainly like to hear more from them about what they, and the incredible wealth they have, intend to do to stabilize the Nigerian situation, repair the environmental havoc they are directly responsible for, and invest in a sustainable economic situation. It will be interesting to see how this court case plays out, but it will be a lot more interesting to see how Chevron, and other oil companies, intend to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
EarthRights.org has a great PDF with a few ideas for how Chevron can “Do the Right Thing”. Click here to check it out. I think it’s a pretty reasonable bunch of suggestions. I’ve also reproduced their recommendations below.
Chevron, will you join us? Or are more like Zach Spence?
What Should Chevron Do?
Chevron operates in or near many communities in Nigeria and throughout the world. These communities often have not approved or even actively oppose Chevron’s presence, and in some cases have suffered environmental and economic devastation due to Chevron’s oil production. Chevron pays lip service to supporting the communities where they work. But the truth is that they do very little to “support” these communities and virtually nothing to compensate the communities they have harmed. In 2007, Chevron’s total support for the communities where they work worldwide was approximately two days’ of the oil giant’s profits. Two days. And when Nigerian villagers protest Chevron’s extraction of profits and destruction of their communities, Chevron relies on the brutal Nigerian police and military to suppress
With billions of dollars in quarterly profits, Chevron can take a number of reasonable steps to fulfill its responsibilities to the affected communities in Nigeria, in addition to compensating those harmed by its past actions. These steps should include both remediating the environmental and economic harms it causes and stopping future abuses against protestors by the Nigerian military.:
1. Direct Support for the Communities
The Ilaje people who demonstrated at the Parabe platform in 1998 did so in reaction to Chevron’s failure to meet a number of specific demands, many of which are still applicable today, including :
* Rehabilitate the environment around their communities, including by restoring a natural land barrier which kept sea water from intruding into creeks that local people depend on for fishing and drinking water, by reforesting mangroves, palms and other economic trees, and dredging sea-related sludge out of river.
* Create job skills for local people by training them to assist in the clean up and environmental
* Complete and follow environmental impact assessments before expanding current operations
in any way.
* Install electricity in the riverine communities.
* Build and provide appropriate staffing & supplies for a hospital, including funding for ongoing
* Provide potable water within 15 minutes’ paddle of each of the affected communities.
* Train and employ people from each of the affected communities in real jobs, where they learn transferable skills.
* Build and provide ongoing funding for schools and teachers in the affected communities.
* Quadruple the annual scholarships provided to the affected communities.
2. Increase Transparency and Accountability for Human Rights Abuses
In litigation in California state court, Mr. Bowoto is asking for an order requiring Chevron U.S. to make a number of specific steps toward transparency and accountability aimed at discouraging
Chevron from using the Nigerian police and military to attack and intimidate local communities.
* Mandate documenting and reporting of incidents where Chevron has paid or supported Nigerian military and police who have committed or are accused of committing human rights abuses and/or using excessive force, including all incidents in which Nigerian residents
are accused of suffering physical injuries as a result. This includes reporting of the incidents themselves as well as all steps taken to investigate, to reprimand those involved within Chevron Nigeria and/or the Nigerian police and military, and to remedy any harm or damage caused. These reports must be made publicly available, including on Chevron’s website within 7 days of any reported incident and supplemented thereafter as any investigation
and remedial steps occur.
* Require Chevron to investigate all alleged incidents of human rights abuses within 5 days and if the allegations are substantiated, take steps to immediately remove any Nigerian police
or military implicated from any further use, payment or support by Chevron Nigeria, as well as implement any other remedies or changes indicated by the investigation as reasonably
likely to prevent future incidents.
* Require Chevron U.S. to assess human rights policies as part of evaluating Chevron Nigeria’s
managing director and as part of any other evaluations done of Chevron Nigeria’s personnel as part of promotion or advancement within any Chevron company. The company
must also include a similar human rights assessment as part of yearly security audits of Chevron Nigeria.
* Ensure that Chevron’s accounting records clearly reflect any payment or the provision of logistical support to the Nigerian military or police.
* Mandate a new security review by objective third party experts of Chevron’s operations in Nigeria to determine whether it is practicable to secure Chevron’s facilities and personnel
in Nigeria without paying or providing logistical support to the Nigerian military and police and to recommend procedures to lessen the likelihood of human rights abuses and the use of excessive force.
* Require Chevron to report on its website within five days of any action taken by Chevron
Nigeria that the company knows, through it’s own environmental impact studies or otherwise, is or is likely to negatively impact the local environment for any Nigerian community.