Larry Bowoto / AlterNet – 2008-05-30 00:09:59
“I Was Shot by Soldiers Bought and Paid for by Chevron”
Larry Bowoto / AlterNet
This is a statement given to Chevron’s annual shareholders’ meeting by Larry Bowoto, a lead plaintiff in Bowoto v. Chevron, which will come to trial in federal court in San Francisco in September. See following article for background on the case of Bowoto v. Chevron.
(May 29, 2008) — Ten years ago today, I was shot by soldiers bought and paid for by Chevron. On May 28, 1998, I was on a Chevron oil barge in the Niger Delta. One hundred other villagers were with me. We were unarmed. We were there to protest the loss of our fish, our clean drinking water and our food trees, all of which are taken from us when Chevron pollutes and destroys our homeland.
In response to our protests, Chevron hired and paid, transported and “closely supervised” Nigerian forces who opened fire on us. I was shot several times and my arm is permanently damaged. Two villagers were killed and others were wounded. Others were tortured by the Nigerian authorities.
The family of one of the dead protestors and three of us who were injured or tortured brought a lawsuit in California to expose what Chevron did that day. Nine years into the lawsuit, which Chevron has dragged out by playing legal games and by refusing to admit the role the company played in the shootings, Chevron has not yet apologized. Chevron has also not compensated the victims.
My case is just one of many where Chevron has responded with violence when Nigerian villagers have protested, demanding that Chevron clean up its environmental and economic damage.
Those who live near Chevron’s oil production facilities in the Niger Delta are desperately poor. Most of our riverine villages have no electricity; nearly all can only be reached by boat, and most villagers barely survive on fishing and agriculture, traditional ways of feeding themselves that Chevron is destroying by polluting the water and land.
Chevron must admit it has used and paid Nigerian police and military to act as company thugs to harm and scare the local population. Chevron must give up violence as a way of doing business.
At a time that gas prices are creating record profits, Chevron has the resources to do more. It must repair the environment, and provide support to local communities, such as hospitals, scholarships, and jobs to replace our traditional forms of livelihood which Chevron is destroying.
Most importantly, Chevron must commit itself to preventing future violence against villagers, so no one in the Niger Delta has to go through what I have.
Bowoto v. Chevron
Center for Constitutional Rights
Bowoto v. Chevron is a class action lawsuit charging Chevron/Texaco Corporation with gross violations of human rights including extrajudicial killing; crimes against humanity; and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in the Niger Delta region.
Filed in both the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California and the Superior Court of California, the California state trial is scheduled for August 25, 2008. The federal district court set the date for the jury damages trial as September 29.
The plaintiffs – unarmed protestors and innocent citizens of the Niger Delta region of Niger – seek compensation injunctive and other relief under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) which allows suits in U.S courts against individuals or corporations that commit human rights violations. The plaintiffs also seek compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and California state law.
In May 1998, unarmed residents of the Niger Delta protested at Chevron’s offshore Parabe Platform, demanding that the corporation contribute more resources to the development of the impoverished oil region. Even though negotiations seemed to be moving, on the morning of May 28, the protestors were shot and some killed by Nigerian soldiers and Chevron security personnel who were transported to the platform on Chevron-leased helicopters.
The suit also charges that the defendant, Chevron/Texaco, and its subsidiaries’ actions in the Niger Delta have caused the destruction of riverbeds, natural ecosystems, and have contributed to extreme land erosion.
• For more on the case, please visit www.ccrjustice.org/bowoto.
On May 27, 1999, the victims of the Parabe incident and innocent residents of the Niger Delta region filed suit against Chevron/Texaco and its Nigerian subsidiaries.
On April 7, 2000, the defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint on grounds of forum non conveniens was denied. The district court held that even though Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary was amenable to Nigerian courts, it was Chevron Corporation that was being sued, and since there was no jurisdiction over Chevron in Nigeria, the motion must be denied.
On March 23, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to hold the parent corporation, Chevron, liable for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary. Judge Susan Illston ruled against the defendants, holding that there was an “extraordinarily close relationship between the parents and subsidiaries prior to, during and after the attacks,” making the subsidiary an agent of Chevron and holding the parent corporation liable.
On November 4, 2004, the Superior Court of California denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the state case on grounds that Chevron was exercising its right to free speech by lying about and covering up the violence at Parabe.
In late 2006, Chevron filed five motions for summary judgment in the federal case that challenged the plaintiffs’ claims for crimes against humanity and for violation of the RICO Act. They also challenged the case on the basis that Chevron cannot be held liable for acts of the Nigerian military. Chevron also filed four motions for summary judgment in the state case. All motions are currently under consideration.
August 25, 2008, The date in which the trial is set in the Superior Court of California.
September 29, 2008, The date that the jury damages trial is scheduled to take place in the US District Court of Northern Califorina.