Justice In Nigeria Now!

For Human Rights, Environmental Protection and Community Livelihoods

Media Roundup from Bowoto vs. Chevron, Witness Testimony Begins

Posted by sarahjinn on October 30, 2008

MercuryNews.com Protesters’ behavior at heart of trial on whether Chevron violated human rights

When Larry Bowoto returns to the witness stand in federal court here Thursday, he is expected to recount being shot several times by Nigerian forces called in and allegedly paid for by a Chevron subsidiary during a 1998 protest aboard a barge tethered to an offshore oil rig.

….

The Chevron case, which started this week and is expected to run into December, is shedding light on the tense politics along the Niger Delta around the company’s oil operations there, and claims of environmental damage from the companies drilling and dredging operations.

Chevron contends the villagers who boarded the barge were seen with knives, and that one threatened to set the barge aflame.

A barge worker from another village, Johnson Boyo, testified Wednesday that he saw no weapons and no intimidating tactics from the protesters, who reached the rig in about 30 small boats. Boyo, testifying for the plaintiffs, said soldiers flown onto the barge by helicopter began shooting, and that later he watched soldiers beating a young man with the butt of a gun.

The leader of a small military force that had been stationed aboard the barge yelled at them, Boyo testified.

“He shouted, ‘Stop, stop stop! The protest was peaceful,'” Boyo said.

Under cross-examination by a Chevron lawyer, Boyo acknowledged that he was among a different group of Nigerians who had boarded the barge two months earlier, seeking jobs. Following that protest, Boyo said, he was hired to work there.

Bowoto, the lead plaintiff in the case, wept, trembled and pressed a cloth over his eyes near the start of his testimony Wednesday when asked to identify Arolika Irowarinum in a picture.

Irowarinum was one of the two men killed in the attack. His three Nigerian widows, wearing traditional dresses and matching headscarves, cried from the front row of the gallery before Judge Susan Illston briefly halted the testimony.

Testifying through an interpreter, Bowoto said he was a coordinator of a group called Concerned Ilaje Citizens that was endorsed by elders of several Ilaje villages. He said the group was intent on a peaceful protest, and he insisted that no weapons or alcohol come aboard.

Bowoto testified that Chevron had denied their demand to meet with a general manager from Chevron Nigeria. The day before the attack, he said, the protesters planned to leave the barge the following day.

He said that he had been a fisherman, and that Chevron’s dredging had introduced salt water into a freshwater canal, affecting wells and killing fish and vegetation. As they approached the barge, Bowoto said, the protesters sang.

“All we are saying “… give us our rights,” Bowoto testified by singing in English. “All we are saying “… give us our jobs.”  Go to Article

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