Processing Magazine

African villagers can sue Chevron per judge

August 20, 2007

The Associated Press reports that a group of nine Nigerian villagers can have a jury decide if Chevron Corp. is responsible for two government military attacks that left protesters dead and two villages destroyed, a judge has ruled. The villagers'' lawsuit claims that San Ramon-based Chevron controlled Nigerian government security forces who were called in to police protests in 1998 and 1999. In both cases, the protesters were rallying against the pollution of fishing grounds and farms in the Niger Delta. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston refused to toss out the suit, as Chevron had requested, instead ruling Wednesday that the villagers have enough evidence to present a jury with a case against the oil giant for the "alleged atrocities." Two people were killed in the first incident, in May 1998, and others injured when the Nigerian military was called in to take back a barge and oil platform that had been occupied for three days by more than 100 protesters. The plaintiffs'' lawyers said the villagers were peaceful and preparing to leave when they were attacked. Chevron said its workers were held hostage for days and that the protesters were rioting and threatening the responding troops with violence. In January 1999, four villagers were gunned down and two villages burned to the ground, the plaintiffs said, when protesters went to a Chevron oil rig and demanded compensation for the pollution it had caused. They claimed the company enlisted government troops to punish them. But Chevron said the oil rig had come under an armed attack, and that the government forces were protecting the company''s workers. The company claimed that in both cases, the troops were not under its control. Chevron maintains that the troops were called in to deal with an emergency.