Processing Magazine

Chevron wins partial dismissal in Nigerian case

March 19, 2007

A federal judge recently threw out a racketeering claim against Chevron Corp. filed by Nigerians who claimed the oil company conspired with the military and police to gun down demonstrators protesting their operations in the African nation, the Associated Press reports. Nine Nigerians, represented by lawyers from EarthRights International and other nonprofit groups, sued Chevron in a San Francisco federal court in 1999 after Nigerian soldiers and police shot protesters who opposed drilling by a Chevron subsidiary and destroyed villages where they lived. While the racketeering charge did not apply, Illston acknowledged that evidence showed Chevron played a role in the subsidiary''s security policies, approved payments to the military and attempted to cover up the subsidiary''s involvement in the attacks. The ruling did not affect other pending accusations that San Ramon-based Chevron committed crimes against humanity under international law and eight related offenses under California law. The Nigerian plaintiffs allege soldiers, supported by Chevron Nigeria Ltd., destroyed homes and killed or injured dozens of people. They also claim Chevron provided helicopters, boats and planes to Nigerian soldiers who fired at demonstrators in 1998 on an offshore oil platform and in 1999 at two villages where protesters lived. Chevron lawyers have said the protesters were armed youths who demanded money and took more than 200 workers hostage, and they were shot during an attempt to rescue the hostages. The company has argued the case belongs in African courts.