Sources: AINFO NEWS SERVICE, Title: “Chevron in Nigeria—ERA Environmental Testimonies,” Date: July 10, 1998, Authors: Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria; PACIFICA RADIO—DEMOCRACY NOW, Title: “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship,” Date: Summer 1998, Authors: Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill
SSU Censored Researchers: Michael McMurtrey and Craig Chapman
SSU Faculty Evaluator: Les Adler
Mainstream media coverage: San Francisco Chronicle, November 19, 1998, page Al
On May 28, 1998, Nigerian soldiers were helicoptered by Chevron employees to the Chevron owned oil facility off the coast of Nigeria in order to attack student demonstrators who had occupied a barge anchored to the facility. After multiple attacks, two students lay dead, and several others were wounded. The students had been peacefully protesting at the site since May 25. One hundred and twenty-one youths from 42 different communities had gathered to oppose the environmental destruction brought on by Chevron’s oil extraction practices.
For decades, the people of the Niger Delta have been protesting the destruction of their wetlands. Discharges into the creeks and waterways have left the region a dead land, resulting in the Niger Delta becoming one of the most heavily polluted regions in the world.
The students claim they had voiced their concerns many times and had scheduled a number of meetings with the company, but the meetings had been repeatedly canceled by Chevron. As a next step, the students organized the protest around the Chevron barge in order to draw Chevron’s attention to the goal of environmental justice.
According to student leader Bola Oyinbo, approximately 20 of the 121 students surrounding the barge in small boats went on board to meet with a Nigerian Naval officer who was working for Chevron. Oyinbo stated that the students wanted to speak to a Mr. Kirkland, Chevron’s managing director. Although the director never came, other Chevron officials did arrive the next day and promised to set up a meeting with the students at the end of May. The students agreed to leave the barge on May 28 in order to attend the proposed meeting.
As the students were getting ready to leave the barge, three helicopters piloted by Chevron employees attacked the student protesters. Oyinbo remembers the moment, “they came like eagles swooping on chickens. We never expected what came next.” Soldiers in the choppers fired on students while in the air and after landing. “They shot everywhere,” he says. “Arulika and Jolly fell. They died instantly. Larry, who was near them rushed to their aid, wanting to pick them up, but he was also shot.” Eleven students were detained by the military group and taken to Akure for prosecution. Chevron filed a complaint against the group, saying they were pirates and should be interrogated.
During his imprisonment, one activist said he was handcuffed and hung from a ceiling fan hook for hours for refusing to sign a statement written by Nigerian federal authorities.