The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a previous 2008 verdict that cleared Chevron Corporation of abusing human rights in Nigeria was valid. In May 1998, Nigerian villagers were angered by San Ramon’s Chevron expanding into the Niger Delta area which damaged both the environment and the villagers’ livelihood. Later, more than 100 Nigerian protesters went on a ‘peaceful march’ to occupy the nearest oil-rig off the coast of Nigeria.
Once the protesters were settled on the oil platform dubbed the ‘Parabe’, Chevron waited for four days for the group to disperse but to no avail. The corporation called its security force that arrived by helicopter. The Nigerian security teams shot two protesters and injured others in the group. The two dead were Aroleka Irowaninu and Jola Ogungbeje who both died of gunshot wounds.
Relatives of the dead and injured victims filed a lawsuit in 1999 that charged Chevron with human rights violations which included torture, wrongful death, battery, negligence, assault, and illegal imprisonment. Chevron stated that it acted in pure self-defense in fear of its employees’ and buildings’ safeties. The corporation has said again and again the protest was not “peaceful” but a “hostage-taking”.
Some accused the oil giant of corrupting local Nigerian authorities to commit these ’crimes against humanity’. The villagers’ fear of the fact that Nigerian courts could be heavily influenced by Chevron’s oil affected the group’s decision to bring the case to a U.S. court.
Nearly ten years after the ill-ended protest, a federal jury cleared Chevron of the villagers’ claims and declared Chevron would not have to compensate for the protesters’ losses. The Larry Bowoto v. Chevron case was brought up again 5 weeks ago to the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Friday, the court ruled that the 2008 was valid and furhtermore, the 1992 U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act could not be enacted in prosecution of Chevron, a corporation, but only for individuals.
Representatives for the Nigerians remarked that the court decision to wave away the court appeal was “dissapointing”. Chevron Corporation’s spokespeople said the 2010 verdict “further exonerates” the corporation. The oil corporation expressed sympathy for the injured and dead Nigerians but insisted that its presence would be a “positive force” in Nigerian communities.