U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Francisco
Another strong day for the plaintiffs as they read depositions from Chevron employees detailing Chevron’s public affairs response to the Parabe shooting. Today we saw conclusive evidence that public affairs representatives from numerous Chevron entities–including defendant Chevron Corporation–colluded in making false statements to the media on Chevron’s military ties in Nigeria.
Witness: Ola Oyinbo (cont.)
Ola Oyinbo concluded her moving testimony on her husband Bola’s return from prison after Parabe. He was no longer able to do the domestic chores he once did, she said, no longer able to fetch fresh water. He breathed with difficulty-she would massage his chest throughout the night to help him breathe. His back and arms were covered with lash marks, which only faded slightly in time. His wrists and hands had sores. He rolled around bed at night, wracked by nightmares. He was a changed man when he returned from prison. He died three years after his return.
The defense had no questions for this witness.
Witness: Mary Irowarinun
“When they went for protest in the sea, Chevron killed him.”
Next we heard brief testimony from another of Arolika Irowarinu’s widows. Mary described her husband as a generous man, a warm father and a head of his community.
The defense had no questions for this witness.
Witness: Mike Uwaka
Deposition taken 02.16.2005 in Lagos
“Payments for service rendered.”
Mike Uwaka was security coordinator for Chevron Nigeria Ltd. at Escravos. As such, he was responsible for per diem payments to Nigerian military personnel for their services. Mr. Uwaka confirmed that Chevron made payments throughout the year to Naval forces, army, mobile police (MOPOL), conventional police and spy police. These payments were the industry standard, he claimed. Mr. Uwaka also confirmed that he knew of the so-called Kill and Go police and had heard of ‘many occasions’ where armed forces fired upon local youths. Finally, Mr. Uwaka answered that CNL’s policy was to make payment after service had been rendered-meaning that he had authorized payment for the soldiers who attacked the protesters on May 28th, 1998.
Witness: Christopher Crowther
Deposition taken 10.06.2005 in Birmingham, England
“Part of the operation”
In the 1990s, Christopher Crowther worked as a pilot for Pan African Airlines in Nigeria. Crowther provided very useful testimony on the relationship between Chevron Nigeria and the Nigerian military: CNL expected Pan African helicopter pilots to transport Nigerian military. “It was part of the operation. When Chevron issued a flight plan, it was part of the instructions.”
Loaded weapons were not allowed aboard the helicopters, but soldiers held on to their arms, keeping the magazines within reach. “They were allowed to keep weapons, but not tear gas. Tear gas had to go in storage. But they had to remove their magazines. In fact, we used to yell, ‘Magazines!’ before take off to remind them.” Based on his familiarity with the Nigerian military, Crowther had an intimate knowledge of weapons. “It would only take about one second for a soldier to reload the magazine.”
Crowther reported that he never received direct orders from the Nigerian military and his flight plans were always decided by the Chevron dispatcher.
Witness: Reuben Osazuwa
Deposed 02.23.2005 in Lagos
“I will not say he is an employee, I can’t say he’s not an employee.”
Beginning in 1991, Reuben Osazuwa was the senior security officer at Escravos. As such, his duties were to protect Chevron men, assets and material. Osazuwa confirmed that the MOPOL 17 unit working at Escravos was under suspicion for the theft of chemicals and that it suffered from discipline problems.
When asked whether the head of the spy police was a Chevron Nigeria Ltd. employee, Osazuwa demurred: “Let me put it this way: I will not say he is an employee, I can’t say he’s not an employee. He’s a spy. We can’t fire him, we can only return him to the government.”
“So the head of spy police had an office in the terminal?”
Witness: Roger Pell
Deposed 05.27.2005 in London
Mr. Pell started working as logistics superintendent for CNL around August 1998. In his deposition, he described bring responsible for feeding and lodging security personnel at Escravos. When pressed on how his accounts differentiated between CNL personnel and Nigerian military personnel, he stated there was none: he took a camp roll based on bodies in beds. Logistics for both sets of personnel came from the same pool, and at no point was the government requested to provide money for the room and board of the soldiers. When shown a contract for Sea Truck Offshore Ltd. bearing his signature, Pell described how the contract needed to be resubmitted on a monthly basis. They were awarded it without competitive bidding and were thus legally barred from signing a long-term contract. The forms were simply resigned each month.
Witness: Benjamin Kperegbeyi
Deposed 10.12.2006 in Lagos
“Without Chevron Marine’s permission, we did not sail.”
From 1997 to today, Mr. Kperegbeyi has been an employee with Sea Truck. He provides marine transportation for Chevron’s facility at Escravos. He described the protocol for his operations: Chevron’s marine division had to authorize any trips.
Witness: Taiwo Irowarinu
“His body was perforated on both sides”
The brother of Arolika Irowarinu, Taiwo was aboard the Parabe platform during the protest. On the morning of 05.28.1998, he emerged from his bath for the arrival of the helicopters and heard the sound of gunfire. Taking cover, he didn’t emerge until the shooting died down. When he finally did come out, he saw he brother on the ground. He then ran to the platform to alert his twin, Kahinde. It was then that he saw the body of Jolabe Ogunbege on the ground Incidentally this is the first we have heard of the second man shot and killed that day-for reasons unknown to this author, the defendants have objected to any mention of him. According to Dan Stormer, they themselves introduced this evidence, either by mistake or by design. Whichever is true – it seems they have now opened the way to admitting autopsy reports that allegedly show that the men were shot from behind-conflicting with Chevron’s version of events.
Taiwo corroborated other witnesses’ accounts of seeing a Chevron employee flying with the soldiers and an officer wearing glasses with one darkened eye. He also corroborated previous accounts of the detention of the Ilaje, the beating of Bola Oyinbo and the paying of the soldiers at Warre by Chevron employees.
Witness: Joseph Lorenz
Deposed 11.18.2002 & 11.26.2002
“Be careful with these folks”
Lorenz was the public affairs manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. As such, he was in charge of media relations for Nigerian operations. Shown a series of emails that documented the crafting of a press statement, he equivocated on the shifting narrative adopted by Chevron. Chevron denied paying Nigerian military and even denied owning helicopters in Nigeria.
A now famous Democracy Now radio documentary that aired in 1998 caused quite a stir in Chevron’s public affairs departments. One emailed memo even stated:
“Be careful with these folks, they represent liberal if not extreme liberal elements of the US media. One of their radio stations is KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA, which is full of liberal talk shows and other programming with a leftist slant. They are not mainstream media and their audience has a political focus which tends to be anti-business.”
With Mr. Lorenz began a series of depositions dealing with Chevron’s public relations response to media attention following the Parabe incident. His testimony revealed the high level of cooperation between Chevron Corporation, Chevron Nigeria and Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc. They collaborated at high levels to get their story straight on the incident, with strings of emails implicating the upper echelon of numerous corporate entities, even then CEO Ken Durrer.
In response to the damning account of a CNL contractor on the show, Lorenz stated, “The contractor quoted in the story was pretty awful.” Lorenz asked his colleagues, “Can you clarify if we are using hired Nigerian military? I guess I’m trying to seek clarification from business unit on whether that’s true or not.”
Nonetheless, Chevron Public Affairs continued to deny making payments to Nigerian military and misrepresented their decision to call in the armed forces, stating Nigerian law required them to do so.
Witness: Dr. Todd Alamin
“They looked like bullet fragments.”
Dr. Alamin was the Stanford orthopedic surgeon who operated on Larry Bowoto’s wounded elbow in 2003. Dr. Alamin confirmed that Mr. Bowoto suffered from an ongoing infection in his wound and a severed nerve resulting from his gunshot wound and subsequent ill-performed medical procedures. Dr. Alamin found bullet fragments in Bowoto’s arm as well as an unremoved piece of gauze at the site of infection.
In cross-examination, counsel for the defendants returned to this odd detail of Bowoto being ordered to refrain from eating for 24 hours before his operation. This is standard, replied the doctor, anyone who is going to have general anesthetic is asked to not eat or drink to avoid the possibility of regurgitating and aspirating the stomach’s contents.
This is the second time the defense has asked about this, so they must have a card they are waiting to play here. My guess: they will claim that this is why Bowoto was denied food or drink when he was hospitalized in Nigeria after the shooting. Hopefully the attentive juror will realize that it is very doubtful that Bowoto received general anesthesia in his Niger Delta hospital.
Witness: Michael Libbey
“We categorically deny that we paid a dime…”
Mr. Libbey worked for 17 years at Chevron Corporations public affairs and media relations groups in San Francisco. Under the plaintiffs’ examination, Libbey was confronted with example upon example of false statements he had issued to the press defending Chevron’s actions:
“They [Nigerian military] came to our site and directed us to provide them transportation to the platform, and we complied.”
“They own 60% of this platform and the entire project and say 60% of the revenue. When they came to us and said “Take us to that project,” we had obviously no choice but to comply.”
“To my knowledge, we do not employ the military.”
“Chevron also disagrees that it had any control over decisions to send in the naval officers and the notorious “mobile police”, both with reputations for brutality.”
When asked on what he based all of these statements, he prudently answered, “I don’t recall. But it sounds like a statement I might have made at that time.”
Witness credibility indeed…
Witness: Frederick Gorell
“That’s a fact…”
Gorell worked in Chevron media relations from 1996 to 200, reporting to Mike Libbey. Here are a few of his chestnuts:
“Chevron owns no helicopters or boats in Nigeria.”
“That equipment is owned by a joint venture with the Nigerian government in which Chevron is the minority partner.”
“The bottom line of it all is Chevron has not been involved or connected to any internal police activities in Nigeria.”
“After 3 days of talks failed to gain hostages release, Chevron notified its partner, the state-oil company, which brought in the military.”
“Occasionally, the military assumes the contractors’ equipment without Chevron’s direct assent.”
One last one: “That was a fact. There was no payment for troops to come to the Parabe rig in particular.”
Witness: James Neku
The final witness of the day was James Neku, security manager for Chevron Nigeria Ltd. at Escravos. Mr. Neku flew in with the Naval officers and MOPOL squad aboard Chevron helicopters the morning of 05.28.1998.
Because we only heard the first 30 minutes of Mr. Neku’s important testimony, I will summarize his complete testimony after tomorrow’s session.
It seems the plaintiffs’ case is finally coming together… to be continued.