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Day 14 11.19.2008

In Trial Notes on November 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Witness: Michael Browne

Yesterday we heard the videotaped deposition of Michael Browne the “hook up superintendent” aboard the CBL-101 barge in May 1998. Browne’s deposition concluded this morning.

Mr. Browne offered further testimony from the perspective of the expatriate workers aboard the barge during the Ilaje’s occupation. Today, Browne described the boarding of the barge as a rowdy affair with Ilajes screaming and pushing workers around.  It was reported to Browne that a Chevron operator was slapped in the face when he tried to lock a security gate barring access to the Parabe platform from the barge. According to Browne, the Ilaje screamed menacing commands at him and the other expats:

“They said: we want you to lay on your backs with your faces in the sun. I responded: we’re not going on the helideck.  It made them angry. They were shouting: you’ll do what we tell you.  They threw bottles all over the helideck. They were running round the halls screaming. They took over the radio room and just tore the door off the hinges.”

Browne explained that the Ilaje ordered a work stoppage and as a result a service tank filled up and started dumping oil into the sea.

By his account, the Ilaje were anything but peaceful protesters. He saw them wandering around the barge carrying tools like a “sharp-pointed spud wrench”.

Sharp-pointed Spud Wrench

Sharp-pointed Spud Wrench

In cross-examination, the plaintiffs’ lawyers homed in on the issue of diesel.  Remember that Jason Daniels–among others–testified that the Ilaje poured diesel all over the barge and threatened to set it afire. According to Michael Browne, the diesel fuel was stored in very large tanks under the deck.  Apparently it was difficult to remove the fuel, and required pumping.  He never saw anyone pump fuel during the occupation, although he said his men reported smelling diesel and that he himself smelled diesel when he returned to the barge the day after the military raid.

Eventually, the plaintiffs stumbled on a revelation. Browne had confused the dates of when a worker on the barge was evacuated for stomach pains.  In his deposition, he stated that it happened in May.  Referring to his daily log-book–which documented both the Itsekiri occupation of March 1998 and the Ilaje occupation of May–plaintiffs’ counsel showed Mr. Browne an entry describing this worker’s evacuation in March. “I suppose I was incorrect.”

Suddenly, his testimony began to unravel. Browne was asked to read from his March 1998 diary:

“[T]he first group came scattering out over barge, screaming and shouting. They were out of control at this point and coming upstairs. They began kicking down the door of the radio room. Others grabbed the captain and four others, saying they wanted to take them ashore.”

Mr. Browne was testifying that the exact same events occurred in the March and May occupations–even down to the invaders attacking an expat with a glass bottle.

“Mr. Browne, do the May and March incidents run together in your mind?
“Sometimes they do, yes.”

We know the Itsekiri were armed in March 1998, Browne’s March log entries tell us so. And yet, in Browne’s May 25th log entry, he makes no mention of screaming. Nor does he mention pushing. Nor does he mention brandishing weapons.

By all accounts, Browne and perhaps the other expats were getting the two occupations mixed up in their memory.

Witness: Scott Davis

Next we heard live testimony from Scott Davis, CNL Operations Manager, and the chief of the Crisis Management Team that eventually called in the Nigerian Navy.

Bob Mittelstaedt started in with the direct exam, asking a smattering of unlinked questions:

“If you needed armed security what were options?”
“Government security forces were the only ones allowed to bear arms in the country.”

“How did you resolve Itsekiri situation?”
“We got Policy Government Public Affairs [Deji Haastrup’s group] involved.  We had an agreement within 24 hours.”

Mr. Davis then recounted what had been reported to him via the radio during the Parabe incident.  Throughout, he communicated almost exclusively with David Parkin, CNL’s representative on the barge. Thus, his understanding of the events aboard the barge was filtered through Parkin’s observations.

He ran through the usual laundry list: the Ilaje were brandishing broken bottles, slapping and pushing and shoving, issuing threats, pouring diesel on the deck. At one point, CNL ordered a helicopter to fly over the barge and platform to ‘test’ the villagers’ response. According to Davis, a riot ensued. Parkin told him that the Parabe helipad was blocked with chemical drums. On the barge helipad, hostages were put up as ‘human shields.’ Parkin also allegedly informed him that the villagers had radioed back to the mainland requesting “more men and more arms.”

Helicopter at Parabe Helideck

Helicopter at Parabe Helideck

Later on, Davis spoke about Deji Haastrup’s trip to negotiate with Ilaje elders in Ikorigho. Haastrup reported that the Ilaje were demanding 10 million Naira in money and jobs and 20 million for environmental reparations:

“That was a huge sum of money and precedent setting for us in Nigeria. This was an impasse. If it was going to be about those sums of money, this would drag on for a long time. I told him I had 100,000 Naira for emergency – I could give them that.”

[Nota bene: we have yet to hear accurate exchange rates for 1998, but this is estimated as roughly $1,000 USD.]

In recent days, Dan Stormer seems to have roused himself to deliver some pretty effective cross-examination. His treatment of Scott Davis was particularly sharp. Using Davis’s diary entries from the March Itsekiri occupation and the May Ilaje occupation, Stormer blew some holes in Davis’s live testimony.  In fact, the Ilaje did not fully leave the barge for two and a half days-hardly the 24-hour turnaround Davis had described.

In his March 1998 diary, Davis wrote: “everything calm except for occasional death threats and outbursts.”

“That didn’t alarm you?”
“Well, yeah I suppose we were alarmed.”

Regarding the two CNL operators who were allegedly beaten and later evacuated, Stormer asked Davis if he was aware that the Chevron employee who had flown out to bring this men off the barge made no mention of them being injured in his testimony.

Another line of questioning:

Stormer: You learned there were no weapons?
Davis:  I heard there were no guns.
Stormer: But you had no information that they had weapons?
Davis: That’s correct.
Stormer: And they were peaceful and no looting?
Davis:  Well, no looting.
Stormer: Then let me refer to your diary, quote: “They were peaceful, no looting.” Is that correct?
Davis: Yes.
Stormer: So unlike the Itsekiri who came the first day and made death threats, the Ilaje were peaceful and not looting?
Davis: Correct.

Without skipping a beat, Stormer moved on to attack Dave Parkin’s credibility. Parkin had informed Davis that the Ilaje had taken the tug to discharge passengers. This was false.  Davis claimed he heard reports of a riot. Did he ever learn if it were true? No. Wouldn’t this have been important in forming his decision to call in the military? Yes.

Davis had stated that the Ilaje promised to leave if Deji came to Ikorigho.

Stormer: Wasn’t the actual agreement that if Deji came without soldiers and armed guards they would leave barge?

Davis: No

Stormer: So Deji’s testimony on the stand was not accurate?

Davis’s contradictions are too many to mention. In the end, I think his credibility took a beating. Stormer left us with the following observations. In Davis’s note he stated: “the village had sent representatives to get our offer. I offered 100,000 which of course they refused.”

Stormer pointed out that Davis said CNL’s production was approximately 140,000 barrels per day in 1998 – at $20 per barrel.  Why then could Davis only offer 100,000 Naira as a counter-offer? [approx. $1,000]

It sounded like Davis was offering the Ilaje the petty-cash from his desk drawer, “which of course they refused.”

Witness: Johnny Ogunjobi

[Ogunjobi’s testimony was read in by a young Jones Day associate who helpfully removed his tie to get into character.]

Ogunjobi was the Pan African Airlines pilot who flew a Bell helicopter for CNL. He transported the Nigerian security forces to the CBL-101 barge for the May 28th raid. He dropped off the first six military men and then flew off. Apparently, they fired of tear gas immediately upon hitting the helideck.

Ogunjobi later flew the wounded Larry Bowoto to Escravos and then flew the dead bodies of the men killed on the barge to the General Hospital mortuary in Akure.

Witness: Bamidele Bolaji

Next we heard from Bamidele Bolaji, the nursing supervisor at CNL’s Escravos Tank Farm.  He testified on seeing Larry Bowoto when he first arrived at Escravos, bleeding and lamenting that he had been shot and then his people had been attacked.

He then testified on accompanying the corpses of the decedents to the mortuary where they were embalmed.

Witness: Patrick Origbe

Next up was a brief deposition of a CNL security coordinator working for Mike Uwaka. Mr. Orgibe testified that CNL, like many other companies, paid for Nigerian security forces – both spy police and General Security Forces-to carry out security duty.

Finally, we heard the beginning of the much-anticipated videotaped deposition of David Schools, captain of the tugboat Cheryl Ann. I will treat Schools’ deposition in its entirety tomorrow.

And incidentally, Chevron’s defense team was allowed to pass out their photo packets to the jurors wherein an Ilaje slaughters a sea turtle on the deck of the tugboat. The audience never got to see the actual photos-which maybe isn’t so bad, since I really love sea turtles.

I will update on Schools’ testimony tomorrow. Chevron’s case seems to be leaning on his account, so this should be interesting…

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