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Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

The Implications

In For Further Reading on December 4, 2008 at 8:50 am

Here’s a great article by Anthony Sebok, Professor at Cardozo School of Law, on the significance of the verdict: Chevron Wins an Alien Tort Statute Case – But the Victory May Be Less Important than It Might Seem

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Day 15 11.20.2008

In Trial Notes on November 20, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Witness: David Schools

Yesterday and today we watched the videotaped deposition of David Schools, captain of the tugboat Cheryl Ann. In many respects, Schools testimony seems to be the centerpiece of Chevron’s case. They’ve been using his account in their press statements and on their websites which appears to have been Google-bombed back into the top spot on B v. C searches.

Part of me wonders why. Most of Schools’ testimony speaks to events that took place after the shooting aboard Parabe. In the fallout from the military raid, the tugboat was commandeered by the Ilaje and brought to shore. Captain Schools and crew were then taken back against their will to the Ilaje villages. After several days, Chevron Nigeria Ltd. eventually brokered their release with the Olubo-the Ilaje king.

While Schools’ story makes for good pulp fiction–being marched along plank ways through eerie marshes, watching village women dance strange “victory dances” along the water’s edge, catching dysentery and being cured by drafts of the Ilaje’s home-brewed kai-kai liquor–I’m not sure how it clears Chevron of liability in this case.

Aside from more Heart of Darkness material, Schools’ testimony gave Chevron’s legal team a chance to show the jury scary photos of the Ilaje slaughtering a sea turtle on the deck of the Cheryl Ann.  While the audience couldn’t actually see the pictures, we were informed that the Ilaje had taken a large butcher knife from the ship’s galley–called a lamb-splitter–and used it to butcher the turtle. The defense presented the turtle incident as a brutal act of intimidation against the tugboat crew, but on cross-examination it looks like the villagers might have had a different goal in mind:

“Do you know if the Ilaje eat sea turtles?”
“Well, they ate that one.”

“Do you know if any of your crew ate the sea turtle?”
“I don’t know–I know I personally didn’t.”

Throughout the deposition Schools referred to the Ilaje as pirates. Chevron’s attorney Ms. Mitchell, joined him in the use of the term, so that the jury was exposed to over three hours of

The pirates did this…then the pirates did that…

On cross, plaintiffs’ counsel challenged this:

[In your meeting with defense counsel before the deposition] “Was a decision made to use the word pirate as opposed to insurgent or invader?”

“Yes, I used the term and Ms. Mitchell asked me if I felt comfortable to continue using that term and I agreed.”

And so much for the exclusion of juju. Although the word itself was never mentioned, we were treated to this colorful passage:

“On Thursday morning he was holding some kind of ritualistic gathering. And they had the fire-axes and the lamb-splitter and various and sundry other implements.  This fella was wearing a bandanna. Others were wearing shells in a bandanna thing.  This fella had sprinkled some kind of red powder on these tools.

“I was gonna sneak a picture of it but their apparent frame of mind suggested to me that I better not aggravate them.”

Witness: John Stapleton

Stapleton was the Meren Platform Field Supervisor. His videotaped deposition spoke to the process by which information on events happening on the barge during the occupation were relayed to CNL’s crisis management team in Escravos.

Aside from his misuse of the words “apprise” and “appraise” which even infected Ms. Mitchell’s questioning, Stapleton’s testimony was remarkable for showing how CNL’s line of communication during the crisis was literally a game of telephone.

Stapleton received calls from Steve Peace aboard the barge. He then reported Peace’s speech to Randy Hervey, the CNL North Offshore Area Superintendent in Escravos. The thing is, Steve Peace’s phone calls consisted of recounting what other expats aboard the barge had said. In other words, Stapleton was reporting reported speech to CNL management. Hearsay upon hearsay.

As the speech worked it’s way up the chain, we got dramatic accounts like this:

Steve Peace said that the people […] were spreading diesel all over the CBL 101 barge. Said it was intense on the outside of the barge that they could smell it inside and that people were starting to think they would lose their lives.

He also said that chanting was going on and that they were going to set the 101 on fire. He said they were lighting matches and putting them out with their fingers.

He said that a lot of people were starting to scream and yell inside the barge that they wanted to get out and jump in the water. They thought they were going to get burned up.

Witness: Randall Hervey

Hervey’s testimony focused on the speech reported to him on the situation aboard the platform.  He also spoke about the production status of the Parabe platform: it’s a hub, collecting all of the oil from the North area well jackets.

Hervey stated that his only source of information from the barge was Dave Parkin – CNL’s representative.

“The climate that was passed on was that people were scared. There seemed to be a lot of confusion from the community folks.”

A telling moment in the cross-exam:

“Do you if Dave and Steve left their offices or if they gathered all their information from inside their offices?”

“I don’t know”

Witness: Derek Mackey

A piping contractor from Texas, Mackey gave testimony on the occupation of the barge and platform by the Ilaje.

First of all, Mackey corroborated accounts that the Ilaje rushed the CNL operators who were attempting to lock the gate to the platform from the barge.  However, it was difficult to separate what he had actually seen and what he had heard reported to him from others. Mackay did clarify that the expatriates were ordered to stay in the living quarters area by Mike Browne, not by the Ilaje.

When asked if he felt his movements constrained, he recounted an incident where he left his room-where he spent most of the 3 days-and tried to walk up the steps to the roof of the radio room to get some sun. He claimed that right outside the galley, he saw two Ilaje drinking clear liquid and holding knives. They stopped him and ordered him to return to his quarters, their breath stinking of alcohol. That was the only occasion he could report of Ilaje carrying knives.

Mackey also reported that he personally saw Ilaje pouring diesel from 55-gallon barrels onto the barge deck, while he stood on a walkway, 40 feet above the deck.

“How did you know that what was being poured from the barrels was diesel?”
“I guess I knew just from working on the barge and knowing what’s in those barrels.”

This observation was of course passed on to Mike Browne, the other expats, and eventually on to CNL’s crisis team. Mackey’s assumption about the barrels presumably blossomed into the hysterical accounts of expats ready to throw themselves into the sea to avoid being burnt.

Mackey also testified on the arrival of the Nigerian military personnel and the shooting of the protesters. In his version–unlike in previous testimony–an Ilaje raised a large dummy spool (large metal piping) over his head and rushed towards a military man when he was shot. Previous accounts claimed that the Ilaje wrested a gun away from a soldier before being shot.

On cross it was revealed that Mackay had reported to Mike Brown that he saw two Ilaje rushing towards the soldiers with dummy spools raised above their hand, but his deposition stated that he saw one Ilaje already lying dead on the ground while another one raised the dummy spool.

With numerous discrepancies like these, it was hard to know what to make of Mackay’s testimony.  He contradicted other expats’ accounts on numerous details: never heard Ilaje threaten anyone’s life, never heard them say they were “prepared to die”. He never saw broken bottles, never saw razors. Most glaringly, Mackey entered the radio room after the military raid occurred.  He didn’t see any damage to the door and said the room was all in order.

So what, with all these contradicting reports, actually happened on the barge?

The day ended with the beginning of Billy Burnham’s videotaped deposition. I will treat it in its entirety on Monday, 11.24.08.

Looking Back on Week Four

In Commentary, Trial Notes on November 20, 2008 at 5:14 pm

The end is nigh: Chevron’s defense announced that they will rest their case on Monday. Judge Illston is expected to read the jury instructions–which by her hand gesture appear to be as thick as a phone book–on Tuesday. Closing arguments will begin Tuesday and should be concluded by Wednesday. Then it’s up to the jury.

After the fourth week of trial, I must confess that Chevron’s case seems stronger than I had first thought.  It’s probably inevitable that the balance would shift as the defense’s evidence accrues. That’s not to say that things won’t swing back in the plaintiffs’ favor by Wednesday.

Chevron’s case is built on the testimony of the expatriate–i.e. American–barge workers and supervisors aboard the CBL-101 barge at Parabe. While there have been major contradictions between the witnesses’ accounts, certain repeated elements seem to suggest that the Ilaje might not have been as peaceful as their testimony had indicated.

But then again peacefulness can be in the eye of the beholder.  Each of Chevron’s witnesses denied that the Ilaje were non-violent. When asked why he believed this, nearly every witness explained that the workers felt confused and didn’t have control over the situation. None of them produced the straightforward response I would expect: Because the Ilaje used physical violence.

So the perception that the Ilaje were violent seems based more on the workers’ state of mind–no doubt they saw themselves as hostages held by dangerous Africans–rather than on the observed conduct of the Ilaje villagers.

We’ve heard grossly exaggerated accounts of the expats’ ordeal. All that was missing was a cauldron to boil them in and a witch-doctor–oh wait a minute.

But we also heard relatively restrained versions. What’s common to all is the massive amount of hearsay. “I heard they ripped a door off the hinges.” “I heard they poured diesel all over the deck and lit matches.” “I heard they started a riot.”

So here’s my hypothesis as to what happened–and we’ll see how this compares to the plaintiffs’ closing argument.

I believe the crew was already slightly traumatized by the Itsekiri occupation in March 1998. Based on past experience and a foundation of rumour (and perhaps centuries of colonialism), the expat workers were predisposed to fear any native Nigerian who invaded their workspace. Thus the shock and dread they felt as they watched a swarm of dugout canoes approach the barge and saw Ilaje men scramble aboard the barge-even if CNL’s security team was standing calmly by. Nearly all of the witnesses stated that the boarding itself was violent–not because the Ilaje carried arms or attacked anyone–but because it was disorderly. They didn’t follow procedure and sign-in to the logbook. They didn’t board in a single-file.

Perhaps there was some shouting and maybe some shoving–although according to the witnesses, the Ilaje were constantly shouting for three days. Here, I wonder if the workers didn’t misperceive normal Ilaje speech as shouting.

There seems to have been some sort of confrontation at the gate to the platform, but what exactly happened is hard to say. From that point on, the expats–15 or so men–locked themselves in the living quarters and never went on the deck, only circulating in the offices, walkways and in the galley. As the hours passed they seemed to relay reports to each other, some of which were completely fabricated fantasies–seeing the Ilaje pantomime the assembly of Molotov cocktails–others were likely transferred memories from the March 1998 Itsekiri occupation. Still others were likely based on real observation.

All of this information–the product of a group of men lock inside, stewing in their own fear–was then radioed to Scott Davis’s crisis management team. The reports were all filtered through CNL’s representative on the barge, David Parkin, and given his imprimatur.

So Chevron’s crisis team based their decision on the frightened hearsay of men locked in a room for three days. Faced with supposed riots, razor blades, long knives, petrol bombs, diesel fuel all over the deck, natives playing with matches, men ordered to lie in the sun, men lifted in the air and held over the sea, Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (with Chevron’s approval) went and called in the Navy and mobile “Kill and Go” police.

I would say that herein lies the negligence: Scott Davis failed to verify David Parkin’s reports. He failed to consult the other men on board; he failed to compare the eyewitness perspectives to test their veracity; he even failed to confer with the captain of the barge. He made the same error when he failed to test Deji Haastrup’s perception of the negotiation process against those of Haastrup’s assistant negotiator; both should have been debriefed.

Anyhow, if I had to confront Chevron’s counsel’s evidence, that’s probably the line I would take. But I’m just a student.  Let’s see how the pros handle it.

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…

Michael Watts: Ethnography Engagé

In For Further Reading on November 18, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Since we heard from Berkeley Professor Michael Watts’ expert testimony earlier in the trial, I thought it might be nice to link to some of his work on the Niger Delta.

Mr. Watts has a new book on the Delta published by Powerhouse Books:  Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. Here Watts edits a collection of essays–and artful photographs by Ed Kashi–to craft a beautiful but devastating study of life in the paradoxical Niger Delta.

Curse of the Black Gold

Curse of the Black Gold

Check out the book’s snazzily designed website too: http://www.curseoftheblackgoldbook.com/

As well as a blog with news and events: http://curseoftheblackgold.blogspot.com/

And here’s his research website: http://geography.berkeley.edu/PeopleHistory/faculty/M_Watts.html

For those in the Bay Area, the Rayko Gallery in SF is holding an exhibition on oil and the Delta.

THE ARTISTS
Curse of the Black Gold: 50 years of Oil in the Niger Delta
Photography by Ed Kashi

Crude Reflections/Cruda Realidad: Oil, Ruin, & Resistance in the
Amazon Rainforest
Photography by Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak

Interior Relations: Portraits of Female Domestic Workers in South Africa
Photography by Ian van Coller

RECEPTION
Opening: Friday, November 7th, 6-8p
Exhibition: November 5 – December 6

LOCATION & MORE SHOW INFO
RayKo Photo Center
428 Third Street (between Bryant & Harrison)  |  415.495.3773
San Francisco, CA  |  www.raykophoto.com |  gallery@raykophoto.com

And in the D.C. area:

Panel Discussion: The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox

Panel Discussion: Senate Foreign Relations Staff Report on “The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox: Assessing U.S. and International Community Efforts to Fight the Resource Curse”

Reception and Photo Exhibit with Ed Kashi, Photographer:
Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta

Thursday, November 20, 4:30-7:00 PM

PANEL from 4:30-5:50 PM in the HERTER ROOM, Nitze Building,
Johns Hopkins – SAIS, 1740 Mass Ave., Main Floor
RECEPTION from 6:00-7:00 PM in the Student Lounge off the Nitze Cafeteria

Panel Discussion:
Moderator: Ian Gary, Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam America
Neil Brown, Professional Staff Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Michael Phelan, Professional Staff Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Dr. Peter Lewis, Director, African Studies, Johns Hopkins – SAIS

Join us for a panel discussion focused on the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff report, “The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox: Assessing U.S. and International Community Efforts to Fight the Resource Curse.” The report is based on months of research, including field visits to oil-producing countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, by Sen. Lugar’s committee staff. The panel will look at the key global findings and recommendations, as well as examine the progress and challenges in addressing the resource curse in Nigeria.

The panel discussion is being organized in conjunction with an exhibit of photos from the Niger Delta. The photos, by Ed Kashi, are drawn from a new book, Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, edited by Prof. Michael Watts of UC Berkeley. The photos will be on display in the lobby of the Nitze Building at SAIS from Nov. 17-30. Ed Kashi has photographed in 60-plus countries. His images have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic and other publications. His work on West Bank settlers received a World Press Photo award. His eight-year project, “Aging in America: The Years Ahead,” won prizes from Pictures of the Year and World Press Photo. Kashi and his wife, writer/filmmaker Julie Winokur, founded Talking Eyes Media, a multimedia nonprofit. Visit http://www.curseoftheblackgoldbook.com

Please RSVP for the panel discussion and reception to igary@oxfamamerica.org

At SAIS, contact itolber1@jhu.edu or sjacks17@jhu.edu African Studies: 202-663-5676

Day 13 11.18.2008

In Trial Notes on November 18, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Oh the beautiful unreliability of witness testimony: yet another day of gaping holes and glaring contradictions.

Witness: Tim Browne

The day began with the videotaped deposition of Tim Browne, an expatriate worker aboard the CBL-101 barge in May 1998. In a rich accent (Texan perhaps?) Mr. Browne gave his account of the Parabe occupation. Browne’s version of the events were a marked departure from previous testimony; he described a frightening violent takeover of the barge and platform.  What should have been clear to all was the difference in perspective of Browne and the expatriate workers who testified today and the Nigerian workers who testified a few weeks ago.

Browne described the scene on the barge as a wild jostle where Ilaje villagers pushed and shoved expatriate workers and waved objects around menacingly.  Browne never saw placards or heard the Ilaje singing. Nor for that matter did he hear them identify themselves as peaceful protesters.

Instead, he stated that a pair of ‘channel locks’ – large pliers were wrested from his tool belt by an Ilaje and brandished as a weapon.

Channel Locks

Channel Locks

He claimed that he observed Ilaje pantomiming pouring chemicals into empty bottle and “planning to use it as a bomb” and even saw–presumably from a window several storeys above the barge deck–an Ilaje pointing out locations to target with this would-be bomb. When asked how he could discern the meaning of these pointing fingers, he answered that the villagers were miming lighting the bottles and throwing them.

He also described the Ilaje making piles of bottles and metal spools on the deck. He said the expats felt nervous and feared for their lives, although he never observed the Ilaje actually threaten anyone.

In one incident, he reported that a CNL operator was struck in the head and had his glasses knocked to the ground.

Browne hid in his quarters with fellow expats when the heard the helicopters arrive on May 28th. Driven out when tear gas entered the room, he saw two bodies lying on the ground. He claimed to recognize one as the man who had taken his channel lock, though his memory was fuzzy and he later stated that someone else had told him this was the same man.

Browne testified that when he returned to the barge after the attack on May 29th, he was responsible for cleaning up diesel which had been poured on the deck.  He observed 6 or 7 razor blades with crude wooden handles and everywhere bottles and bolts and debris. He stated that the barge has been torn apart.

On cross-exmination, parts of Browne’s testimony seemed to crumble.  First of all, it was revealed that entire paragraphs of his and brother’s written declarations were nearly identical.  He admitted that they consulted with each other before preparing them. Certain of his statements were well dissected: In his declaration he stated, “on 5-28 intruders got really aggressive…actually threatened to kill us.” In the deposition however, he stated that he interacted with no Ilaje on the morning of the 28th and stayed in the expat quarters. How then did he know that the aggressors got really aggressive that morning?

Similiarly, his deposition was alive with dramatic descriptions of villagers pouring diesel on the deck and helipad of the barge and threatening to light it.  Yet in his written declaration, he made no mention of diesel fuel.

“Did you personally observe the Ilaje pouring diesel?”
“No.”

Mr. Browne never saw an Ilaje with a razor blade-despite his discovery of them strewn about the barge on May 29th-nor did he see anyone with a machete. Nor did he see anyone stuffing rags into a bottle. Nor did he see anyone pouring diesel on the ground. It would seem there is a wide gulf between what Tim Browne actually saw and what he said.

Witness: Wayne Hawkins

Mr. Hawkins is a sharp African-American gentleman in his early 70’s. With a concise and precise manner that wasted no words, he offered his account of the Parabe occupation. Hawkins worked as site safety advisor and medic for the French company that ran the barge. A Vietnam veteran and experienced Naval hand, Hawkins’ spoke in the manner of a debriefing and delivered what I believe to be the most reliable testimony of the day.

Like Tim Browne, he described the boarding of the barge by the Ilaje as disorderly. He heard no singing and saw no placards. He did not believe that he was witnessing a peaceful protest. Instead, he described a large number of people milling about an already crowded work area – this overcrowding seemed to be a source of stress.

Hawkins also saw a CNL operative who was attempting to lock a security gate be accosted by an Ilaje and receive a slap to his head that knocked off his glasses.

Due to Judge Illston’s order barring the admission of testimony on juju, Hawkins was only presented with questions on a man shaking a tree branch–the meaning of which was left up in the air.

Mr. Hawkins conveyed the stress and anxiety that gripped the expatriate workers, and we have no reason to doubt his impression. For most of these international workers-American, Europeans, Lebanese-the events must have been confusing and frustrating. However, aside from the above altercations, Hawkins did not witness the Ilaje threatening anyone’s life. Nor did he see them armed with weapons.

He did testify that when the helicopters unloaded the Nigerian security personnel on the 28th, a small group of Ilajes ran towards the soldiers, shaking sticks and pieces of piping.

I must confess that with the constant reference to tree-branch shaking and stick brandishing, I can’t help but picture the spear-shaking natives from an Indiana Jones film. I wonder how much of the expatriates’ perceptions of the events around them were colored by their own predisposition to ‘fear the native’.

But I digress. On cross-examination, Dan Stormer was able to tease out a few significant contradictions. Under direct, Hawkins testified that the soldiers would not have had a clear line of fire to shoot down at the protesters from the helipad; they would have struck the barge superstructure. On cross, Stormer walked him through a photo of the helipad to demonstrate that they would in fact have had a clear line of fire as they descended the stairs from the helipad.

What’s more, Stormer caught onto a major gap in chronology that undermines a key claim for the defendants. Hawkins testified that he left his quarters on the 29th “neat as a pin” and that the crew’s cabins and offices were left in perfect, professional order. And yet, when he returned to the barge on the 29th, he found them ransacked with personal belongings missing and debris strewn about. He saw razor blades and bottles lying helter-skelter around the barge.

He never saw razor blades aboard the barge before the shootings on the 28th. Nor did he ever see any diesel fuel on the deck before the 28th.  And between the 28th and the 29th, when he returned to the barge, the barge was under military control and no one but the military and barge officials were allowed aboard.

So how was the barge ransacked after the Ilaje had been forcibly removed? How did the diesel fuel which Tom Browne scrubbed on the 29th get spilled on the deck? And by whose hands?

Witness: Jason Daniels
Deposed 04.04.2008

In the darkened courtroom, we see a photograph of a helipad, overexposed and washed out in the tropical light. A chopper sits at rest. A lone figure stands erect, his feet planted on the white painted landing circle. A group of men appear to be lifting a body on a stretcher onto the helipad. In the background the green sea.

The photograph was taken by the expat worker Jason Daniels: we are seeing the medical evacuation of Larry Bowoto.

Both the preceding witnesses stated that Daniels–a young man from Texas whose father went to the same church as the Brownes– spent much of the Parabe protest in tearful agitation. Given that set-up, it was little surprise that his testimony bore the wild exaggerations and distortions of high emotion.

Daniels described the Ilaje as fearsome and menacing to a man. In Daniels’ eyes, every exchange with the Illajes is a fight; every communication a threat. “I saw them fighting as they passed the Chevron guy. They hit him upside the head with a bolt, hit him with their fists. They beat this man, trying to push through to the other side of the helideck.”

Every moment seemed to bring the threat of death:

“Were you able to leave the barge?”
“The only way to leave was to swim and we would have died swimming.”

Not only did Daniels see villagers pour diesel on the barge, he saw them pour it from three different 55 gallon barrels. He saw them pour it deliberately. He described it as menacing, dangerous.  He said men were smoking right by the fuel.  He feared for his life.

Did they have weapons? They had pipe wrenches, machetes, monkey wrenches, bolts, long pipes. Three or four of them had machetes with blades 14″ long and 6″ wide

Although he testified that the Ilaje wouldn’t allow anyone to make phone calls and even said they tore about the radio room and destroyed the telephones, he was able to hide under a desk and telephone his father:

I told him our worst fears had happened. That I was scared. I told him we’d been taken hostage. I said this would probably be the last time I would talk to him.  So I cried, I told him I loved him.

“Every second of every day” he thought of himself as a hostage.

Not only was the CNL operator who lost his glasses slapped–as the others said–he was grabbed by the chest and thrown overboard, only saving himself by grabbing onto a rail.

Not only did Daniels see villagers with weapons: they were all armed.

“Everybody on that barge had a weapon. How is that hard to understand?”

“So almost all the people on the barge had weapons in their hands on May 25th?”
“Yes.”

To my eyes, Jason Daniels exaggerated every single observation he made. While it was hard to pick up his affect–as the deposition was read-in by an actor in a flat monotone–it should have been clear that Daniels’ testimony came from a seriously traumatized person. Daniels saw bogeymen everywhere.

Witness: Michael Browne
The day ended with the videotaped testimony of Michael Browne, brother of Tim Browne.  Tomorrow, we will hear another hour of Browne’s testimony, so I will summarize his deposition in its entirety then.

Day 12 11.17.2008: Judge Illston Rules on Juju

In Trial Notes on November 18, 2008 at 6:08 pm

So sorry I missed yesterday’s session because it looks like it was a big day. Reports have it that Deji Haastrup gave testimony for most of the day. While his composed manner and eloquent speech carried well through direct examination, Dan Stormer was apparently able to point out numerous discrepancies between Haastrup’s live testimony and his sworn deposition.

Even more exciting, Judge Illston apparently came down hard on Chevron for their attempt to present claims of juju men and witch-doctors among the Ilaje protesters. One source quoted her as saying:

I want no juju in this trial!

According to another source, she essentially dismissed the juju argument as borderline racist.

I must say, each day I am more and more impressed with Judge Illston. And she’s a great wit to boot!

Day 11 11.13.2008 Part I

In Trial Notes on November 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Witness: James Neku
Deposed 10.25.2004
“One military man to another”

James Neku was the Chevron security officer who flew aboard a company helicopter with Nigerian military personnel on the morning of May 28th, 1998.  Questioned by plaintiffs’ attorney Barbara Hadsell, Neku described his initial briefing with the CNL crisis management team on the 26th of May.  At this meeting, CNL operations manager Scott Davis recounted an ‘expatriate’ worker’s description of the events on Parabe. In the briefing Davis reported that the protesters were armed with “broken bottles, razor blades and debris from the barge. Some had pieces of red and white cloth tied to their bodies to make them look like juju men.” Neku was instructed to contact the Nigerian Navy to “request assistance of government and military to resolve the situation.” According to Neku, no representative of the ‘joint venture’ i.e. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was present: the request was made by CNL alone. At the same meeting, Davis announced that Deji Haastrup had returned from negotiations at Ikorigho and that the talks had broken down on the villagers’ demands for money.

James Neku flew out to Parabe platform on May 28th with Lieutenant Sadiq and a team of armed Mobile Police and Naval officers. As the helicopter landed, Sadiq apparently announced through a megaphone that this was a ‘peaceful operation’. As the soldiers scrambled down the stairs from the helipad to the barge deck, Neku stayed by the chopper. Moments later, he descended the stairs and was approached by Sadiq. The lieutenant told him that the soldiers had been attacked: Neku saw two bodies on the ground.  He then notified Scott Davis that two men were gravely wounded.  When asked if Captain Afolayan-the officer of security aboard Parabe-had confronted him about the raid, he had trouble remembering. He recalled Afolayan raising his voice, but couldn’t testify as to what he said or whether he was upset.  [Remember, other accounts have Afolayan shouting at the raiders, telling them not to shoot.]

Neku never saw an Ilaje armed with any of the objects mentioned above. Nor did he see any evidence that the barge or platform has been destroyed or vandalized. When asked if he had heard that a GSF team aboard Parabe had been subdued by the protesters before the raid, he answered, “I was aware they were outnumbered.”  Attacked? No.  Did he ever ask Afolayan what has transpired aboard the barge? No.  Even as one military man to another, who was there the entire time, wasn’t he interested in debriefing Afolayan?
No, he said, it didn’t seem necessary at that point.

Witness: Malcolm MacLeod
Deposed in [year?] in London
“Their own rules of engagement”

As head of Chevron Global Security division in the late 1990s, Mr. MacLeod was able to testify on CNL’s use of Nigerian military forces for corporate security. Apparently MacLeod was unconcerned by this arrangement (despite Nigeria’s human rights record) as he considered the GSF a “professional, disciplined force.” 70 GSF soldiers were employed and an even greater number of ‘spy police’. MacLeod trusted that these forces would “deploy under their own rules of engagement.”

MacLeod also described the Global Security Standards and Procedures, a set of guidelines issued to all Chevron entities. The guidelines stipulate that an incident like the March 1998 Itsekiri occupation of Parabe should have been reported to Global Security. Following the Itsekiri incident, MacLeod notified George Kirkland, CNL Managing Director, of CNL security chief Mike Uwaka’s negligence.

Witness: Ola-Judah Ajidibo
Deposed on 10.27.2005 and 10.28.2005 in Johannesburg, S. Africa
“Forced to apprehend”

Judah Ajidibo was a co-founder of the Concerned Ilaje Citizens and served as national coordinator.  He spoke at length about the letters sent by the CIC to Chevron “to acquaint Chevron with the problems facing Ilajeland-maybe they were unaware…”

Judah assisted in preparing a book-length case study on the endemic problems of Ilajeland, Marginalisation of the Ilajes of Ondo State by Companies Prospecting for and Exploiting Crude Oil in the Area. This report was issued to the Ondo State government and the Ilaje traditional king. The CIC also attempted to deliver a copy to Deji Haastrup, who apparently declined to meet with them. A copy of the report was left with Haastrup’s security.

Judah then spoke about the negotiations between Deji Haastrup and the Ikorigho village elders on May 27th, the 3rd day of the Parabe occupation and the day before the military raid. Haastrup arrived in the late morning accompanied by assistant negotiator Sola Adebawo, a soldier and a driver. According to Judah, Deji stated that it was not within his power to approve the case study, but that George Kirkland was communicating with the U.S.A. to address their issues; all that Haastrup could do was reconsider the scholarship and job placement programs for CNL.  He stated that he would bring a response from Chevron upper management when he returned for another meeting on 5.29.  Judah stated that Haastrup was told that the protesters would leave the barge and Haastrup replied: “everything in the case study will be resolved if you leave the barge.”

After the meeting, Judah then went out to Parabe to inform the protesters that the elders would send boats out to evacuate them the next day.  The seas were rough and Judah became sea sick, so he stayed aboard the tugboat where he arrived first and asked Methuselah [another Ilaje protester] to spread word on the barge. The next morning came the attack.

Cross-examination: Mittelstaedt cross-examined Judah, pressing him on the commandeering of the tugboat in the aftermath of the attack and attempting to establish that this was in fact a kidnapping. “Did you ever ask Captain David or the crew where they would like to go? You thought you could trade them for the people who had been arrested, correct?”

Judah gave the same answer four times: “We had two purposes: one for their safety and two, because we thought they would help us secure the release of the Ilaje on the barge.”
Mittelstaedt asked: “Does the phrase ‘forced to apprehend 7 men of Chevron’ mean anything to you?” Judah: “No.”

Mr. Mittelstaedt then confronted Judah with a letter drafted by the CIC which stated: “[We] undertook a peaceful protest at Parabe[…]asked the workers to stop working and they agreed[…]forced to apprehend 6 or 7 men of Chevron.” The letter had Judah’s signature.

Witness: Sola Adebawo
Deposed 2.22.2005 in Lagos
“They finally let us go”

Sola Adebawo was the public affairs representative for CNL and as such was familiar with the process by which CNL recognized community oil blocs as negotiating partners. Adebawo was assigned to assist Deji Haastrup in the negotiations with the Ilaje in Ikorigho on May 27th, the day before the raid on Parabe.

Adebawo stated that when he and Haastrup arrived, they notified the protesters on the barge that “now we have honored our side of the bargain” and asked them to leave. Apparently, their response was “things have changed, we have to stay while the meeting goes on.”  Adebawo then testified that “things weren’t going too smooth and they held Deji and wouldn’t let him go.”

When pressed, Adebawo was actually rather vague on Deji’s alleged capture. First he claimed that Deji was sick to his stomach and needed to use the bathroom. While Adebawo seemed to suggest that the Ilaje restricted their movements, he never stated that the Ilaje refused to allow Deji to relieve himself: “We pleaded for a long time to allow us to return to the flow station. There was a request for CNL to reimburse the Ilaje for the logistical cost of the protest-I guess they finally let us go because Deji was the one to speak to management.”

Adebawo stated that they did agree to meet in Warre the next day to resolve the issue of reimbursement. Although he stated he was afraid he would be hurt, he didn’t observe anyone with weapons. On questioning, he admitted that the last words exchanged were, “Please let us go so we can discuss with management.” And they were allowed to go.

Two Ilaje accompanied the negotiators to the flow station where Adebawo was allegedly threatened: “We’ll deal with you.” He did not say who said this or why.

If you ask to leave and are permitted to leave, I don’t see how that is forceful kidnapping. Yet again, Chevron’s employees [and attorneys] seem determined to use the terms ‘kidnapping’ and ‘hostage’ as frequently as possible, no matter the reality of the situation.

Witness: Sola Omole
Deposed 01.16.2002 in London.
“We only work with host communities.”

As general manager of government and public relations for CNL, Omole reported directly to George Kirkland. He also traveled frequently to meet with Chevron HQ in San Ramon, CA and the International Relations division in Washington D.C. [Speaks to close relations between parent & subsidiary]

When asked about CNL’s previous negotiations with local communities and the Ondo State government, Omole admitted that ‘seating fees’ were standard operating procedure: CNL would reimburse the travel expenses of the community oil blocs. [This would seem to be the inspiration for the Ilaje protesters demand for reimbursement of their expenses.] Omole also explained the Federal policy on local employment: 60% of Chevron’s unskilled workforce was required to be drawn from the ‘catchment’ area around the facility. The areas immediately adjacent to Parabe were all Ilaje.

Regarding the CIC’s letters to CNL, Omole’s department declined to respond: “We didn’t know this group. We only work with host communities. This seemed like a copycat situation from the Concerned Itsekiri Citizens.” Omole did not contact the Ilaje king [Olubo] to verify if the CIC were legitimate.

Omole was then shown a letter sent to his office by the military administrator of Ondo State, calling for a meeting with the CIC on 5.7.98. Even in the light of this letter, Omole declined to look into the legitimacy of the CIC: “Of course State Government would support these demands-they support their own people.”

Day Ten 11.12.08

In Trial Notes on November 12, 2008 at 5:37 pm

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?”
“Yes.”

Witness: Roger Pell
Deposed 05.27.2005 in London
“No differentiation”

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

Deposed 06.23.2005
“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
Deposed 09.01.2005
“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

Deposed 12.03.2005

“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
Deposed 10.23.2004

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.

Day 9 11.10.08

In Trial Notes on November 11, 2008 at 3:06 pm

U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Francisco

A powerful day for Larry Bowoto and his co-plaintiffs. Witness after witness offered damaging testimony against Chevron Corporation.  It was an emotional start to the third week of trial that saw the harrowing description of Bola Oyinbo’s torture at the hands of Nigerian police and the tearful testimony of Arolika Irowarunun and Bola Oyinbo’s bereaved families.

Witness: Adebisi “Popular” Atimise
“They told him to confess.”

The court heard the testimony of Popular Adibise, an Ilaje protester who was aboard the Parabe barge during the naval raid on May 28th, 1998.  In vivid detail, Mr. Adibise described finding the bodies of Arolika and Larry Bowoto on the deck of the service barge: “When I got there, I realized the other body was Larry.  To keep his body from rolling around, I hugged him and I started crying.” According to his testimony, two nurses arrived and placed an I.V. into Bowoto’s arm, until a soldier with an eye-patch ordered it removed.

Adibise was then locked inside a shipping container on the barge with 11 other protesters, before being transferred by to the Chevron Escravos tank farm and then on to a naval base in Warre.  All the while, the detainees were closely guarded by the same General Security Forces (GSF) soldiers who were flown to the barge.  According to Adibise, at one point while the detainees were taken outside the brig to eat, he saw two black men wearing Chevron logos arrive in a vehicle. The two men met with the soldiers and distributed envelopes to them. Adibise claimed he saw some of the soldiers tear open the envelopes on the spot and count the money they contained.

The detainees were then transferred to police custody and held in a prison in Akure. There they were held with up to 150 other inmates in a squalid cell with no plumbing.  While Mr. Adibisi was not beaten in prison-he was beaten with a rifle butt aboard the platform-he stated that he observed other prisoners being beaten.  Bola Oyinbo was apparently singled out for abuse, as Adibise described the guards repeatedly carrying Bola away from the cell: “Coming back he was crying, he face was swollen.  They told him to confess that he was a sea pirate.” Adibise described Bola’s condition after one session in gruesome detail:

He was pushed into the cell. There were lashes all over his body, blood too, all over his body. We saw rope marks on his arms.  He told us that he was hanged by his hands with rope and ordered to confess that he was a sea pirate.  I saw with my own eyes the trace of rope and blood on his hands.  He came to us crying.  Even the other inmates started crying with us.

In cross-examination, John Cline pressed Adibisi on his account of the Chevron employees paying the soldiers: “You’re telling us they paid the soldiers right there in front of you, rather than inside the building?”  Aside from this one point, Cline didn’t want to touch the witness: perhaps his riveting account was too toxic for the defense to dwell on.  Cline cut his examination short after 30 or so questions: less than half his usual quantity.

Dan Stormer-who seemed particularly on the ball today-followed-up with just the right questions: Were the soldiers you saw paid the same soldiers that came to the barge? Were these same soldiers guarding you in Warre? Were these soldiers all GSF?

Witness: Damilohun Majemu Osupayojo

“They reached into a plastic bag and gave out envelopes.”

The court was then shown Majemu’s videotaped deposition, recorded in Nigeria in September 2005. Plaintiffs’ counsel Lauren Teukolsky questioned Majemu on his role among the Concerned Ilaje Citizens protesters aboard the barge.  It appeared that Majemu did not play a leadership role-instead, his testimony offered the plaintiffs a chance to corroborate previous testimony on the instructions given to the protesters by the elders and organizers.  For the most part, Majemu’s account paralleled the previous testimony.

Majemu described relations between the protesters and workers as relaxed during the first three days of the protest: they watched TV together, some played drafts.  On the morning of May 28th, Majemu had a vantage point to witness the landing of the helicopters and the shooting death of Arolika. Majemu also described seeing a soldier with a dark eye-patch. Interestingly, Majemu described a black man wearing Chevron cover-alls descending with the soldiers from the third helicopter. I don’t believe any other witnesses have corroborated this.

Majemu was among the protesters locked inside the shipping container and subsequently detained for the next 3 weeks. Majemu testified that once in Warre, the detainees were stripped and beaten with horsewhips and rifle butts. Four other prisoners including Bola were beaten.

Next, Majemu gave his account of the payments made to the soldiers at Warre.  He described seeing two black men arrive in a vehicle-both wearing Chevron logos-reach into a plastic bag, and then distribute envelopes to the guards. Majemu stated that he overheard a soldier say: “This is not what he agreed to pay us.”

Majemu also described the torture of Bola Oyinbo: Bola returned to the cell and recounted his beatings on at least seven occasions. According to Majemu, the first time Bola returned from a session with the police he “couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat-blood was coming from his mouth”. He said that on 3 occasions Bola was beaten to the point where he could no longer stand. Once, he said, Bola told him he hand been hung up by the hands. His wrists and legs were swollen, his eyes were red.

Bob Mittelstaedt’s cross-examination homed in on Majemu’s account of the soldiers’ pay-off.  It was obvious throughout the deposition that Majemu’s comprehension of English was extremely limited. At no point did he show signs of understanding the questions put before him without translation.  How then did he understand the exchange between the Chevron employees and the soldiers at Warre? After Mittelstaedt prompted him to repeat in Pidgin English what he heard the soldiers say, Majemu stumbled through a few of the intended words.  It was not very convincing.  Furthermore, on cross-examination Majemu altered the sentence slightly: “It was not what Deji had agreed to.” Deji being Chevron Nigeria Ltd.’s negotiator during the crisis.

Mittelstaedt-who never seems to miss a beat-drove home the point. As Majemu tried to recover, quoting the soldiers again, this time without mentioning Deji, Mittelstaedt called him on the inconsistency. Chevron desperately needs these witnesses to look like liars; unfortunately for the most part they just look confused.

Witness: Monday Omosaye
“It was a common front”

Omosaye is a Jehovah’s Witness, as plaintiffs’ counsel was quick to point out. [Surely JW’s don’t practice juju!] He was secretary for the 9th Concessional Oil Bloc as well as a member of the CIC. As such, he kept meeting minutes for the May 14th, 1998 quarterly meeting between CNL and the 9th Concessional, as well as for the 9th Concessional’s meeting on May 18th, 1998. Omosaye first testified about the meeting in Ikorigho between Chevron’s negotiator Deji Haastrup and the Ilaje elders on May 27th, the night before the helicopter raid on the platform.

According to Omosaye, Haastrup arrived in the late morning accompanied by several armed guards. At no point while in Ikorigho was Mr. Haastrup out of Omosaye’s sight.  The meeting lasted until approximately 6 pm, when Haastrup announced that certain of the elder’s demands were within his capacity to address (e.g. number of jobs to be offered) while others (presumably reparations) would require consultation with higher Chevron management. Haastrup claimed he would return on May 29th with feedback on these demands.  Omosaye strongly disputed Chevron’s claims that Haastrup was taken hostage or threatened while in Ikorigho.

John Cline cross-examined the witness, focusing on Omosaye’s meeting notes from earlier meetings.  Appearing in the minutes from 9th Concessional’s quarterly meeting with CNL was an item on “unidentified groups” stating that Chevron refused to meet with the CIC because it is unknown to them and has an unclear mandate. Omosaye replied that Chevron had misunderstood the CIC: it was not a breakaway faction, or an appendage to 9th Concessional, but a “new idea for joint action on common problems affecting Ilajeland.”

Cline then focused on the CIC’s demand of 10 million Naira for expenses. [I don’t have an exchange rate for 1998, but suffice to say 10 million is exponentially greater than its equivalent in US dollars.] Omosaye clarified that a portion of the money demanded was for expenses-as seems customary in the negotiations between Chevron and the oil blocs-while the rest was for environmental and economic reparations.

To this Cline followed-up with: “Did Mr. Haastrup tell you he could not pay ransom?”
Dan Stormer returned with more questions on the relationship between the CIC and the 9th Concessional. The 9th Concessional represented nine Ilaje communities. Actual represented 4.  The Concerned Ilaje Citizens represented 42. It was becoming clear that Omosaye was a member of both groups and saw no legitimacy problems between them.  In fact, in its May 17th meeting, the 9th Concessional nominated 2 representatives to work with the CIC and recognized that “the CIC will not be deterred from using all legally and constitutionally allowed means to actualize their demands.” By his testimony, Chevron was indeed refusing to recognize the CIC as a legitimate coalition.

Witness: Margaret Irowarunun
“Tell them Chevron has killed their father.”

Margaret Irowarunun, Arolika’s widow, offered emotional testimony on her husband. She described him as a good father, the head of his family and a generous figure in his town. With tear-streaked face, she described him as her benefactor: “I can never forget my husband, he did everything for me…He was a benefactor that Chevron has killed.”

The defense had no questions for this witness.

Witness: Orioye Irowarunun
“I’ll never see him again”

Orioye, Arolika’s 20-year old son spoke briefly about his father’s nurturing care of him before breaking up in tears.

The defense had no questions for this witness.

Witness: Ola Oyinbo
“Coming home to joy”

In the most moving testimony to date, Bola Oyinbo’s widow, Ola, concluded the day. An expressive woman, Ola conveyed her deep love for her husband.  Even through translation, her emotions carried through. At times she rose from the stand and walked before the jury to demonstrate little details of her husband’s physicality. “When you say ‘black is beautiful’ you are talking about Bola. His skin was shiny. His body was soft like a woman. He walked like a woman.”  Ms. Teukolsky showed the jury photographs of the couple’s traditional wedding-a beautiful couple indeed.

She then described Bola’s condition when he returned from prison after Parabe. “He was thin, his head was broken, and he couldn’t walk normally anymore. I massaged him with hot water and he howled so loud the whole village could hear. Blood oozed from his wrist. He had sores on his arms and lashes on his back.”
Her testimony ended on the subject of their child, Bayo. Bayo means ‘joy’ in Ilaje.  “Why did you name him Joy?”
“Bola was not killed in prison and when he got home, he was able to meet his child. He was coming home to meet Joy.”

No session on 11.11.08 for Veteran’s Day.  Ola Oyinbo’s testimony will resume on Wednesday 11.12.08.