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NIGER DELTA WOMEN PROTEST AGAINST CHEVRON

JULY 2002

Updates:

13th August 2002 Wari Delta State  - Protest against Shell and Chevron/Texaco

On Thursday the 8th of August, 2002 we, over 3000 women from oil producing communities (Itsekiri, Ijaws and Ilajes) whose environment and livelihood have been destroyed by oil and gas exploitation activities went to thepremises of Shell and ChevronTexaco, some of the multinational oil companies carrying out oil and gas exploitation on our lands.   Apart from placards calling on the oil companies to compensate us for gas flaming we were unarmed.

However, this peaceful protest was dramatically abused by the oil companies when they brought vehicles filled with soldiers and peration fire for fire policemen who immediately started beating, torturing and flogging us with horsewhips, guns and boots. Several canisters of tear-gas where fired at us, at close range, some of us ran into the bush.And the soldiers and policemen pursued us into the bush and water.  At the end of the exercise Shell staff hospitalised at least 2 persons who were beaten into coma and several others were hospitalised in other various places that evening.  As we speak, 2 women have not been found. Only their wrappers were seen floating on the river.

Our message to the oil companies is that since they have chosen an unorthodox means to deal with a non-violent and peaceful protest, we too are capable of dealing with them by employing unorthodox methods.  We use this medium to give them 7 days ultimatum (beginning Sunday, August 11) within which to invite us for dialogue.  They should take further notice that at the expiration of the 7 days (if they fail to heed the  notice). We the women, our sons, brothers and husbands, shall go to the trenches against those tenants who now want to lord it over their landlords and they should be ready for the consequences of their actions

DEMANDS

  1. An immediate end to gas flaring in our communities and payment of compensation for the pollution and gas flaring over the years. 
  2. An end to divide and rule tactics by ChevronTexaco and Shell. 
  3. Treatment for all those injured during our peaceful protest.
  4. For the oil companies to invite us for dialogue.

Mrs. Kate Ajabawa (Itsekiri)

Mrs. Rose Onila Jemimeyigbe (Ijaw)

Mrs. Bimpe Ebilene (Ilaje).

26th July 2002; Ijaw women reach accord with Chevron

After 4 days of intense negotiations, women protestors lift their seige of 4 flow stations.  A memorandum of understanding was signed spelling out the conditions the oil company must meet in order to continue to operate peacefully. The memorandum included the following:

"In order to strengthen its relationship with the people of the communities, its neighbours and hosts in the swamp area of the company's (Chevron) Western operations, the company will continue to maintain open and continuous dialogue and consultations with accredited representatives of the communities, the local government and Delta State government on matters affecting this relationship.

"The company's core values support sustainable community development, local business development, training and skill acquisition (development) activities to enable the communities to take advantage of business and development opportunities."The company's employment and recruitment policy will deliberately ensure a fair and equitable representation of qualified indigenes from the communities in the company's workforce."

Chevron, in endorsing the MOU, stressed that it would remain committed to ensuring the safety of people and the environment as well as upholding the principles of the rule of law.A commitment to provide a conducive and trouble free atmosphere for Chevron and her numerous contractors to reciprocate the company's commitment to a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship was also extracted from the leaders of the communities who took part in the negotiation.

23rd July: Women's Demands

Occupation of 4 key flow stations by Ijaw women continues with the women working in shifts of 200 at a time.

The women have made 5 demands to Chevron:

    The oil companies should stop killing their sons for protesting peacefully for the right to work and have jobs 

     The pollution of farms and rivers should end and a clean up process begin immediately

    The oil companies should begin to respect local customs and traditions by first of all negotiating with the traditional leaders and elders

    Provision of clean water, electricity , health care, free education

    The right to  live in peace in their homeland away from military and political violence.

20th July, 2002

 Delta Womens Protest Spreads  

[We have] nothing to show for over 30 years of the companys  existence.Lucky Lelekumo, spokeswoman for Ijaw activists. "We will no longer take this nonsense, this is the beginning of the  trouble they have been looking for." Anunu Uwawah, Escravos protest organizer.  The occupation of ChevronTexacos Escravos export terminal in the Niger Delta by over 600 unarmed women from surrounding affected communities has spread to at least four more ChevronTexaco flow-stations in the delta. 

The multi-ethnic group of women, primarily Itsekiri and Ijaw, are demanding that the oil company fulfill its obligation to the communities to provide jobs and resources for education, water, electricity, a community centre and support for economic development. Ijaw women from communities approximately 80km from Escravos have taken over additional flow-stations.The Ijaw Youth Council occupied Chevrons Parabe I Platform in 1998 as a protest against the impacts of oil development in Operation Climate Change. That demonstration ended with the Nigerian military using Chevron helicopters to attack protesters resulting in two deaths and dozens of injuries.

19th July 2002

For the past 7 days, 600 women from villages surrounding the ChevronTexaco run Escravos oil terminal in the Niger Delta have non-violently taken over the facility to bring attention to their plight. The women are demanding jobs, education services, community services and economic investment in their communities from ChevronTexaco, which has repeatedly failed to follow-through on its commitments to communities.  

Chevron Texaco extracts more than 400,000 barrels of oil per year from the Niger Delta. The vast majority is processed at the Escravos facility, which is also the site of ChevronTexacos gas processing facility. Communities around the facility have been plagued by oil spills which destroy their fishing economy, and flaring which causes acid rain, skin diseases, asthma and other negative health affects. Not only has the traditional economies been severely disrupted by oil operations, few jobs, economic opportunities or social services are realized in the affected areas.

In the past, ChevronTexaco has responded to demonstrations by relying on the military and police who have violently attacked demonstrations. ChevronTexaco has even provided access to its helicopters to the military to attack protesters. 

 

Women's Testimonies at the Shell/Chevron protest

"We were just singing, we didn't destroy anything. We were peaceful. The police and soldiers misbehaved.  Look at me, 7 armed soldiers pounced on me and reduced me to nothing.  I found myself in a Shell clinic, a day after the protest." -Mrs Alice Youwuren  (widow) 50 years old mother of 7.Ugwagwu Community, Itsekiri.

 "The rivers they are polluting is our life and death.  We depend on it  for everything.  When this situation became unbearable, we decided to come together to protest.  Ijaw, Itsekiri and Ilaje we are one, we are brothers and sisters, it is only people who don't understand that think we are fighting ourselves". -Mrs. Bimpe Ebi, 34 years old mother of 5.From Awoye Community in Ilaje 

"We insisted on dialogue with the oil companies, but the soldiersrefused and started kicking us with their boots, they flogged us, they wounded us. As I am talking to you, 3 of our women are still missing.  As we are disgraced this way, those of us remaining will go there and let them kill us.  We don't want Shell, Chevron, Texaco or any of the oil companies again". -Mrs. Rose Miebi (Widow) 36 years old, mother of six children, an Ijaw.

 

Women's Testimonies at the Chevron Protest

 ERA TESTIMONIES  July 22, 2002

PROTESTING WOMEN CONTINUE OCCUPATION OF CHEVRON  FLOW-STATIONS

Over three thousand protesting Ijaw women from the Gbaramatu Clan and other communities in the Niger Delta continue the direct occupation of Chevron’s flow stations in Nigeria’s Delta State.

In this special update, the Environmental  Rights Action (ERA), present the voices of the protesting women speaking from the occupied Abiteye Flow Station.

"Chevron has neglected us. They have neglected us for a long time. For example, any time spills occur, they don't do proper clean-up or pay compensation. Our roofs are destroyed by their chemical. No good drinking water in our rivers. Our fishes are killed on daily basis by their chemicals, even the fishes we catch in our rivers, they smell of crude oil. Chevron know the right thing to do, they intimidate us with
soldiers, police, navy and tell us that cases of spill are caused by us. We are tired of complaining, even the Nigerian government and their Chevron have treated us like slaves. 30 years till now, what do we have to show by Chevron, apart from this big yard and all sorts of machines making noise, what do we have? They have been threatening us that if we make noise, they will stop production and leave our
community and we will suffer, as if we have benefited from them. Before the 70s, when we were here without Chevron, life was natural and sweet, we were happy.
When we go to the rivers for fishing or forest for hunting, we used to catch all sorts of fishes and bush animals. Today, the experience is sad. I am suggesting that they should leave our community completely and never come back again. See, in our community we have girls, small girls from Lagos, Warri, Benin City, Enugu, Imo, Osun and other parts of Nigeria here everyday and night running after the white men and staff of Chevron, they are doing prostitution, and spreading all sorts of diseases. The story is too long and too sad. When you go (to ERA) tell Chevron that we are no longer slaves, even slaves realise their condition and fight for their freedom"-Voice of Mrs. Felicia Itsero, 67, mother  and grandmother

(translation from Ijaw by Ms. Fanty Waripai)

"Our problem with Chevron stared on June 10 in our river. We sent a delegation to see Chevron and complain about our plight as a neglected oil producing community. Instead of Chevron to listen to us, the women, they phoned soldiers from Escravos tank farm. The soldiers who numbered up to 14, met us at the river and rough handled us. They destroyed 5 of our boats and wounded our people. We were tortured. When they saw that we were prepared to die, Chevron later called us and promised to listen to our demand. From that June 10, 2002, we waited and nothing was done. So on July 17, 2002, we decided to enter the Abiteye flow station and peacefully protest. Our demands are genuine, even the soldiers who Chevron sent to torture us can tell you that we are not violent, so nobody can use violence against us. We are mature people and we are protesting in a matured manner. Most times Chevron signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with us and they refused to meet the conditions. Even the environmental problems from Chevron's facility are threatening us, and they have not done anything for our local fisher women. If you want to catch fish now, you really have to go into the deep sea and we don't have such equipment. In fact, I want to say that Chevron in insensitive and callous to our plight. Out problem is caused by them and we are now living in abject poverty. When we protest like this, they just give money to few greedy individuals and they think that they have solved the problems. We are prepared to die."-Voice of Mrs. Lucky Murade, 30 year old and mother.
(Translated from Pidgin English by ERA's Patrick Naagbanton)
 

"Chevron is deceitful. They have deceived us several times and we know them better now. We won't leave this place till our demands are met" 
-Voice of Mrs. Juliet Tomfawer, 39 years old and mother.
(Translated from Pidgin English by ERA's Patrick Naagbanton)
 

 "We are women from Kenghangbene and other nearby communities. Kenghangbene hosts the Chevron flow-station (Abiteye). We are demonstrating here peacefully, not armed with anything except leaves. We are peaceful. We are occupying this facility because we are angry. We are angry because since 1970, the company came here, we have nothing to show for the pollution of our rivers and creeks, destruction of our forests and mangroves and the noise, and the gas flaring. We have complained and protested. All our complaints and protests fell on Chevron's deaf ears. We have nothing to show for this.. Look at my village from Warri to here, for an uninterrupted engine boat drive is about 2 hours, and we don't have clinic, no good drinking water, no road, no electricity and other necessities of life. Here, we have married women, unmarried women, and small girls. We have old women, young and small ones here demonstrating. Nobody mobilises us to do what we are doing. We are angry. We sleep here day and night. We are denied our rights as a people, to employment, good environment and so on. We will be here till Chevron answers our demands."
-Voice of Chief (Mrs) Josephine Ogoba, 48 year old and mother of 4 children. A leader of the protesting women..

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

 ·     Tell ChevronTexaco and the Nigerian government you support the demands of the women and their communities for a safe and conducive environment necessary for their survival.

·     Tell ChevronTexaco and the Nigerian government to meet the women's demands for jobs for their children, economic support for education and health services, and economic support for fishing and poultry farming demands.

·     Make it known to the Nigerian Government and Chevron that you are aware of their past practice of relying on the mobile police and soldiers to violently attack protesters. Put pressure on them NOT to use violence against the women.

     Put pressure on the US government who have been providing peacekeeping military training to Nigerian army for the past year in the Niger Delta. This is a guise for protecting the oil companies and for occupying the Niger Delta and further dehumanising the people.
 

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