Nigerian women win concessions from Chevron through occupation, 2002

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Timing
Time Period:  
8 July
2002
to
25 July
2002
Location and Goals
Country: 
Nigeria
Location City/State/Province: 
Niger Delta
Location Description: 
Oil rich region
Goals: 
1. For Chevron to offer more employment opportunities to the local villagers, many of home had their original livelihoods disrupted by the environmental degradation caused by oil prospecting.

2. For some of the oil wealth to be be spent on infrastructure in the local communities, such as healthcare facilities, water and electricity systems, and schools.

 

In 1956, Shell British Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) discovered oil in what was then the British colony of Nigeria, and by 1958 commercial production had begun. Today, Nigeria has the tenth largest proven oil reserves in the world, is the tenth largest oil producer, and is the eighth largest oil exporter; yet nearly two-thirds of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 a day, 70% live below the national poverty line, and 83% live on less than $2 a day (each of those measurements place Nigeria in the bottom ten out of countries for which data is available). In fact, since 1982, Nigeria has collected oil export revenues in excess of $700 billion (as of 2010, in constant 2000 U.S. dollars), but because most of that wealth has been concentrated with the top 1%, the country has gone from the 33rd richest in the 1970s to the 26th poorest by 2002. And, by all accounts, it is the residents of the most oil-rich region, the Niger Delta, who have suffered the most precipitous decline in standard of living over that time.

The Niger Delta, considered one of the ten most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems on the planet, is home to more than 30 million people, 70% of whom live on less than $1 a day. Most relied on fisheries, subsistence agriculture, and associated processing industries for their livelihood, but decades of widespread oil spills, waste dumping, and gas flaring have severely damaged the soil, air, and water quality. According to international experts, the delta region has been one of the most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems in the world; for example, conservative estimates report that almost 7,000 spills resulting in a loss of approximately 3 million barrels of oil occurred within the 25-year span between 1976 and 2001. With more than 60% of the population relying on the natural environment for their livelihood, the devastation has turned life for many into what they called “a nightmare.” On those occasions when protesters (even peaceful ones) demand greater accountability and better living conditions, the frequent response is a violent crackdown by government or private security forces.

Despite the danger, in July 2002, 600 Nigerian women between the ages of 20 and 90 decided to nonviolently seize control of the largest oil producing facility in the country. On 8 July, 200 women, carrying only food and cooking pots, reappropriated a boat used to transport workers to and from the Chevron’s Escravos oil terminal and stormed the plant. Demanding employment for their husbands and children and infrastructure development for their communities, they then set up barricades at strategic installations in the tank farm to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. They also threatened to strip nude if a satisfactory agreement could not be reached with the company. According to local custom, “displays of nudity by wives, mothers and grandmothers (are) a damning protest and an act that shames all those it is aimed at.” The occupation quickly put a halt to the production of approximately 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

After the first few days of negotiations, as a show of good faith, the women agreed to allow the departure of 400 workers who were scheduled for time off. Within a few days afterwards, an agreement was reached, whereby Chevron agreed to hire more than two dozen villagers, build a town hall in the village of Ugborodo (the home to many of the protestors), and build schools and electrical and water systems. By 18 July, the women agreed to end their occupation of the main Escravos terminal, but their protest inspired hundreds of women from the Gbaramatu community to seize control of four pipeline flow stations. Twelve days after the start of this second protest, Chevron agreed to create jobs for 10 people, upgrade 20 workers to full-time positions, and create 30 new contract positions. According to the protestors, the company also agreed to build water and electricity systems, schools, and hospitals for local communities and set up a micro-credit scheme that would help village women start their own businesses.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The threat of nudity by the women of the Niger Delta has inspired Code Pink, "a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities," to publicly disrobe in a protest against British Petroleum. (2)

Sources: 
“'Deal reached' in Nigeria oil protest.” BBC News. BBC, 16 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2129281.stm>.

Junger, Sebastian. “Blood Oil.” Vanity Fair. Condé Nast, Feb 2007. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/02/junger200702>.

“Nigeria.” CIA World Factbook. CIA, Oct 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html>.

“Nigeria: Oil, poverty and violence.” Amnesty International Publications. Amnesty International, Aug 2006. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR44/017/2006/en/697f5735-d409-11dd-8743-d305bea2b2c7/afr440172006en.pdf>.

“Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution, and Poverty in the Niger Delta.” Amnesty International Publications. Amnesty International, Jun 2009. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR44/017/2009/en/e2415061-da5c-44f8-a73c-a7a4766ee21d/afr440172009en.pdf>.

“Nigerian women leave oil plant.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2136509.stm>.

“Nigerian women storm new oil plants.” BBC News. BBC, 17 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2134165.stm>.

“Nigerian women's oil protest ends.” BBC News. BBC, 25 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2152264.stm>.

“Oil deal 'off', Nigerian women say.” BBC News. BBC, 16 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2132494.stm>.\

“OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet.” Independent Statistics and Analysis. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Dec 2010. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://205.254.135.24/emeu/cabs/OPEC_Revenues/Factsheet.html>.

“Population Below Poverty Line.” CIA World Factbook. CIA, Oct 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2046.html>.

“Poverty Headcount Ratio.” Development Research Group. World Bank, 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.2DAY>.

“Synopsis.” The Naked Option. 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://www.nakedoptionmovie.com/WordPress/about/synopsis/>.

“Talks to end Nigerian oil siege.” BBC News. BBC, 11 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2119872.stm>.

Williams, Lizzie. Nigeria: the Bradt Travel Guide.Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press Inc., 2008. Print.

“Women storm Nigeria oil plant.” BBC News. BBC, 9 Jul 2002. Web. 16 Oct 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2118097.stm>.

Additional Notes: 
On February 4, 2005, soldiers fired on protesters at the Escravos terminal, killing one man and injuring at least 30 others. The activists were from Ugborodo and were protesting Chevron's failure to fulfill its agreement to provide jobs and development projects for the community.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Thomas Fortuna, 16/10/2011