Chevron is a No-Show in Community Consultation on West African Pipeline Gathering of Over 130 Community Representatives Rejects Proposed Project.
Human Rights & Human Rights Violations
Chevron Nigeria representatives failed to attend the first major community consultation about its proposed West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP). The company, which is the Managing Sponsor of the project, was invited repeatedly and promised community representatives it would attend. More than 130 representatives of potentially affected communities, researchers, journalists, and environmental and social activists proceeded without Chevron and held a two-day meeting in Warri, Nigeria on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 14-15, to discuss the project.
"Chevron is clearly much more comfortable behind military guns than face to face with the communities it affects," said Carwil James, Oil Campaigner with Project Underground, a Berkeley-based human rights organization which has supported Niger Delta communities in their struggle for environmental justice. A communiqué issued by the meeting’s participants called Chevron’s absence "a continuation of the established tradition of transnational corporations treating local people and groups with disdain." While Chevron Nigeria staff did not attend this consultation meeting, at least thirteen of its employees were scheduled to travel to a trade show in Ivory Coast this weekend.
The West African Gas Pipeline will stretch some 600 miles westward from Nigeria’s Niger Delta to Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Chevron expects the pipeline to begin shipping 120 million cubic feet of gas per day by 2002. It wants public funds to help finance the project through the World Bank, and claims that the project might deserve international credits for "reducing" greenhouse gas emissions.
Community representatives rejected the project "as presently conceived" and opposed public funding by the World Bank and the provision of carbon credits. They demanded an inclusive environmental impact assessment of the WAGP, citing concerns about pollution, deforestation, pipeline explosions, and habitat fragmentation. The pipeline could also displace as many as 50,000 people along the route.
Chevron’s record in the Niger Delta includes extensive pollution and gas flaring, construction of facilities in communities without consultation, and support for military repression. In May 1998, Chevron ended a nonviolent occupation of its Parabe platform by flying in Nigerian soldiers who opened fire on protesters with assault rifles, killing two people. In January 1999, Chevron-leased helicopters and speedboats carried soldiers to the villages Opia and Ikenyan, where they attacked villagers and burned houses to the ground.
Communique of the Information and Consultative Meeting on the West African Gas Pipeline
Held at Warri, Delta State, Nigeria between March 14-15, 2000.
At a two day "Information and Consultative Meeting on the West African Gas Pipeline" attended by representatives of oil and gas bearing communities in Nigeria; delegates from Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic; social movement and NGO activists; academics, journalists and researchers, the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) as presently conceived by its sponsors was roundly rejected.
Participants noted that:
1. although the WAGP was conceived before 1996 and a Memorandum of Understanding of WAGP signed as far back as August, 1999, the project’s sponsors are yet to conduct an all inclusive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, contrary to local and international environmental regulations like Principle 17 of the Rio Declaration. The absence of an EIA is a clear indication that environmental considerations are not in the agenda of the WAGP consortium;
2. the processes leading to the project has not been participatory as none of the communities to be affected has been consulted;
3. the entire WAGP project has been shrouded in secrecy by its sponsors who are behaving as if neither the people nor their communities count. It is so bad that even information emanating from the designated managing sponsor of the project has been scanty and self-contradictory. For instance, information made available to groups in Nigeria, Ghana and Togo on the Pipeline route are contradictory;
4. although Chevron Nigeria Limited is, in principle, the Managing Sponsor of the WAGP, powers of decision-making neither lies with it nor with other members of the consortium, namely: Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Societe Beninoise de Gaz S.A. and Societe Togolaise de Gaz S.A but with Chevron Global Technology Services based in Houston, Texas, USA which is dealing with all questions regarding the project;
5. although the project has been promoted as capable of creating 20, 000 jobs, more than 50, 000 families would be dislocated;
6. despite a prior invitation and even a promise to attend the meeting, Chevron Nigeria Limited which is the designated Managing Sponsor failed to turn up. This is a continuation of the established tradition of transnational corporations treating local people and groups with disdain;
7. The consortium’s claim that the WAGP will lead to a reduction of gas flaring in Nigeria is inconsistent with its lead role as a part of the oil industry lobby opposed to gas reduction and supportive of fossil fuel exploitation. More significantly, it is not clear whether the flaring of associated gas, which is the gas being flared in Nigeria’s Niger Delta will really be reduced as a result of this project;
8. The project will exacerbate the existing crisis over resources as the matter of resource ownership, control and management is yet to be democratically resolved.
BASED on the above observations, the meeting resolved as follows:
1. we reject the WAGP because the fears of the local communities who matter most have not been addressed. These fears include: the absence of an all-inclusive EIA, the grave environmental devastation that will result from the project like deforestation, explosions, breaking up of habitats and wildlife corridors and blocking of water bodies; cultural dislocation as well as economic impoverishment;
2. to set up a network of communities to be affected by the project as well as civil society groups working on the WAGP;
3. to petition the World Bank not to support or promote the WAGP; 4. to embark on empowerment education concerning the impacts of the project;
5. to challenge the WAGP politically and legally until the objective fears of the of the local people are met and;
6. to condemn the concept of "carbon credit" and state that Chevron and other members of the consortium have never been environmentally friendly in their operations.