Council Urges US to Pass Transparency Law To Force Chevron and Other Oil Companies to Report Payments to Nigeria and Other Foreign Governments
Richmond, CA – On Tuesday, December 15, 2009, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging the US Senate to pass a bill that would require oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments as part of a larger movement to increase corporate accountability across borders. Council member Nathaniel Bates was absent. A similar resolution was unanimously approved by the Oakland City Council and with one abstention in the Berkeley City Council in October.
The Energy Security Through Transparency Act (ESTT) Act was introduced by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) in September and if passed would effect oil companies in Nigeria as well as the rest of the world.
“Here in Richmond, we see the links between human rights and corporate accountability issues in our city as the same struggle as those that are demanding a right to their livelihood in Nigeria. Oil companies need to take responsibility where ever oil in produced and refined,” stated Richmond resident Jovanka Beckles who spoke at the meeting.
The Richmond resolution also calls on the State Department to support diplomatic peace talks in the Delta to negotiate a way forward to address the root causes of the current crisis—environmental destruction — particularly gas flaring — and lack of investment in the oil producing region. The city’s call contrasts with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge in August to explore further US military assistance to the government of Nigeria. The resolution along with the passage of the resolution in Oakland and Berkeley marks a new level of support to pressure the United States to adopt a foreign policy that promotes constructive change through dialog in alignment with the American values of democratic civic engagement, and freedom of speech and the press.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Council members Jeff Ritterman and Tom Butt and was introduced to the Council by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin who worked with Bay Area-based Justice In Nigeria Now to draft the resolution.
“I was tortured and imprisoned by the Nigerian military for my peaceful protests against Shell Oil's destruction of our land. I believe that Richmond’s support sends a strong message that communities in the U.S are concerned about the human rights abuses and environmental damage associated with oil extraction. I do not want to see my people continue to go through what I went through," stated Suanu Kingston Bere, a Nigerian activist who also spoke at the City Council meeting.
Fifty years of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta has produced over $700 billion in oil revenues shared between the Nigerian government and oil giants like Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell. Nigeria is a key supplier of oil to the United States, to which it exports over 40% of its supply. Despite the immense wealth gained from oil in the Niger Delta, the quality of life for local residents has deteriorated. Oil companies have polluted the water villagers drink and the fish population that serves as their primary source of protein has been decimated. Little oil wealth is re-invested in communities from which it is extracted, most lack electricity, and access to education or healthcare facilities.
“Oil companies in Nigeria have had long a relationship with the notoriously corrupt and historically brutal Nigerian government where rampant corruption, fraudulent elections and violent suppression of peaceful protests are the norm in the Delta. The proposed ESTT Act in the Senate is an important step toward holding oil companies accountable for their collusion with the Nigerian government, which protects their profits while killing and injuring innocent local people and destroying the Delta’s fragile environment” stated Nigerian writer and activist Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore has also visited the city of Richmond and met with local activists who were working to hold Chevron accountable in their city.
Justice In Nigeria Now! (JINN) is a San Francisco-based organization working in solidarity with communities in Nigeria and allies in the US to hold multinational corporations accountable for their operations in Nigeria to act in a manner that respects human rights, protects and cleans up the environment, and enhances community livelihoods.