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Berkeley City Council Passes Resolution Aimed at Oil Company Collusion with Foreign Governments.

October 13, 2009

Council Urges U.S. to Pass Transparency Law To Force Chevron and Other Oil Companies to Report Payments to Nigeria and Other Foreign Governments.

Berkeley, CA – On Tuesday October 13, 2009, the Berkeley City Council resoundingly voted in favor of a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to pass a recently introduced bill that would require oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments as part of a larger movement to increase corporate accountability across borders. A similar resolution was unanimously approved by the Oakland City Council last week. 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.

“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.

The Berkeley resolution also calls on the State Department to support third party peace talks in the Delta to negotiate a way forward to address the root causes of the current crisis—environmental destruction 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 U.S. military assistance to the government of Nigeria. The resolution 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 Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Darryl Moore and Max Anderson and was introduced to the council through the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission who worked with Bay Area-based Justice In Nigeria Now to draft the resolution.

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.

“I was tortured and imprisoned by the Nigerian military for my peaceful protests against Shell Oil's destruction of our land.  I believe the City'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 spoke at the City Council meeting.

A similar resolution was passed in Oakland on October 6th, a signal that the Bay Area supports transparency requirements for oil companies and peaceful negotiations as a path toward peace in the Niger Delta.

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