ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION (ERA):
Itsekiri Women's Protests Against Chevron
ENVIRONMENTAL TESTIMONIES #28
DATELINE: ESCRAVOS, DELTA STATE [NIGERIA] July 13th 2002
QUEEN UWARA - WOMEN'S LEADER
Last month, June 2002, we the women of Escravos wrote to Chevron. They have been cheating us, we knew this before, but we decided to act now. We have become wiser now. We told them to develop Escravos, where they take their oil. They didn't see with us. Our children too, they don't give them employment. We persisted in this, Chevron didn't take us serious. Later, they said our children should start doing aptitude tests. When our children pass these tests, they will still turn them down. They will accept other non-indigenes of this place for the jobs. It has been on like this for a long time. Right now, we are tired of it.
So we told Chevron that it has gotten to the limit. We told them we will not co-operate with them again, and Chevron should go since they don't want to develop our community.
For about 38 years Chevron has been taking oil from here, nothing to show for it. No development. We cannot bear it again. We used to catch crayfish and fishes for food, but that's not possible. The fishes and crayfish have gone far from us. They left because Chevron has polluted the rivers and creeks. We cannot accept this again.
A mother gets old someday, she becomes weak, the same with the father. It is your son and daughter who will be feeding you. If our children are not given work then the mothers cannot survive. They employ other tribes to work here, this time we cannot allow this kind of situation.
When we plant things in the farm, nothing grows, at times, the wells from which Chevron take oil spill into our farmlands and destroy our crops. When tide goes very big, the water floats everywhere, no place to walk spreading oil spill far and everywhere.
Chevron brought soldiers and police to threaten us when we were at Chevron yard. If Chevron wants to kill us, we are no longer afraid. We women have taken over the yard. but we are not afraid because Chevron is on our land. All we want is for Chevron to leave our land.
We told Chevron to sand fill all the areas and villages that are sinking because of their oil drilling. Long ago, when there is high tide there use to be no flood. But now when there is high tide, there will be flood. All of Escravos villages are affected.
CHRISTIANA MEWE - WOMEN'S LEADER
Our children are not in Chevron; and yet Chevron is operating in our town. This pains the women of Escravos. Chevron is doing nothing for us. We wrote a letter last June about the unemployment problem of the youths but they did not answer. That is why we decided to take over the place. We the mothers of Escravos have decided to confront Chevron. If Chevron does not do what we want we won't leave Chevron. Our land is sinking. We cannot farm, we cannot kill fishes and crayfish from the river again, every where, pollution. In the creeks, before, it doesn't take long to catch a fish. Now that's not possible.
Our farms are all gone. We used to farm cassava, okro, pepper, any food we used to farm them. Now the places where we farmed have all sank. When there is tide from the ocean or from waterside, all the farms, all the villages will be filled with water. We drink rain water, no clean water for us. Before we had old people, people who live to be a hundred years, now people are dieing before their time. Everyday people die, people die. It is the gas that Chevron burns that is causing it. And Chevron cannot treat us? We don't even have an hospital.
We are at the Chevron yard now. But Chevron does still not take us seriously. It is playing with us we are supposed to have a meeting now. But they have not come. They said they will meet us yesterday, they did not come, maybe Chevron want to use soldiers to kill us. Help us!
ALICE OYUHE - WOMEN'S LEADER
Before Chevron came to this land many years ago, we the people here used to kill fish, crayfish; in the creeks you could kill shrimps, and big fishes. Then we did not depend on Chevron because we have where to go to. Many children are useless in the town. We have no money to educate them. How can one live without being able to educate one's child? Once you can manage them to primary school it is over. So we women said what are we going to do? We decided to confront Chevron. They employ people from other places, train them, send them to University; but we who own the land, our children are not given the chance. We decided to confront Chevron. If Chevron want to kill us, let them kill us. Let their soldiers kill us with their guns; it is good - let us die and go away. Instead of our children suffering in our presence, let us all die.
We are more than 600 women-confronting Chevron. We are from 6 communities - Ugborodo, Ogidigben, Ajudiagbo, Imaghaho, Iyala, all of us are there, more than 600 of us. we have filled inside Chevron, outside of it, at Chevron airport everywhere. No man is there. We don't want men there because if our boys and men come Chevron will say we want to come and fight them. But as the women went there, we didn't touch their things, we only stopped them from working. What we want is to stop them from working. Chevron's Managing Director wanted to call us to discussions, but some of those who work for him said he shouldn't answer us. We will be at Chevron until they answer us.
The gas that Chevron is burning, when the rainfalls into a drum, the water will be white. It is the gas. When we drink it we always fall sick. The oldest person in town is no longer more than forty. Why should this be?
ORORO IRONE - ACTIVIST
The problem is underdevelopment. None of our problems are addressed. There is nothing that Chevron has done to help this community. That is why our women decided to protest. Nobody is happy, even the babies, we all feel being cheated. Such cheating cannot bring peace. What we want is justice. What we want is justice so we can live well, if we don't live well the company cannot live well.
We have no good water source. The Ugborodo River and Creek is salt water. Most of the time we have spillage, which brings oil to the river. You cannot use it to wash clothes, how much less to bath.
Everybody is in support of the women. And we are not going to leave this platform until our demands are met.
AUSTIN RAMERI - (Graduate) FERRYMAN
Gulf Oil came in 1964. Chevron took over about five, six, years ago. Nothing has been done by Chevron since they came. Imagine a place where there is Chevron, look at how people are living. They extract this oil. We don't have electricity, we don't even have good water to drink, no health centre, no good road, there is nothing good you can talk about this Escravos. Go to Lagos, but look at Escravos, nothing. The youth don't have jobs, the women have nothing doing, the whole village going smelling and sinking.
We have just one secondary school - Ugidigben Grammar School. We have 3 primary schools - Ajuduagbo Primary School, Eda Primary School, and Aronton Primary School. What pains me most is that in a company like Chevron, we don't have youths working there, no Itsekiri man holding good position in Chevron yard, other people hold top office, which is bad. We have more than enough graduates. More than 350 graduates. At a time Chevron sent people abroad for their gas plant, and there was only one Itsekiri boy (Festus Emiko) among the 46. In the last batch to go abroad now, no Itsekiri. Why?
We keep telling Chevron about these things, but they won't
listen to us. This is why our mothers took charge to see the Managing Director
so he could come. Chevron police operatives give us a lot of embarrassment.
They intimidate us. Yesterday, (12/7/2002) when one journalist, Rita
Lori came with the B.B.C to make coverage, the security men seized the cameras
from the press people that came. We made problem before they released
the cameras. This shows that these people are really intimidating us.
They have something to hide that they do not want the world to know about.
Are we not in a democracy?
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