In the spring of 1998, Larry Bowoto and 150 other Nigerians took control of a Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (CNL) oil platform, located nine miles offshore Nigeria. They demanded money and jobs before they would agree to release more than 100 workers.
Bowoto and the group were dissatisfied with the way in which the Ilaje community leaders allocated jobs provided by CNL. They formed a group called "Concerned Ilaje Citizens" ("CIC") and sent letters to CNL before seizing the facilities, threatening "sea piracy," "violence" and a possible "mass riot" if their demands for money and additional jobs were not met. The group was denounced by the recognized community leaders, who advised CNL not to deal with them.
After taking over the platform, as well as a barge and tugboat, Bowoto and other members of CIC used violence and threats of violence to intimidate the workers. For three days and nights, they refused to accept concessions offered by CNL's hostage negotiator and held him hostage for several hours.
On the 4th day, the Nigerian Navy sent a rescue team to free the workers. CNL immediately investigated the incident and was later told that shots were fired during the rescue effort, when some of the Illaje attacked the rescue team.
While the Nigerian authorities regained control of the platform and barge, the captain and crew of the tugboat were kidnapped and taken to villages on shore where they were held for an additional three days before being released.
The case went to trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on October 27, 2008. Throughout the trial, Bowoto and the other plaintiffs argued that they were involved in a "peaceful protest" and that the Nigerian authorities should not have been called to rescue the CNL workers.
However, this was not "a peaceful protest," as the Plaintiffs claimed.
On December 1, 2008, a nine member San Francisco jury unanimously cleared Chevron of all liability in the civil suit. On March 4, 2009, United States federal judge Susan Illston denied the Plaintiffs’ motion asking for a new trial.
About the Hostage Incident
On May 25, 1998, a group of about 150 people who called themselves the Concerned Ilaje Citizens (CIC), boarded and seized the CNL platform, as well as a barge and tugboat operated by contractors. The vessels and platform were located nine miles off the coast of Nigeria.
- The CIC group demanded concessions and money from Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (CNL) before they would agree to release the hostages and leave.
- The CIC group twice reneged on agreements to leave the platform, barge and tugboat and release the hostages.
- The CIC group demanded money to reimburse them for the expenses incurred in seizing CNL's employees, contractors and facilities.
- When CNL refused to pay, the CIC held CNL's negotiator hostage for several hours.
- CNL grew increasingly concerned about the health and safety of their employees and contractors.
- On May 28, the Nigerian Navy sent a rescue team to free the workers. CNL immediately investigated the incident and was later told that shots were fired during the rescue effort when some of the Illaje attacked the rescue team.
- The CIC group kidnapped seven of the contractors on the tugboat, taking them to a village in the Niger Delta and holding them hostage for an additional three days.
On May 31, 1998, the last of the hostages were released unharmed to CNL.
Updated: April 2009