On July 8-18th, 2002, six hundred Nigerian women between the ages of 20 and 90 nonviolently seized control of the largest oil plant in the country. The women were demanding employment for local men, and for Chevron to pay for infrastructure development for their communities. Carrying only food and cooking pots, the women took over a transport boat and stormed the plant. They barricaded the tank farm to prevent entry or exit. The occupation halted the production of 500,000 barrels of oil each day.
Nigeria, at the time, was the tenth largest oil producer in the world. Royal Dutch Shell began oil production in 1956, and despite over $700 billion in oil export revenues having been collected in Nigeria since 1982, 70% of the populace lived below the national poverty line. The Niger Delta has been accessed by international experts as one of the most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems in the world. More than 7,000 spills resulting in a loss of approximately 3 million barrels of oil occurred within the 25-year span between 1976 and 2001. The thirty million Nigerians that live in the Delta region once relied on the natural environment for more than sixty percent of their livelihood.
When the women occupied the oil refinery, they knew the dangers – every protest and demonstration organized in opposition to the oil companies had been met with harsh, violent repression. The women were prepared, and, after the first few days of negotiations, they allowed 400 workers to leave the plant as a show of good faith. A few days later, Chevron had agreed to hire local villagers, and to build a town hall, school, and electrical and water systems. On July 18th, the women agreed to end their occupation, but hundreds of other women in the region seized control of four pipeline flow stations with similar demands. Twelve days later, they were also successful in winning concessions from Shell.
This article is from Rivera Sun’s book of nonviolent histories that have made our world. Click here for more information.
Rivera Sun is a change-maker, a cultural creative, a protest novelist, and an advocate for nonviolence and social justice. She’s a love-based revolutionary and the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, The Way Between and ten other fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Her essays and writings are syndicated by Peace Voice, and have appeared in over a hundred journals nationwide. Rivera Sun speaks and facilitates workshops in strategy for nonviolent change across the country and around the world. She connects the dots between the issues, shares solutionary ideas, and inspires people to step up to the challenge of being a part of the story of change in our times. www.riverasun.com
Learn more about this campaign at: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/nigerian-women-win-concessions-chevron-through-occupation-2002
Photo Credit: “Floating Oil Production Ship Mystras at work off the shore of Nigeria” By Ciacho5 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8434888