Unpaid Sandesara staff in Nigeria left stranded

Vol 19, PW 21 (30 Jun 16) People & Policy

Alleged threats and intimidation by billionaire Nitin Sandesara-owned Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy have forced company employees in Nigeria to plead for help from the Indian government.

Unpaid for up to seven months Sterling employees contacted external affairs minister of state General VK Singh on Twitter. Singh replied on June 15: "[The Indian] Embassy is making all efforts and will solve your problem." A day earlier Mahaveer Dawan, a wireline logging engineer dismissed from Sterling's Lagos office posted on Twitter that company boss Deepak Barot threatened him, demanding he leave for India immediately.

Dawan posted an email he sent to the external affairs ministry on June 12. "I feel strongly unsafe at SEEPCO [Sterling] campus," said Dawan.

"Barot has threatened to harm me physically and I am suffering from mental harassment since past 11 days. If anything happens to me, Barot will be responsible." Dawan also claims Barot threatened in Hindi: "Why are you creating trouble for me? Neither you nor your embassy can make me pay your salary.

You're making me angry. I can do anything." Several Sterling employees have complained through the external affair ministry's online portal MADAD ['help' in Hindi].

One former employee says around 200 people work at its Lagos office with another 300 in the field at four onshore blocks covering 2000-sq km. Sterling produces around 40,000 b/d from block OPL-280 sold to IndianOil and Hindustan Petroleum.

Attempts to contact Barot failed.