The Nigerian government’s partnership with an Indian-owned firm, led by the Sandesara brothers who are fugitives in India, for a major oil project highlights Nigeria’s role as a safe haven for the siblings. Despite being accused of perpetrating a large-scale economic scam in India, Nitin and Chetan Sandesara have successfully built the largest independent oil company in Africa’s leading crude producer. As international giants like Shell and ExxonMobil retreat from Nigeria, the Sandesara companies are expected to play a more prominent role in the country’s hydrocarbons sector. Nigeria’s refusal to extradite the brothers has effectively shielded them from legal troubles in India.
While facing fraud charges and non-bailable warrants, the Sandesara businesses thrive in Nigeria. They operate subsidiaries that pump about 50,000 barrels of crude per day and have become one of the top exporters of oil from the country. The brothers have made strategic hires and secured major contracts with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Additionally, they have sponsored extravagant events, maintaining their lavish lifestyle and social status.
In contrast, Indian authorities view the Sandesara brothers’ practices unfavorably. Accused of economic fraud and diversion of funds, they owe substantial amounts to public lenders. Despite ongoing legal proceedings, their Nigerian companies have continued to supply crude to India’s state-owned refineries. While their exact whereabouts remain uncertain, the brothers’ involvement in a new oil project in Nigeria’s northern region suggests their future lies in the country.
As newly elected President Bola Tinubu aims to increase Nigeria’s daily oil output, independent producers like Sterling Oil, owned by the Sandesara family, will likely play a crucial role. The government’s ambitious targets will require reliance on such producers as major international companies divest from Nigerian assets. Sterling Oil has secured funding for drilling wells and constructing a complex for fuel, fertilizer, and electricity production. The partnership reflects Nigeria’s willingness to embrace the Sandesaras while they face legal challenges elsewhere
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