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An armed, masked group said to be affiliated with and acting on orders of the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) has stormed the National Oil Company (NOC) in an attempt to force long-time head Mustafa Sanella out and install a new board.
According to the NOC, on its Facebook page, some employees were injured in the raid, but Sanalla continues to refuse to step down. Following the raid on Thursday morning, Sanalla addressed the public on national television, saying that Dbeibah’s government lacks legitimacy.
The NOC is now filing a formal complaint to protect the organization “as the backbone of the national economy and the last lines of defense against it.”
Earlier this week, the GNU in Tripoli, led by interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, appointed a new board to govern the NOC, dismissing chairman Sanalla, according to a leaked government decree. Dbeibah is attempting to replace Sanalla with Farhat Omar Bengdara, a former Central Bank governor.
Dbeibah and the Libyan Oil MInistry have attempted in the past to remove Sanalla from the NOC. All attempts have so far been unsuccessful.
The armed raid on the NOC comes amid an intensifying rivalry for control of the country’s oil production, exports, and revenues, for which the NOC is the gatekeeper. The NOC is a politically neutral body.
Dbeibah, whose term as interim prime minister ended when elections in December 2021 failed to transpire, has refused to step down for Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the country’s parliament in February. Bashagha, who is nominally backed by LNA leader General Khalifa Haftar, largely controls the country’s oil production and export terminals, while the Central Bank in Tripoli, under Dbeibah’s purview, controls the oil revenues. Dbeibah is now attempting to take control of the NOC in order to control the entire oil chain.
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In a Twitter comment, US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said he condemned the armed raid on the NOC:
At the same time, a new board member appointed by Dbeibah, has publicly rejected his appointment in a statement on the NOC website.
“I have been made aware through the media that I have been appointed to the position of Undersecretary General of the Ministry of Oil and Gas and, also, as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Corporation. This was further confirmed by an article published on the official web page of the Ministry of Oil and Gas,” Dr. Khalifa Rajab Abdulsadek said.
“As an employee in the national oil and gas sector for more than twenty years, and of my own volition, I reject this assignment. In the critical circumstances that, not only the country, but the oil sector in particular are going through, we are in dire need of preserving the unity and cohesion of the national oil sector, and adhering to the neutral, professional technical role played by the National Oil Corporation and its current management in good standing, despite the storms that it has weathered,” he added.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.