Security Guards Storm Libyan National Oil Company, Fueling Concerns for Political Crisis

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……..Board refuses Prime Minister’s order to step down

The announcement early in the week of the removal of the board of the Libya National Oil Company (NOC), led by Mustafa Sanella, seemed to be brewing crisis that may snowball into full scale war in the embattled North African country.

Latest reports say armed, masked group said to be affiliated with and acting on orders of the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) stormed the National Oil Company in order to enforce the removal order and install a new board.

On NOC’s official Facebook page, pictures showed some employees said to have been injured during the raid, but it was said that Sanalla has refused to step down.

Oilprice said in a report yesterday that Sanalla had in the morning taken to national television to announce that the government of Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh (the interim prime minister) lacked legitimacy.

The board under Sanalla said NOC is filing a formal complaint to protect the organization “as the backbone of the national economy and the last lines of defense against it.”

A few days ago, the internationally recognized GNU located in Tripoli, led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, appointed a new board to govern the NOC, dismissing chairman Sanalla.

Dbeibah is attempting to replace Sanalla with Farhat Omar Bengdara, a former Libya Central Bank governor.

It is not first time an attempt was made by the prime minister and the Libyan oil ministry to remove Sanalla; a man with reputed political pedigree. 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.

On his own, the term of Dbeibah as interim president is believed to have ended when elections in December 2021 failed to transpire, whereas he refuse 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 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. 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 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 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.

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