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.
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.