Libyan oil firm chief denounces Tripoli’s move to replace him

Libya’s government in Tripoli said it had installed a new National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman in the state producer’s headquarters amid a power struggle to control a company whose revenues are the source of all state funding.

The energy committee of Libya’s eastern-based parliament, however, said on Thursday that it rejected the move to sack the head of the NOC, Mustafa Sanalla, deepening a power struggle for control of the energy firm by competing power centres in Libya.

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and his Government of National Unity (GNU) – based in Tripoli in the west – issued a decision on Tuesday to replace NOC chief Sanalla and to appoint former central bank governor Farhat Bengdara in his place – a move that prompted widespread opposition from rival factions.

On Thursday morning, Bengdara took up office at the NOC.

“It’s vitally important under the current conditions that Libya regains its oil and gas export capacity as quickly as possible,” Bengdara told reporters in Tripoli. “The oil sector has fallen prey to political struggles, but we will work to prevent political interference in the sector.”

Replaced NOC chief Sanalla rejected his removal on Thursday.

Sanalla said Prime Minister Dbeibah had no authority to remove him as his GNU’s mandate had ended, an argument the eastern-based parliament used when it appointed a new government in March under Fathi Bashagha.

Dbeibah has refused to cede power, however.

“This institution belongs to all Libyans and not to you,” Sanalla said to Dbeibah in a live video address.

“The mandate of your government has expired.”

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