On Wednesday, the Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla defied a government order replacing him. He returned to Tripoli from his Hajj (pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia, and said he would give a speech regarding the situation.
Sanalla also decided to lift the force majeure on the Zueitina and Brega ports, and begin shipments of condensate from them. He announced that a tanker, Ebla is on its way to load a shipment of condensate after its technical acceptance by the Sirte Oil Company.
On Tuesday, the Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba issued a decision replacing Sanalla with Farhat Bengdara. This has raised concerns the state oil producer is being pulled into Libya’s political standoff.
Dbaiba also set up a committee to manage the transition to the new Board of Directors, according to a statement published on the Oil Ministry website.
However, an NOC statement upon Sanalla’s return continued to describe him as the Chairman, and made no mention of his dismissal.
Earlier this year, the eastern-based Libyan Parliament appointed a new government under Fathi Bashagha to replace Dbaiba, who has refused to cede power.
The power struggle – and questions over the legitimacy of all Libya’s political institutions – means any major national decisions such as replacing the NOC Board may prompt broad pushback.
On Tuesday, the NOC announced it was resuming exports from two ports closed by an oil blockade, and hoped to restart other shuttered facilities soon.
However, groups involved in the shutdowns rejected that statement on Wednesday in a video message. The groups had previously demanded that Dbaiba quit in favour of Bashagha.
Analysts say the appointment of Bengdara, a former Central Bank governor before 2011 to run the NOC may herald an attempt by Dbaiba to shore up his position in Tripoli.