NOC issues decision to absorb parallel eastern institution employees
On 4 September, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanallah issued Decision No. 763 merging the eastern parallel institution with the Tripoli-based NOC. The decision is intended to place eastern NOC employees on the payroll of the Tripoli-based NOC. According to an NOC statement, the decision was implemented on the instructions of the GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hameed Dabaiba as part of the GNU’s wider goal of unifying Libya’s institutions and was based on an agreement between Sanallah and the House of Representatives (HoR) Energy Committee. Sanallah hailed the decision as ‘ending an era of division in the oil sector forever’.
The Benghazi-based parallel NOC was created in 2014 as a result of the split between rival governments in Tripoli and Tubruq. It comprises a parallel NOC Board of Directors led by Naji al-Moghrabi and claims to be Libya’s legitimate NOC. The NOC was originally created by Muammar Qadhafi in 1979. After the 2011 uprisings, a decree was passed transferring the NOC’s headquarters to Benghazi, subject to the completion of the requisite physical infrastructure in the city. The Tripoli NOC has contracted the building of this new headquarters, though it is unclear when it will be completed.
The timing of the announcement reflects tensions between the Tripoli-based NOC and the eastern-influenced Ministry of Oil, and serves to bolster the NOC’s influence over the oil sector. If the Tripoli NOC is able to absorb the eastern NOC, then this is likely to increase the NOC’s leverage in the oil sector. However, at this stage, there is nothing to indicate that the NOC’s initiative is anything beyond ink on paper. Cyrenican actors such as the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar may seek to push back on the Tripoli NOC’s plans. Although it does not act as an oil producer, the Benghazi-based NOC remains a useful political bargaining-chip and potential spoiler for the LNA to exploit against Tripoli in the wider political conflict over Libyan oil resources. In principle, the eastern NOC’s existence would allow Haftar to operationalise his predominant control over Libya’s upstream oil infrastructure, although his leverage over eastern producers such as AGOCO provides a more substantive threat in reality.