By George Grant.
Tripoli, 11 October:
Plans to radically enhance the size and power the National Oil Corporation in Benghazi have been put . . .[restrict]on hold following protests from employees based in Tripoli.
The move would have effectively given the Benghazi branch full powers to run the oil sector in eastern Libya, where some 80 per cent of the country’s oil production is located.
Five departments were to have been established, in the fields of petro-chemicals and refining, exploration and production, human resources, administration and finance. Although the NOC technically has an office in Benghazi already, it currently employs just a handful of staff.
Having only been signed off on 4 October, NOC Resolution 100 was in force for less than a week before being suspended on Tuesday, and a review of the situation is now underway.
In a statement explaining their discontent with the proposal, the NOC Workers Union in Tripoli complained that the move represented an unacceptable shift towards federalism in Libya by creating separate NOCs in the east and west.
Protests were held inside the company’s main building, and employees met with Oil Minister Abdulrahman Ben Yazza to discuss their concerns.
“Oil and gas is the wealth of Libyans and is the main source of income for the country”, the statement added. “Tampering with this sector would adversely affect all Libyan people, therefore, the NOC’s employees whether in Tripoli, Benghazi or any local council of any city have the right to decide the fate of this sector.
“Any strategic legislation about this wealth must, therefore, be made by the Libyan people represented in the government and the current General National Congress or members of Parliament in the future.”
Following news of the suspension, counter-protests have been held in Benghazi, with oil workers reportedly threatening to ignore instructions from the NOC if the move does not go ahead.
Officials at the NOC in Tripoli have said that their decision on how to proceed should be finalised in the next few days. [/restrict]