By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 10 April 2016:
The Benghazi-based National Oil Corporation chairman Nagi Elmagrabi has written to prime minister-designate Faiez Serraj asking . . .[restrict]him to name the Presidency Council’s approved account to which the eastern NOC should be sending its oil income. Elmagrabi has also protested a reported deal with international oil trader Glencore that gives that firm exclusive rights to lift oil from the Hariga export terminal near Tobruk.
At first sight, the letter would seem to indicate that Elmagrabi is recognising the Government of National Accord even while the House of Representatives is failing to vote for or against the UN-brokered government and the Libyan Political Agreement.
The puzzle is that the Thinni government, which appointed Elmagrabi, has been seeking and apparently failing to sell oil outside of the established Tripoli NOC channels. Therefore it would not appear that the Benghazi NOC has any oil revenues that could be sent to an account selected by the Presidency Council
Normally payments for Libyan oil and gas sales are made to a Central Bank of Libya account held in the Naples’ branch of the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank in Italy. The money never passes through NOC’s hands. Indeed even before the Libyan Dawn ascendency in Tripoli, NOC complained that it never handled its own revenues. It had to seek cash from the CBL via the Oil Ministry in order to pay its bills or make fresh investments.
Elmagrabi’s Glencore complaint is that the agreement has been set up by Mustafa Sanallah, head of the Tripoli NOC. Elmagrabi claims that the deal is “blatant interference in the sovereignty of Libya”.
Though Serraj has had a succession of meetings with key figures in Tripoli and municipalities within the area under Libya Dawn control, including CBL governor Saddek Elkaber, it is not confirmed that he has yet met Sanallah.
The greater part of current oil exports of something less than 400,000 b/d now comes from the east of the country, with just 100,000 b/d from offshore fields in the west. Though there are some liftings from Brega, the main export terminal still functioning is Hariga. The terminals at Ras Lanuf and Sidra have been damaged by assaults first from Libya Dawn militias and latterly from IS.
Elmagrabi’s letter may not however actually signal a split with the Thinni government which gave him the NOC job, but rather an attempt to claim ownership over all of NOC. Though the Zeidan government agreed that it should relocate to Benghazi, NOC has remained in Tripoli, along with all of its sales and accounting teams and operational departments. [/restrict]