TRIPOLI – Rival leaders of Libya’s National Oil Corporation have agreed to unify their ranks, in a move expected to strengthen the country’s vital oil industry ravaged by years of conflict, the NOC said.
Oil is Libya’s main natural resource with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.
But production slumped in the aftermath of the 2011 revolt that ousted dictator Moamer Gathafi as rival militias battled for control of oil terminals and two rival governments emerged.
The Tripoli-based NOC was also split up by the conflict, with its legitimacy challenged by a rival oil corporation based in the east of the country and key installations coming under attack.
But the two administrations have decided to bury the hatchet and “unify the National Oil Corporation”, the NOC said in a statement late Saturday.
It said NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla would retain his post while Nagi el-Maghrabi, his counterpart appointed by the Libyan unity government’s rivals in eastern Libya would become a member of the board.
The company also agreed to relocate its headquarters to the eastern city of Benghazi.
“This agreement will send a very strong signal to the Libyan people and to the international community” that the presidency council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) “is able to deliver consensus and reconciliation,” Sanalla said in the NOC statement.
“I’m sure it will now build on this success to bring unity and stability to other government institutions,” he added.
The Tripoli-based GNA was the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing agreement deal struck in December but the unity government has yet to receive a vote of confidence from the country’s elected parliament.
“There is only one NOC, and it serves all Libyans,” Sanalla was quoted as saying.
Maghrabi agreed saying: “We made a strategic choice to put our divisions behind us and to unify and integrate NOC… There is no other way forward. This is for the good of Libya”.
Libya had an output capacity of about 1.5 million barrels per day before the 2011 revolt, accounting for more than 95 percent of exports and 75 percent of the budget.
In May, NOC sources said that oil production had started to recover from the post-revolution slump to pass the 300,000 bpd mark.
Rebuilding the energy sector in Libya is a top priority of the new unity government.