The head of Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) Mustafa Sanalla was suspended by the country's oil minister once again, the ministry said Tuesday.
Sanalla was dismissed over alleged administrative offenses, in a dispute that may undermine efforts to rebuild the oil industry.
Libya's oil production, a vital source of revenues for the North African country, has been hammered by a decade of conflict and political chaos, but production has slowly been recovering as a semblance of order and stability has returned.
Oil Minister Mohamed Oun is part of the United Nations-backed government of national unity, approved by parliament in March. Sanalla, who worked for years at the NOC and its subsidiaries, has been NOC chief since 2014.
Analysts see the dispute as a tussle for influence over the industry and policy. It is the second time Oun has sought to suspend Sanalla since August.
The oil minister said Sanalla had been suspended due to "noncompliance with procedures and controls for obtaining prior permission when undertaking an official mission," the ministry wrote on its Facebook page, without elaborating on the mission.
Oun said Sanalla had not transferred sovereign administration affairs from the NOC to the ministry, the statement said, adding that Sanalla's actions would be investigated.
The NOC media office told Reuters in a statement that the corporation "operates in accordance with the correct law" and under government supervision.
"This issue has happened before and the government of national unity took the right decision that protects the NOC and the Libyan economy," it said.
Oun had announced Sanalla suspension in August. In September, the NOC said the prime minister had canceled that decision, referring to "efforts to address differences between the two parties."
Industry sources said the NOC chief had continued working at his post throughout that period.
Sanalla and Oun did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment about the latest incident.
Libya's oil output has reached 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd), Libyan TV reported Monday, close to the 1.6 million bpd the country had pumped before the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi.
Security issues in Libya, where a fragile peace process has installed a unity government, have repeatedly threatened to undermine oil output that has topped 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) this year.
Last year, forces loyal to the putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar blockaded the main oil terminals in eastern Libya the day before a summit in Berlin on Jan. 19, 2020, and almost entirely halted Libyan oil output for months.
Oil production had plunged by around three-quarters since Haftar launched the blockade. The blockade also cut off revenue for state institutions operating across the country. In September 2020, Haftar agreed to lift the blockade, which the NOC has estimated resulted in lost revenues of $10 billion.
The putschist general was also accused of selling Libya’s oil through illegal corporations.