Libya’s deputy oil minister warned that a protest which has closed off the headquarters of the country’s biggest oil company could affect work at its oilfields as demonstrators prevented employees from working for a fourth day.
Protesters have closed off the office of Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) since Monday, calling for more transparency over how the country's new rulers are spending its money and more jobs for youth.
Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said the protest was not Agoco-related but warned it could impact its work.
“There is no doubt that stopping the work inside the administration of the company which supports the oilfields will affect the employees in these oilfields,” he told Reuters.
Agoco spokesman Abdul Jalil Mayuf, said company officials were meeting with representatives from local civil society groups to try to put an end to the blockade. “It’s still the same, the office is blocked, we cannot go inside,” he said.
“But the oilfields have not affected by this so far.”
He said Agoco officials had held talks with the protesters late on Wednesday, but they had yet to budge. A group of 30 demonstrators, who have set up a tent outside the main gate, remained outside the office on Thursday, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Their demands, also made at previous protests in the eastern city, included the sacking of Qaddafi-era officials. Employees were being allowed in to collect their belongings but not to work, protesters said.
Oil accounts for the bulk of Libya’s economy and exports, and the North African country is close to returning to pre-war production of 1.6 million barrels per day.
Discontent has been simmering in Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan revolt, for a while. In January, protesters stormed the headquarters of the ruling National Transitional Council while its chairman was still in the building.
The interim government appointed in November is leading Libya towards elections in June but is struggling to restore services and impose order on a country awash with weapons.
Agoco, which produced 425,000 bpd of crude oil before the war, acted as the de facto state oil company of the Libyan uprising as international sanctions imposed during the conflict prevented dealings with the NOC.