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Libya’s oil company suspends production after saboteurs attack facility

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Saboteurs attacked oil installations belonging to Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) on Sunday forcing the suspension of oil production from two major fields.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NOC in a statement issued in Tripoli on Sunday, said the company is forced to “declare the state of force majeure in line with standard practice in the oil industry”.

The illicit closure of crude pumping valves from the Al-Sharara and Al-Feel fields puts offline 330,000 barrels per day and leads to a daily loss to the public of more than 160 million Libyan dinars.

“We have been informed that a group of suspicious gangs led by Mohammed Al-Bashir Al-Garj shut down the pumping valves of crude thus making it impossible to fulfil our commitments regarding refined products in the oil market”.

The Chairman added: “Who benefits from these closures which come after the price jump that exceeded $100 per barrel? The same gang closed these valves between 2014 and 2016 which coincided with a similar price boom. Suspicious links and indications strongly suggest that the closures are driven by hidden hands aiming to drag the country into chaos.

Libya’s first productive oil well was struck in 1959 at Amal and Zelten, now known as Nasser. The country began exporting oil in 1961.

Oil sector’s infrastructure has been subjected to illegal attacks, including the disruption of production lines and the destruction of surface equipment in full view of all.

Apart from petroleum, Libya’s other natural resources are natural gas and gypsum. Its economy depends primarily on the oil sector, which represents about 69 per cent of export earnings. Moreover, the oil and gas sector accounts for about 60 per cent of total GDP. Substantial revenues from the energy sector, coupled with a small population, give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa.

The NOC also revealed that it has made an official report of the attack to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to take deterrent and targeted measures to identify the planners, executors and beneficiaries behind this criminal act of theft and sabotage”.

In a related context, the statement also said: “The challenge of closing was not the most difficult or dangerous for the stability of the oil sector and will end, God willing. But it is all the more painful for Libyans that the parties to sedition hampered production at the time of a global price boom. The next steps must be firm and governed by the criminal legal standard and must be criminally prosecuted by the public prosecutor”

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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt denies reports it plans to borrow pension fund for infrastructure

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The Nigerian government has denied reports that it plans to borrow the N20tn pension fund to finance infrastructural projects.

In a statement made in Abuja, Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, stated that the government would abide by the laws and guidelines in place pertaining to the pension fund.

Following a two-day Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister reportedly informed reporters that the government would present a plan to use local funds, including the fund, to finance infrastructure development.

Edunstated that the government does not intend to exceed these legal boundaries, emphasising that the government was committed to protecting workers’ pensions.

“It has come to my notice that stories are making the round that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The pension industry, like most the financial industries, is highly regulated. There are rules. There are limitations about what pension money can be invested in and what it cannot be invested in.

“The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those limitations and go outside those bounds which are there to safeguard the pensions of workers.

“What was announced to the Federal Executive Council was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long-term saving industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the regulations and the laws; these funds could be used maximally to drive investment in key growth areas,” Edun clarified.

The plan to spend the pension fund was reported and was widely criticised. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Labour Congress had earlier on Thursday urged the government to abstain from making any changes to the pension fund.

They stated, “Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.”

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