By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – A group of unemployed Libyan youths will shut down oilfields in Marada town in the east unless demands for better state services are met, the group said on Sunday.
An oil engineer said that despite the threat, oil production was running normally through the pipeline feeding the Es Sider terminal, which runs near Marada.
But officials said they were closely monitoring the protests as similar action by the unemployed had led to pipeline closures in other parts of the North African country, which has been in turmoil since the toppling of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
“We the youth have decided to shut down all oilfields in Marada…unless all problems are solved urgently,” the group of unidentified youth said in a statement.
The statement complained about an absent state, lack of health care and other services, and Marada town’s lack of road links to other communities.
The youths were also demanding jobs at state oil firm NOC, one security official said.
State services have been failing for years in remote Marada, as they have in other communities across Libya, with anything from banknotes to functioning hospitals scarce in the OPEC oil producer.
Armed men have twice blown up the pipeline near Marada since December amid volatile security in the area.
Islamic State fighters had a presence there until government forces expelled them from their main stronghold in Sirte in 2016.
The operator of the pipeline is Waha, a subsidiary of the NOC and a joint venture with Hess Corp, Marathon Oil Corp and ConocoPhillips.
French energy major Total earlier this year closed a $450 million (333.95 million pounds) deal with Marathon Oil to take over the U.S. firm’s 16 percent share in the Waha concession, but Libyan officials are considering to intervene to get better terms, oil sources have said.
Waha pumps 260,000 barrels a day, company executives have said.
(Reporting by Ayman al-WarfalliWriting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Dale Hudson, William Maclean)