Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Iraq: Local council attempts to oust Meesan Oil Company

The head of the Meesan Oil Company, Ali Maarji, was forced out of his job this month by the local governorate council. The council, which is dominated by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Sadrists, held an exceptional session on 9th June and voted by 17 to eight to force Maarji out of his position on the grounds of mismanagement and of failing to increase production levels.

The council also accused him of violating article 112 of the constitution, which relates to coordination between the governorate council and the heads of productive organisations, suggesting that Maarji had acted independently and not consulted the council about some matter related to the oil sector.

However, the council's decision did not go down well with employees, who staged a sit-in at the company's headquarters on 11th June to protest at Maarji's sacking. The oil workers issued a statement in support of their boss, describing him as well-qualified, technically competent and a good manager. The statement also made it clear that, contrary to the council's accusations, he had in fact achieved major improvements in production. The statement asserted that in 2009 Maarji increased production to 81,000 b/d, in 2010 it reached 89,000 b/d and by 2011 it was at 105,000 b/d.

The employees also protested that it was not within the governorate council's authority to intervene in the oil sector in this way and to sack company heads. They called on the federal government and parliament to stop the Meesan council from interfering in the affairs of sovereign ministries. The council's willingness to take such a bold step is further evidence of local authorities trying to muscle in on the energy sector and to assert themselves against the central authorities.

How Baghdad and the Oil Ministry in particular will react to the sacking has yet to be seen. However, it appears that in defiance of the provincial council's decision Maarji is still acting as head of the company.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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