ABUJA (Reuters) - Oil thieves opened fire on a boat carrying workers for the state oil firm in Nigeria over the weekend, killing three engineers, the company said on Monday.
The engineers had been dispatched to try to repair damage to a pipeline carrying petroleum products that the thieves had hacked near Lagos in the southwest, a statement from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said.
The engineering crew managed to switch off petrol going to the punctured pipeline but when they tried to get access to the site to assess the damage, they were fired upon, it added.
"Nigerians need to identify with the NNPC and recognize that it is our collective responsibility to work towards securing the nation's oil installations," spokesman Fidel Pepple said.
Most oil theft from Africa's top producer targets crude pipelines in the oil-producing Niger Delta, a major complaint from oil companies and the finance ministry, which loses up to a fifth of its revenue from thieves breaking into pipelines in operations known as "bunkering".
But thieves also target product pipelines from time to time.
Thanks to a political amnesty in 2009, militancy has fallen dramatically since the last decade, when attacks on oil installations at times shut down up to half of Nigerian output.
But oil theft remains rampant and is on the rise, often leading to ruptured pipelines that spew oil into the delta's fragile wetlands environment.
(This story is corrected with location of attack throughout)
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Mark Heinrich)