Suspected oil thieves have shot dead three employees of Nigeria's state oil firm, in the latest violence blamed on black market crude traffickers, the company said Monday.
Technicians from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were dispatched to the village of Arepo near Lagos over the weekend to repair a damaged pipeline, NNPC spokesman Fidel Pepple said.
When they approached the vandalized area "they were ensnared in an ambush," he added.
"NNPC over the weekend confirmed the killing of three of its personnel after suspected pipeline hackers opened fire on a team of engineers and technicians," the company statement said. Several others suffered gunshots wounds.
Oil theft is believed to be on the rise in Nigeria and Shell has estimated that more than 150,000 barrels of crude -- more than Ghana consumes daily -- is stolen in Africa's top producer each day.
Security analysts warn that the criminal gangs who blast into pipelines and siphon out the crude for sale on the black market have become increasingly violent.
Militant-related unrest declined sharply after a 2009 amnesty deal with oil rebels but groups who claim to be fighting on behalf of impoverished communities have persisted in attacking oil infrastructure.
Industry experts say major firms like Shell are looking to shift their interests offshore, where installations and equipment are easier to protect.
Last week, the Anglo-Dutch giant said it had completed the sale of its share of an onshore oil block in southern Nigeria, bringing to six the number of onshore lease assignments it has divested since 2010.
|Copyright © 2012 Naharnet.com. All Rights Reserved.||http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/53054|