FISHERMEN and traders at the Henshaw Beach in Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River have raised the alarm over incessant intimidation and harassment on the sea by Cameroonian gendarmes.
They lamented that the development had hindered them from their fishing and trading activities.
One of the fishermen, Edet Amos, who spoke to the Nigerian Tribune in Calabar, said they were being held hostage by the gendarmes on the high sea and forced to pay a ransom before they were freed.
Amos said their fishing boats were also being seized in the process.
He said, “We cannot do our business any longer because of the fear of gendarmes. Most times, we cannot travel on the sea because we may be detained and forced to pay a certain amount of money before we are released.
‘’The scarcity of crayfish now is as a result of activities of the Cameroonian gendarmes. They don’t allow our men to go deep to get crayfish.
“They use to seize our boats and sometimes, they will throw away the crayfish and take away our boats and the fishermen to their havens for detention demanding one hundred thousand naira. We want government to come to our aid”.
Also narrating her experience, a trader, who gave her name as Arit, said, “This thing is too much for us because we spend a lot of money. We don’t know what to do again. Please, let government come and help us. We are suffering and crying too much. Every day, we need about one hundred million, one hundred this, one hundred that and we don’t even have anything again to pay them to release our loads.
Due to the security challenges, the traders and fishermen are calling on both the State and the Federal Government to beef up security on the waterways to stop further harassments by the gendarmes.
Reacting to the development, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole promised to beef up security along the waterways in order to put a stop to the unfortunate development.
“It depends on where the claims are coming from. I need facts before I determine if what they are saying is true or not, but from what we do on a daily basis, we conduct a 24/7 patrol and there is no way we can really dominate the waters.’’
‘’You must match the claims with your facts and where you have a dearth in facts, and the threat is constant, then there’s a mismatch.
“I will tell you frankly, once you have a very clear picture and know where the gaps are, and then we look at how to drop them. Security is holistic and there’s what I call participatory development. The people must be involved; they know these criminals and unless they are ready to bring them out, they’re part of the problem themselves. If they can tell us where the flash points are in terms of sea robbery and I can assure you that we will be there to provide the necessary security.’’
This is even as the Cross River State government has promised to join forces with the Navy and marine police to stamp out the menace.
State Security Adviser, Jude Ngaji, said security measures would be intensified along the waterways to make it safe for travelers.