Fishermen in the country, under the auspices of Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria Limited (FCFNL), have raised the alarm that people claiming to be genuine fishermen approach government and swindle authorities in the process whereas they are not the ones practising fishery.
They noted that people carrying laptops went to ministries of agriculture and met government officials saying they were fishermen, whereas they were not.
According to them, that explains why whatever programme government is doing in fishery is failing because the target group is not being carried along.
Speaking at the maiden Annual General Meeting of the federation in Abuja, its president, Anthony Ashagye, raised the alarm that farmers/grazers conflict had hindered fishing activities in the southern zone of Taraba State.
He lamented that despite its vast fisheries and aquaculture resource base, the country remained the highest fish importer in Africa with an estimated 950 metric tons of imported frozen fish valued at over N100 billion annually.
According to him, the collapse of the industrial fishery sub-sector has resulted in loss of over 100, 000 jobs and cost the country over $50 million in foreign exchange derivable from export of high-value sea food.
Ashagye said it was sad that the critical sub-sector of the economy remained bedevilled with a wide-range of limiting factors which include inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to affordable credit facilities by investors, policy inconsistency, absence of development and intervention programs as well as inadequate insurance cover.
The president said it would not be a crime if government set aside N1 billion as credit facility to fisheries and aquaculture cooperative organizations for the next five years and provided pond construction equipment, fishing trowlers, motorized fishing boats, outboard engines, fish feed milling machinery, cold rooms and improved fish broods and seed to the fish farmers.
He protested multiple taxations on fish commodity as well as its negative effects on the fisheries sub-sector of the country and lamented the effects of growing insecurity in forms of militancy, sea piracy, youth restiveness and unregulated fishing in maritime states.
He said, “Over the years, government has been talking about giving loans to farmers. Fishermen have never received any loan and even if there is loan, the condition attached to it is not friendly to poor people and so it has not been easy
”Despite its competitive and comparative advance over crops and livestock, the sub sector is completely neglected. Government has been talking about fisheries but it is not about talking but supporting the practitioners.
“We want the attention of government so that we can turn around the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s fishing industry so that it can sustain us
“We discovered that government has no interest in fisheries. Between 2005 and 2007, aquaculture was raised from 30 to 35 to 100 per cent and that landed Nigeria the leading cat-fish producer in Sahara Africa. In those two years, fisheries topped the revenue of the subsector and contributed 4 per cent to the national GDP
“The policy of government is not carrying us along and it underrates things that it should have cashed in on. We are telling government to embrace our association
“Government is into the policy of Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES). Last year, we saw what we could not believe. In the programme, we were initially told that government was going to give one bundle of net to each fisherman, but they ended up giving one bundle to five people. It has never happened in any country and you want him to produce what will meet the needs, how could it be? It is impossible.
“So the GES programme is one of the programmes that government should embrace us. Secondly, the cost of fishing and aquaculture input in the market, it is not easy to access them. Since government is giving subsidy to crop and livestock farmers, it is not a crime for government to also extend the subsidy to fishing sub-sector
“Another challenge we face is that fishery subsector lacks institutional capacity. FAO recognizes fisheries but in this country and in many states, fisheries is put under natural resources. We want independent fishery department. Then we also want good allocation to fisheries because it has competitive and comparative advantage over crops and livestock in terms of health and any other thing at all.”