Ini Billie, Uyo
Fishers in the Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have threatened to shut down markets and government activities over incessant pirate attacks.
According to the fishers, they would ground activities of the government and the markets from Monday, October 24, 2022, over the government’s refusal to assist them to wade off those incessant pirate attacks.
Speaking under the auspices of Ibeno, Ghana, Yoruba Fishermen Association, IBEGHAYO, the group recalled that within four months, they have lost 35 engine boats to pirates who sometimes take them hostage for a ransom.
Chairman of IBEGHAYO, Mr Samuel Akpan, said on Tuesday in Ibeno that security was absent in the area as the only security post, MOPOL 29, that provided security for fishermen had been shut down as the local government failed to provide funding.
Akpan said that when the group notified the Council Chairman, Mr Williams Mkpah in 2021 of the problem, he assured the association that once he gets the tenement rate, he would purchase four 200 horsepower engines and two-speed boats for security officials to parade the sea.
He lamented that though the Council Chairman had allegedly received the money, he failed to keep to his promise and has done nothing to halt attacks on the fishermen in Ibeno.
“Let me tell you, we have been contributing money to provide security for ourselves but we are tired. We have it in good authority that money has been released to the local government in order to assist security but the chairman has refused to use the money.
“By Monday next week, we shall protest and ensure that activities in the area are completely crippled,” Akpan said.
While recounting the suffering of its members, Vice Chairman of IBEGHAYO, Chief Samson Udoeka, called on the government to intervene.
“We want the world to know the level of suffering fishers in Ibeno are passing through because of pirates. They have been carting away our engines. Within four months, sea pirates have carted away 35 engines and even last two weeks, 8 engines boast were taken away.
“We have explained our situation to the local government chairman but he has shown no concern. The chairman had promised to assist us because through us the economy of the LGA is booming.
“The chairman promised to give the security operatives stationed in the area 200 horsepower engines and two-speed boats for security to give us coverage.
“The security personnel we hired to protect us have no facilities to do so. We have reported this case to stakeholders of Ibeno, the DPO, the Paramount Rulers, and they have not acted. We are tired.
“We are telling the Chairman that if there is no assistance for us before Monday, we shall shut down all the markets, and waterways and cripple other activities within the local government area till help comes our way,” he stated.
Also speaking, another fisherman, Akpanika Samuel, lamented that nothing was working for them, saying fishing which was their only source of livelihood was threatened.
“Our problem as fishers borders on incessant attacks by pirates. Each time pirates come, they will cart away our engines and sometimes take us, hostage, to the point of us paying them to rescue ourselves.
“Fishing is our only source of livelihood but as it is now, we cannot even fend for ourselves any longer. We cannot go fishing again because each time we go out, our engines will be seized from us. The council chairman had promised that once he gets the tenement rate, he would support us but till now nothing has been done,” he explained.
Another member of the group, Monday Ogunyemi, revealed that for the period that the Special Police squad were brought in to give them coverage, they were safe until the police engines got spoiled, and appealed for help.
In his response, Ibeno Council Chairman, Chief Williams Mkpah, said he had written several letters to the state government on the issue without any response.
Mkpah who said curbing the attack was beyond his purview, blamed inadequate finance and the high cost of speed boats and engines as factors hindering the fulfilment of his promise.
“Poor financial situation. The price for each of them is higher than our capability.
On the promise, it was based on the availability of funds. Above all, this is a security issue and is within the purview of the state.
“I only intervened since last year. And they assume it is my direct responsibility which is wrong. I have made several reports to the governor to assist but no response yet.
“I personally establish the Asawana security base in the community to assist the fishermen against my budget provisions,” he stated.
However, some councillors in Ibeno claim that the Council Chairman deducted N20 million from the tenement rate to buy engines and speed boats for security agencies within the waterways.