By Chioma Onuegbu
IBENO—SEA bandits have chased scores of fisher persons out of business at several communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State following incessant attacks on them on the high seas, seizure of their outboard engines, theft of money and murder in quite a lot of cases.
Embattled anglers and community leaders in the area, who grumbled about the development, said security agents drafted to the area preferred to guard the oil multinational in the area than protect them from sea pirates. Head of Iwuokpom village, Chief Sunday Akpanowong said that robbery attacks by sea pirates on anglers forced him out of the fishing business because he lost more than three of his outboard engines in different attacks.
‘’Sometimes, five to six engines will be in the hands of the pirates every day. It is a very sad thing and we do not know how we can come out of it. All these years, we have been crying to state and federal governments to assist us with adequate security/gunboats that can cover the whole area, but they did nothing.
Security officials interested in guarding oil firm
‘’Even when security is deployed to this area, the concentration is always on Mobil Oil Company alone, while we, the anglers are left in the hands of the pirates. They are dealing with us the way they like because nobody cares about anglers. That is the problem we are having here,” he added.
Chief Akpanowong asserted: ‘’It is a sad situation because it is affecting us greatly and fishing is our only source of livelihood; it is our main occupation that gives us something to take care of our families. To be candid, government’s attitude toward fisher-persons is not encouraging. They do not consider our welfare and well-being at all.
‘’Even when government is giving out loans and incentives to farmers, they do not remember anglers; they do not see us as people who also contribute to the economy of this country and yet Nigeria is one country that consumes fish a lot.’’
Why they succeeded in their attacks
A community leader, Mr Eshiet, told Niger Delta Voice that owing to the insensitivity of government, the community and anglers have jointly resorted to self-help by putting in place a vigilance group. ’’Once the pirates hear that they are coming, they will flee, but when they noticed the vigilante group left, they will now launch their attack. However, we are suspecting that they have informants around, that is why they are still succeeding,’’ he said.
Eshiet informed that the situation was the reason for the high price and short supply of fish and crayfish in the markets, as many have stopped fishing out of fear. ‘’When their outboard engines are seized by those sea pirates, they will not be able to afford another engine because it is very, very expensive. Again, I am appealing to government to help our anglers in this problem. It is a worrisome situation,’’ he said.
Govt deaf to our cry
An angler, Mr. Ekang, bemoaned: ‘’Sea pirates attacks on Ibeno anglers is an issue that has been for a long time now. Unfortunately, government did not attend to our several calls to give us enough security and deploy gunboats to protect our high seas. They are not listening to us, that is why that rate of insecurity in the high sea is still very high.”
He further said: ‘’Last Monday, five to six anglers were attacked; three of them deal in crayfish and their engines taken away by the pirates, they do not only seize the engines, they (sea pirates) also collect our money. I was not among those they robbed, but as an angler, I can tell you that it is what we experience. We are not happy because government is not doing anything about it.’’
Another angler also disclosed: “After collecting your engine, you will be abandoned in the high sea. Many have lost their lives in that manner when their canoes capsized. Our people are no more interested in fishing business because of this situation. It is worse in dry season. During the rainy season, the weather is usually rough and uncomfortable for pirates to operate.”