By Chioma Onuegbu
Uyo—Fishermen in Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom state , weekend, recounted their ordeals in the hands of pirates, who they said have seized nothing less than 40 outboard engines from them.
Isaac Jeremiah Akpew, Youth Secretary of Okoroitak, disclosed that after seizing the boat engines from their victims the pirates would later contact the owners to demand N150,000 or N200,000 in exchange for each engine.
“They operated almost every day since November. The attacks have increased this December. From our record, the pirates have robbed and stolen 20 different boat engines from fishermen in Okoroitak. They have also robbed other fishermen. You can verify.
“They have stolen different sizes of engines, and each of the engines cost more than half a million. For example, 25hp boat engine is sold for between N500,000 and N600,000. And 40horse power engine costs more than one million Naira. Many fishermen procured their engines on a hire purchase arrangement.
“When the pirates take your engine, they will give you a phone number to call when you are ready to get it within a stipulated deadline upon payment of a ransom, usually more than N100,000.
“ One of the victims paid a ransom of N110,000, 00 to get his engine back. Those who cannot afford the ransom have their engines seized perpetually.” Akpe said.
The youth leader, however, decried lack of security presence on the waterways, and expressed regret that the special patrol team, ‘Asawana mopol’ has not been able to tackle the lingering menace, stressing, “The Asawana mopol do not patrol into the deep sea where those pirates rob our fishermen. They only patrol the creeks”
Other residents of Ibeno lamented that many fishermen have either lost their lives or sustained serious injuries as a result of such attacks by pirates that patrol the high seas, especially at night when fishermen usually go for fishing.
Vanguard gathered that the situation was responsible for the high cost of crayfish and fish in the area for the past few months, as some of the affected fishermen who could not afford to get their engines back had been idle.