By Agbonkhese Oboh
The FishNet Alliance has called for support for the 6.5 million fishers that are in distress, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Makoko, Lagos State, and other coastal communities across the 850-kilometre Atlantic coastline of the country.
The Alliance made the call at a meeting in Makoko, where fishers expressed how they groan under lockdown measures that have deprived them of access to fishing grounds and daily income to take care of their families.
The fishers said where they are not impacted by oil spills, they are limited by security cordons built around industrial facilities.
According to FishNet Alliance, “the fact that COVID-19 pandemic is a serious threat to global health is beyond question. What is often ignored is the fact that the pandemic is a serious socio-economic crisis in Nigeria and many other countries.
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“The pandemic has ripped off the cover from healthcare delivery systems that had hitherto been hidden since citizens that could afford the bills could easily jet out of the country to nurse their headaches, while the poor died on the doorsteps of health centres that are ill-equipped to deliver needed services.
“With lockdown and other restrictions, the impact has been disproportionately felt by the poor, women and social classes with no support systems.
“One of such exposed and under-supported social group is that of artisanal fishers, fish processors and marketers.
“Routinely ignored in the scheme of things, the lockdown measures has thrown 6.5 million strong fishers into abject stress.” According to Akintimehin Adewole, leader of the Alliance in Lagos State, “there are high activities of sand mining (dredging) going on in the area and this has severely impacted on the livelihoods of the community people.”
Adewole called on the government to support for the fishers and roll out policies that protect the aquatic environment, clean-up already polluted areas and guarantee the rights of the people to a decent livelihood as fishers.
Also, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, urges that adequate support systems should be in place to ensure the wellbeing of fishers whose services are essential.
He said: ‘Without fish a vast population of Nigerians would go without that source of protein, thus exacerbating the nutritional deficiencies in the population.
“Our fishers are among the most vulnerable of our country. Special measures including ensuring that wastes are not dumped into our water bodies to ensure healthy aquatic species and higher catch for the fishers.
“It is regretted that thousands of fish died off the Niger Delta coasts between February and May, and to date there is no definitive statement from government about what killed the fishes and what actions have been taken to avoid future occurrences.”
HOMEF, during the meeting, gave out food items to the fishers as a way of cushioning the impact of the environmental and socio-economic stress brought about by the pandemic.
The Vice President of the association of fishers in Lagos State, Mr. Segun Seminor, implored that the FishNet Alliance be extended to all five divisions of the fishermen association, where fishers are also facing the challenge of pollution, including from toxic chemicals.