By Agbonkhese Oboh
The FishNet Alliance has called for support for fishers in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State and in other coastal communities across Nigeria, whose livelihoods have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and other human-induced environmental stressors.
This call was made during a community dialogue hosted by Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, and attended by members of the FishNet Alliance at Ibeno.
The Alliance, an initiative of HOMEF, also provided fishnets and food items to the Ibeno fishers who earlier this year, suffered a fire outbreak that destroyed their homes and fishing gears.
According to the Alliance, the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions on movement have seriously impacted fishers and farmers in this community who have no formal jobs and rely on their daily fishing expeditions for sustenance.
Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, noted that fishers are essential to both local and international economies, but unfortunately, are among the most vulnerable groups, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the continuous pollution of the Niger Delta by oil and gas-related activities is unacceptable and government must heed to the call for the cleanup of the entire polluted Niger Delta communities.
He emphasised the need for government to recognise and restore the dignity and rights of the people of the coastal communities to a decent livelihoods as fishers, fish processors and marketers.
Bassey lamented the lax and discouraging body-language of government in protecting the aquatic ecosystems in Nigeria from pollution.
“Looking back to the incidence of dead fish along the coastlines of Niger Delta between February and May, it is regrettable that months after schools of fish died in the area there has been no definitive statement from government about what killed the fish and what actions have been taken to avoid repeat of such occurrences,” Bassey stated.
“It should be recalled that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had reported that there were 1,300 oil spills in the Niger Delta between 2018 and 2019,” he added
The chairman of the FishNet Alliance in Akwa Ibom State, Rev Sam Ayadi, called on the government to consult and engage fishers in the drafting of policies to protect the aquatic ecosystems.
This, according to Ayadi, would enable the government come up with all-inclusive policies that ensure the safeguarding of their rivers, creeks and seas as well as guarantying their livelihoods as fishers.
He also called on the government to hold the companies that are polluting their environment accountable for their acts.
Another member of the Alliance called on the government and other well-meaning stakeholders to emulate the gesture of HOMEF in providing palliatives and fishing gears to fishers in these trying times.
He noted that these will go a long way in cushioning the effect of the pains caused by the fire incidence that burned their houses, fishing gears and also cushion the impacts on their economy by the COVID-19 pandemic.