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Commissioner Assures Fish Farmers of Support

NIGERIA - Akwa Ibom State commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, Prof Etok Ekanem, has assured farmers in the state of government support for increased fish production.

Professor Ekanem, gave this message to the inauguration of Uyo chapter of United Fishery Association of Nigeria (UFAN) and added that his ministry has produced a blueprint for an accelerated livestock and fish production in the state to ensure they were affordable and accessible in the state.

Represented by the director of fisheries in the ministry, Mr Imo Ibok, the commissioner condemned a situation where people from the neighbouring states go into the fishing settlements in Akwa Ibom to pay indigenous fishermen to fish for them and at the end they cart away everything to their states so that fish products become very expensive in Akwa Ibom but very cheap in neighbouring states.

To check this trend, he said it was suggested in the blueprint that 40 horse power outboard engines, fishing nets and other inputs be given to indigenous fishermen to fish and sell to people in the state and its neighbours.

On aquaculture, Professor Ekanem said fish farming was a profitable and lucrative venture and assured UFAN that government would provide them with land for their mega fish farm project, as it is expected to produce enough fish to feed the state and its neighbours.

While waiting for government in this direction, he urged UFAN members to think of their own private fish farms and how to make themselves proud fisher folks, as well as develop interest in crayfish culture.

The state chairman of UFAN, Elder Aquaowo E. Aquaowo, said the body was focusing energy on the development of aquaculture in the 31 local government areas to create economic and employment opportunities to the teeming youths. He said the body was propelled into action by the fish protein deficiency and high cost of fish in the market occasioned by the deprivation of indigenous fishermen by people from neighbouring states.

Elder Aquaowo mentioned plans to establish a mega farm project in the state capital for a large scale fisheries production and appealed to the state government to donate land for the project.

This, he said, became necessary because of the rate of and activities of pirates and militant Niger Delta youths in the high seas, who have brought terror and death to the doorsteps of artisanal fishermen, thus constituting serious threats to the fishing industry, and called for a rethink on the nation’s aquacultural policy with a view to developing alternative sources for fish production in the country.

He also called on oil companies in Akwa Ibom territorial waters to set aside five per cent of their annual budgets for the development of aquaculture as compensation for polluting the water and farmlands as a result of their oil prospecting activities, thus destroying the fishing profession.

In his remarks, the state chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Chief Michael U. Akpan, urged UFAN to critically screen all intending members to be sure those who are not in the fishery business are not admitted, as this would check infiltration by those he called "brief case farmers."

Chief Akpan urged everyone to join hands to make UFAN successful and to enable it achieve a united front in cultured fish farming among other fishery activities.

The transition committee chairman for Uyo, Mr Fidelis Eddie, lauded UFAN for deciding to take up the challenge of not only being a fish farming association but for also determining to touch all the 31 local government areas with improved fish farming system.

Represented by the administrative officer in the council, Mr Sunday Edeke, he expressed the hope that UFAN would also assist the state and country in earning foreign exchange and in attracting investors both within and outside the community, and pledged the support of the people of Uyo to the body.

A representative of Brooks Micro Finance, Mr Chris Mboho, identified factors that hinder banks from giving loans to be lack of credible individuals and associations with genuine contact addresses who would be sincere in paying back when due.

He, however, said the bank was ready to assist those who are sincere and trustworthy, and who understand that loans are people’s money which must be paid back.