In January 2015, Daily Trust met a group of young men -Yakubah Isa, 24, Baba Ali, 31, Abdullahi Umaru, 20, and Shamsudeen Yarlilo, 25, from Safana in Katsina, who sojourned to Nasarawa State and saw an opportunity in fish processing.
Without any help, they built their business from the scratch, first by hawking fresh fish in sticks along the Abuja-Keffi expressway. They later started ‘smoking’ the fish because of the request they got from travelers who stopped over.
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Six years after, these young men grew in business and have attracted over 100 other young men from Katsina State, who now engage in various aspects of catfish business.
Daily Trust went back to Uke, a community along the Abuja-Keffi highway, to know how the business has fared since January 2015 when our reporter first met the young men.
Yakubah Isa is now 30, and life has gotten better for him in the business as his daily income has increased.
“In 2015 when you came, I was making an average of N2,000 daily, but now, there are moments I make up to N20,000 per day and I am grateful to God,” he said.
According to Isa, he now has a National Certificate in Education (NCE), courtesy of this business. And he is the breadwinner of his immediate and extended families.
He is also the public relations officer of his association in the area.
He said they still ‘smoke’ fish manually through the traditional means, using firewood instead of the modern kilns.
“Here, we have young people whose investments might not be more than N20, 000; some could have N250, 000, so how would you buy the modern equipment? Those of us who have better resources are not many. And you will notice that some of us have over 30 boys. If you want to buy modern equipment for everyone, where would you get the resources?
“We have written and filled forms for assistance and palliative severally, but nothing happened. Last year, state officials in Lafia came here for sensitisation and gave forms for palliative. We heard from reliable sources that the palliative, which was meant for all categories of people in fishery, came to the state, yet we didn’t get it.
“This is the largest fish selling spot in Nasarawa State, to the best of my knowledge. In fact, young men in this place are close to 1,000. We operate in different categories: We have those whose business is to supply fish to hotels. By 6 o’clock they have supplied their fish to those going to Lafia, Abuja and Jos. There are those whose business is to ‘smoke’ the fish and sell here, as you can see; others sell fresh fish and nothing more, whereas others like me go to the farms to source the fish. And we are many along this highway,” he said.
Shamsudeen Musa Yarlilo, now 30 and father of one, started this business when he was about 15 years old. He is happy with the business.
“If you buy fish of N5, 000, sometimes you can make N2, 000 or N3,000 and if you get that daily, that would be N60, 000 monthly. This is good to help you meet your financial needs.
“This business enables me to help my parents. It also helped me to pay my school fees during my secondary education. When I started secondary school, my father was alive, but along the way, he died and I had to stop schooling for a while. That was what brought me from Safana Local Government in Katsina to this place to start this business. When we started, we were not more than four. As the resources started coming in, I decided to go back to finish my secondary school. I made a good result.
“It is from this business that I built my house and married, with a child. Today, I assist my younger ones, including my sisters, who are already married,” Yarlilo said.
He said that over the years, their attempts to migrate from traditional and primitive method of processing fish to modern techniques using standard equipment did not work as they do not know who to go to for assistance.
“We are still using the traditional method to ‘smoke’ our fish. If we get kilns, it would be better for us, even if we have to pay in installment. Now, the cost of firewood has gone up; the fish itself has gone up. The fish we bought at N350 per kg in 2015 is now N750 and above. The wood we bought in bundles at N250 is now N600 and above. If government steps in, more youths will get involved and the much talked about unemployment and criminality will reduce,” he said.
Mohammed Sabiyu started this business in 2017 in his twenties, and he has already built a house.
He expressed hope that one day, someone would see the need to help them with the equipment that would make the business better, even if government’s assistance is not forthcoming.
Many people who spoke with Daily Trust said young people should look for opportunities to make a living instead of getting involved in robbery, kidnapping and other form of criminality.