Following the recent flood which wrecked havoc and displaced thousands of people across some rural communities in Koton-Karfe area of Kogi Local Government Area of Kogi State, fishing activities in the area have been seriously threatened.
Daily Trust gathered that virtually all the riverine communities like Akpaku, Edeha, Edegaki, Ikumo, Ozahi, Okpodo, Kasemiya, Adabode, Ukwo, Edekakpo, Iganumo, Odama Riku, Onumaye, Esikaku, Orieza, Ibohu, Adagyema, Eteh, among others, where fishing is the mainstay of the locals, have been taken over by flood.
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This has forced the local inhabitants and fishermen to seek refuge in the houses of relatives in Koton-Karfe and Lokoja towns, while others sought shelter at Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) in various primary schools in Koton-Karfe town.
The displacement of these locals, whose major occupations are fishing and farming, has resulted in the high cost of both fresh and smoked fish in Koton-Karfe, Lokoja and Girinya where fishes are sold.
A fisherman from Oganuma community, Mohammed Ibrahim, while speaking with our reporter at Edeha, said the rise in water level was responsible for scarcity of fish in the rivers.
He said most of the fishes have been pushed away while some have gone underground, making it difficult for him to catch fish.
“The scarcity of fish is as a result of the heavy flood which submerged our houses and farmlands in Oganumo, and forced most of the fishermen to relocate to Koton-Karfe,” said Mohammed, who is taking refuse in his elder brother’s place in Edeha.
He said the size/quantity of fish which was sold for N2000 now goes for between N3,500 and N5,000 while the bigger one that measures about 6kg, which was sold for N7000 was now N15,000.
“And it depends on the sizes because getting the fish itself is the major problem,” he added.
Another fisherman, Yunusa Abdullahi, a native of Adagyema, while speaking with our reporter, corroborated Mohammed’s story.
He appealed to both federal and state governments to come to the aid of the flood victims by providing them with shelter and relief materials to ease their burden.
Mrs Rakiya Suleiman, a fish seller at the popular fish market close to Murtala Muhammad Bridge along the Abuja-Lokoja highway, said their business has been badly affected because the price of fish has increased due to its scarcity, which she attributed to the rise of water in the River Benue.
She said she travelled to neighbouring Girinya village market to buy fish at high price to sell to customers, especially travellers along the highway.
According to her, a medium sized basket full of smoked fish which was hitherto N12,000 now costs between N25,000 and N40,000, while 15kg of fresh fish sold for N8,000 was now N12,000 to N15,000.
“The only place some of us who sell fish now buy from are some villages in Niger State. They sometimes bring fish to Girinya market. And as I speak to you, some of these villages have also been submerged by flood, thereby making our business difficult,” she said.
Another fish seller at Edeha community, along Abuja-Lokoja highway, Hajiya Zuwaira Saidu, said she travelled to Lokoja town to buy smoked fish at exorbitant price to sell to her customers.
“I think the price of fish will only come down between the end of October and November, when the water level must have subsided,” she said.
Mrs. Hajara Abdullahi, who also sells fish at the popular fish market close to the Murtala Muhammad Bridge, told our reporter that she stopped selling fish about a month ago due to scarcity of fish.
She confirmed that some of her colleagues travel to Lokoja town and Girinya village to source for fish to sell to customers, an arrangement which leaves them with little or no gain.
Abdullahi added that fish will be available everywhere again during the heat period which is between March and May, when fishes inside the river will fully come out in search of fresh air.
She therefore appealed to both the federal and state governments to assist the fish sellers with soft loans, and fishing equipment, saying doing so will boost fish production in not only Koton-Karfe local government but the entire Kogi State.
The Ohimegye of Igu-Kotonkarfe chiefdom, His Royal Majesty (HRM) Alhaji Abdulrazak Isah Koto, while speaking with our reporter at his palace, described the recent flood, which he said affected over 60 riverine communities, as a “power over man”.
He said this year’s devastation was more than that of 2012. “As I speak to you, there is no single life existing in all the riverine communities in my chiefdom. The affected victims have been evacuated to Koton-Karfe town and Lokoja.”
He said houses, farm lands and fishing ponds have all been submerged by the flood, which he said has also contributed to scarcity of fish across various market in the chiefdom.
He noted that the only solution to the perennial flood was for the Federal Government to revisit the dredging of the Rivers Niger and Benue.
“If these two rivers are dredged, lands will be reclaimed because our lands have been taken over by flood and our fishermen can no longer fish,” he said.
He said even if the level of water in the rivers goes down, the lives of the flood victims cannot be the same again, especially the fishermen and farmers, whose occupations have thrived in such communities for more than 400 years.
He suggested the need for the government to build more earth dams in order to control inflow of water from the rivers Niger and Benue, adding that there was the need to re-channel water into the two rivers.
“Most of the tributaries here come from the hills, and the federal highway that passes from Abuja-Lokoja through this land was reclaimed from water. In the construction of the federal road, those channels were blocked so there is need to have a master plan or to revisit the original master plan,” he said.
The traditional ruler, while commenting on why the fishing festival could not hold after the 2018 edition, said the Covid-19 pandemic was responsible.
He said the chiefdom is making arrangements to commence the 2020 fishing festival as soon as water level reduces.
“I want to assure that we are going to make this year’s fishing festival bigger, even bigger than that of Argungu in Kebbi State, such that the whole world will come and visit,” he said.