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Thrills of Koton-Karfe fishing festival

Saturday, April 20th, marked the 3rd annual Igu-Koton Karfe fishing festival. Thousands of fishermen thronged the Kingdom in Kogi State in search of the biggest…

Saturday, April 20th, marked the 3rd annual Igu-Koton Karfe fishing festival. Thousands of fishermen thronged the Kingdom in Kogi State in search of the biggest fish in the pond. Daily Trust was there.

 

On the shores of the Ohi-Ogbani fishing pond, over 4,000 men, and women, some armed with spears (Okpaga) or a fish net (ohomo) gathered, waiting for a signal.

The Ohimegye of Igu-Koton Karfe, His Royal Majesty Alhaji Abdulrazak Isah Koto, in whose kingdom the pond resides, considers it special because it is the largest of the eight fishing ponds in his domain and the venue of the 3rd annual Igu-Koton Karfe Fishing Festival for which the fishermen had gathered.

Upon a signal, 4,000 men, women, young and old persons plunged into the pond to find the biggest fish they could.

They were Gwaris, Ganaganas, Bassas and Agatus and of course the host tribe, the Egburas.

Bassa cultural troupe entertain during Igu annual cultural fishing festival in Koton Karfe

For the iron and fish rich Igu-Koton-Karfe kingdom, in Kogi Local Government Area of Kogi State, the festival is the 3rd in its history and this year, as in previous ones, it is featuring  fishing/cultural festival, a boat regatta, symposium/exhibition and cultural displays from various ethnic groups.

The fiesta commenced on Friday, April 19, with cultural troupes accompanied by colourful masquerades converging in front of the palace of the Ohimegye. In their varied costumes they danced and danced, all through the night until dawn, to the pleasure of the crowd.

The annual fishing festival attracted dignitaries including commissioners of the Kogi State cabinet, the wife of the governor, Hajiya Rashida Yahaya Bello. Sponsors of the festival like MTN, Glo, Indomie and others were present through their representatives and brands displaced conspicuously.

Prominent people from Koton Karfe, both home and abroad, also made the journey home to mark the event. Special guests from outside the state, traditional rulers, village/district heads all converged at the pond that Saturday to see who would catch the biggest fish.

In his welcome address, Sole Administrator of Koton Karfe Local Government, Barrister Mohammed Tanko Musa, said Igu kingdom is blessed with many fishing ponds including Enyi, Zihe, Iduu, Oriki, Ohembe, Ogumachi, Okotobo, Otochi, Onkwo Adagema, Unwe Oduma-Kada.

He said the ponds can continuously be harvested for over one month but the Ohio-Ogbani pond has been exclusively reserved for an occasion of such magnitude.

He called on investors to cash it on the rare opportunity to patronize the peace goodwill and conducive atmosphere of the people.

“It is an open fact that pure geographical location has served as an advantage to produce not only series of species of fishes but the sweetest around, which is evident in their taste,” he said.

“Our people are predominantly farmers and fishermen with fishing tools bequeathed to us by our ancestors,” he said.

The administrator, however, explained that in its quest to further identify with the people towards uplifting their economic status, the local government has, in conjunction with the traditional institution, designed and upgraded the award prize to winners in this fishing festival.

For His Royal majesty the Ohimegye, the annual Igu cultural fishing festival was organized to revive the cultural heritage of the people in the kingdom and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence of the people in the kingdom and their neighbours.

For the royal, the objective of the festival is to make it an international tourist attraction, a vision he called on all his subjects to share and partake in.

This however, he said, would not be possible without technical assistance from the government and individuals so that it would be able to create an enabling environment with facilities on ground, where dignitaries and tourists could stay to watch and get entertained during every fishing festival.

Thrills of Koton-Karfe fishing festival

“And one of the attributes of the Egbura, we are fishermen and hunters, and our settlement has always been on the banks of rivers Niger and Benue,” he said.

Also speaking, Chief Tony Ezikel, who was the chairman of the occasion, noted that with the calibre of sons and daughters the Igu kingdom has, the locality has a lot of potential not only to feed itself but others in the state.

“So for me, coming here to attend this occasion is like coming back home because I schooled here and it gives me hope that the current leadership of Igu Koton-Karfe kingdom, the Ohimegye of Igu, Alhaji Abdulrazak Isah Koto, has a good sense of innovation, sense of responsiveness and sense of judgement. Those are the fundamental qualities of a good leader,” he said.

He said as a business man, he had always thought of  ways through which to influence government contribution towards assisting such events, saying he will advise the government to ensure that the fishing festival becomes a tourist attraction.

“Imagine if a lot of tourists coming here, the entrance fees can generate so much revenue for the locality,” he added.

A committee member of the Igu cultural fishing festival, Yunusa Labaran, said this year’s festival as compared to last year was a huge success, saying time has come for all sons and daughters of the Igu kingdom to come together to make the festival a national event.

He assured that by next year, the federal ministry of culture and tourism and National Tourism Development Agency will participate in sponsoring the festival in order to make it a national affair.

Governor Yahaya Bello, represented by the state commissioner for transport, Mohammed Awwal Imam, said he was impressed with the efforts of the Ohimegye of Igu Koton-Karfe, for reviving the cultural values of his subjects through organizing the fishing festival.

He said such occasions bring people together from all facets of life to chart a way forward, especially on how peace and unity will continue to be sustained among various ethnic groups in the kingdom and Kogi state at large.

He implored the monarch to explore ways to corporate with relevant bodies to ensure the growth of the festival.

Wife of the governor, Hajiya Khadijat Yahaya Bello, also expressed delight at attending the occasion and assured she would be looking forward towards a bigger event next year.

“We all know the importance of culture and this is a very unique one. So I encourage you to  hold on to this and by the grace of God, we shall continue to give the necessary support to make it bigger and more glamorous,” she said.

But it was not just all about catching fishes as Chief Tony Ezekiel, who was the chairman of the occasion, was conferred the title of Barden Igu kingdom while wife of the governor was also conferred with the traditional title of the Omuseyi of Igu kingdom by the Ohimegye of Igu Koton-Karfe.

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