The fishing community in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has protested incessant attacks and abductions of their members by suspected sea pirates in the state.
The protesters, under the aegis of Watch Out Fishermen Cooperatives (WOFC), stormed the Ibaka beach early in the morning chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards of various inscriptions.
Some of the placards read: “Foward Operating Base, Ibaka is sleeping,” “President Buhari do the needful, we are tired of paying ransom,” “Federal government and Nigerian Navy stop the sea piracy,” etc.
Addressing the protesters, the Chairman of the WOFC, Mr. Effiong Numah, expressed worry that despite the insecurity along the waterways, state government and security agencies have remained adamant to their plights.
He said they have decided to call out their members to protest because their lives were no longer safe on the waterways, adding that they have lost over 23 out board engines while t10 of their members have been kidnapped.
“We are here for a protest based on what we have been experiencing in the past years. After series of petitions and complaints to the government they paid deaf ears to our plights. That prompted us to organise this protest.”
The Youth President of Ibaka, Mr. Victor Udombo, lamented that fishing business has been grounded to a halt due to the activities of sea pirates, adding that over 100 out boat engines could not go into the sea as a result of the activities of sea pirates.
Udombo said: “We want the whole world to know that we are dying, we are always afraid of the unknown when you go to the beach, you will see over 100 boats aground, these boats can carry over thirty persons and since we have not been going to work over a thousand persons have been rendered jobless making criminality and armed robbery to become the order of the day because an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”
One of the fishermen, Mr. Effiong Edet, said that the hoodlums have adopted a new strategy, stressing that when they seize an out boat engine they will also kidnap the fishermen along with the engine.
According to him, a director in one of the companies was kidnapped in April this year and was only released after a ransom of N46 million was paid to the hoodlums.
“They first abducted fishermen from one company here and for fear of what their fate will be in the hands of the abductors we pleaded with them and they collected ransom. And this year, in April they followed our fisherman, up to Cameroon and abducted a director, and collected ransom of N46 million. That was when we downed tool for about a month and two weeks.
“As we speak to you now we have petitioned AIG Zone 6, the NNS Jubilee Ikot Abasi, we have petitioned Foward Operating Base here and all the security agencies and government agencies we feel can come to our help all to no avail.
“Last Tuesday they seized four engines and abducted four fishermen, demanding for N10 million. We pleaded and after exhausting all our money only yesterday they released them, the person that we sent to pay the ransom was withheld by kidnapers, so we pleaded for his release.” he said.
The lawyer representing the fishermen, Mr. Oluwajuwon Ogunbiyi, alleged that the hoodlums were people already known to the security agencies, adding that they decided to call the attention of the world for people to see what they had been going through in Akwa Ibom Sea.
“The perpetrators are people known to security agencies because we submitted telephone numbers, bank accounts, that has been used to receive the ransoms and nothing has been done till now.
“Because people don’t know what is going on here that is why we decided to call the attention of the world to come to the aid of these fishermen,” he lamented.
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