Institute discloses how foreigners encroach on space, sell fish to Nigerians
• Invites investors into fishing vessels
Stakeholders in the marine and fisheries industry are seeking the intervention of the Federal Government to ban the importation of fish into the country while calling on investors to explore opportunities in the fishing space.
They lamented the lack of adequate vessels in the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), saying this had made the seaport porous and open to illicit businesses by foreigners.
This was disclosed during the meeting of the governing board of NIOMR and the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology (FCF&MT), held in Lagos recently.
They maintained that foreigners from Mali, Senegal, among others, were infiltrating Nigeria’s fishing space, which had resulted in the loss of revenue and jobs for the citizens.
Specifically, Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof. Garba Sharubutu, disclosed that foreigners were coming into Nigeria’s part of the ocean, taking the fishes, adding value, rebranding, and selling them back to Nigerians as foreign products.
He said: “This affects both the coastal and inland waterways, where you find foreign vessels coming into our own part of the ocean. This has constituted a lot of problems and this was complicated as a result of our fishing ship, which NIOMR has for a very long time acquired but has not been on the sea.
“If you get to River Niger, you will find out that people come from Mali, Senegal among others, and fish on our space and cart away the fish to their country, rebrand it, and then we go and import it.
“This is a serious issue. Immediately the minister came on board, he called the executive directors of NIOMR, and the National Fisheries and Fresh Water Research Institute and directed them under my supervision to ensure that a proposal be brought forward to ensure that such interferences do not take place again. This was what culminated in the repair of our fishery vessels. That is one attempt by NIOMR to answer the directive of the minister to make sure that our coastland marine resources are not allowed for other people.
“We are calling on the government and investors that are interested in investing into our fishes not to hesitate. If you look at the quantum of fish materials and the stock that we have naturally, you can see that people can come and invest. We are looking for off-takers; those that can utilise the products of our resources.”
Chairman of NIOMR and FCF&MT governing board, Abdulmalik Usman, hinted that part of President Buhari’s administration’s approach to agricultural transformation was to work with key stakeholders.
He noted that this would lead to an agribusiness economy capable of delivering sustainable prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, and supporting sustainable income and jobs.
“This is why in the fish and aquaculture sector, the two institutions (NIOMR and FCF&MT) must rise to come up with innovative ideas, research results, and techniques to combat low production of fish breeds in aquaculture; low production, due to lack of inputs, such as fingerlings and feeds; as well as, the solution to pollution of water to improve its quality and problems of low yields created by overfishing.”
He urged the institutions to expand training for key holders and influencers in various rural communities across the country and also expand capacity building for women and youths to drive the policy thrust of the Federal Government in agriculture.
“Also, the two institutions should critically look at the areas of effective management of fishery resources through post-harvest preservation, utilisation, and storage by coming up with profitable technological processes that would be affordable and accessible to rural fishing communities.
“The objective is to boost fish production in the country as demand, according to the 2014 statistics, stands at 3.32 million metric tonnes, with only 1.123 million metric tonnes domestically produced and contributing about 0.48 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to agriculture, while agriculture contributes about 20.24 to the national GDP.”