Out of the 30,000 fishermen who participated in the recent Argungu Fishing Festival in Kebbi State, 12,000 are from Argungu and environs.
The Argungu Fishing Festival, which takes place once in a year, is the biggest of such event in the entire emirate.
Apart from the venue of this annual festival, there are six other water bodies in which indigenous fishermen carry out their businesses throughout the season.
Like other forms of farming, fishing is seasonal. It runs during the dry season and ceases when the rains start.
In MatanFadan River, venue of the famous Argungu Fishing Festival, after the event, which is usually for a day, fishing stops until the following year. But business continues in other water bodies until the rainy season sets in and they go back to crop farming.
As is the case in the famous MatanFada River, fishing does not start in other water bodies until permission is sought and granted by the custodians of the rivers.
For MatanFada, the titleholder of Makwashe gives permission for the commencement of the fishing competition, whereas in other rivers, the titleholder of Homa, who is in charge of the rivers, gives permission for fishing business.
After the Argungu festival, those who are into big time fishing travel far and near in search of water bodies where they can do business.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that many of the fishermen travel as far as Kwara, Kogi, Adamawa and Niger states for business.
The winner of the first prize in the just concluded festival, Abubakar Ya’u, told our correspondent that they usually leave after the event and only come closer home whenever the competition is about to take place.
Ya’u, who won two cars, hajj seats and over N7million, said he would invest heavily in fishing and crop farming, adding that he is familiar with the two professions.
Asked whether fishermen get assistance from government like other farmers, Ya’u said they were assisted some years back, but since then, it has always been unfulfilled promises. He, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government and the Kebbi State Government to come to their aid by introducing policies, programmes and soft loans for their members. He said such gesture would go a long way to improve the sector.
“If fish farming gets the kind of attention it deserves, you would see positive changes. And that’s what we want. If you are into big time fishing you must go to other places that have bigger water bodies. Those that prefer to remain at home have some other businesses they do. People who do not know any other business apart fishing must look for alternative sources. We are calling on government at all levels to come to our aid,’’ he said.
Also speaking to our correspondent, Mohammed Bashir, who holds the title of Homa, the custodian of the other six water bodies in the area, said whenever the rains begin, various rivers don’t give good room for fishing; hence all the fishermen are expected to go back to farm until the following year.
He said no fisherman is allowed to fish in any of the six water bodies under him until permission is sought and obtained, just like what happens in MatanFada River.
“In each of the rivers, fishing lasts for two or three weeks. Usually, the fishermen ask for permission to go into the water, through their representatives, who in turn seek permission from me (Homa). The Homa, who is the custodian of the water, is the only person to approve their request or otherwise, depending on spiritual consultations,’’ Bashir explained