Fishermen in Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday decried incessant attacks by gunmen suspected to be sea pirates in Ibeno Local Government Area of the state, and called for urgent intervention by the government to save fishing business in the state.
Following the frequent attacks, the fishermen are now afraid of going into the sea for fishing expedition.
According to them, no fewer than 50 pieces of their outboard engines had been seized by the hoodlums between December 2022 and April 2023.
A fisherman and a leader of the Yoruba community in Ukpenekang community, Chief Golden Ogungbemi, noted that fishing business in the area was gradually being crippled.
He said, “Our major problem is the issue of sea pirates. They have been unleashing mayhem on fishermen to the extent that we are no longer going to the sea. The situation is so bad. Whenever fishermen go to the sea they confront you at gunpoint and seize your outboard engines.
“In March alone, that’s last month, fishermen lost about 30 pieces of outboard engines to the sea pirates. Just this month of April, they came again and dispossessed the fishermen of about 20 pieces of outboard engines. Each engine is about N3million.
“This has been a recurring decimal. We have been facing this situation for the past 10 years. Some of the fishermen have been kidnapped and ransom demanded and paid. Most times we pay up to N500,000 for the sea pirates to release our engine to us. We are calling on the state government to save our business”.
One of the victims, Mr Christopher Nathaniel, said the hoodlums attacked him on Sunday and his engine seized.
“I was attacked on Sunday and my engine seized. The pirates gave me their phone number and asked me to call them and pay N500,000 to get my engine back which I have done”.
On security he said, “There are quite a number of Marine Policemen and Naval operatives on the sea. They are protecting oil company facilities and their workers and have never helped us when we are attacked”.
The State Police Command through its spokesperson, SP Odiko MacDon, confirmed the incident of attacks on fishermen by sea pirates.
MacDon, however, disclosed that the police had always collaborated with other security agencies, especially the Navy, in intercepting the hoodlums.
He added that police had rescued over 28 victims and recovered their engines while 10 suspected sea pirates had been arrested and currently facing prosecution.