Members of the fishing association of Ibaka, a coastal community in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, have withdrawn their services in protest against the killing and kidnapping of their members by militants on the high seas. The fishermen are also calling for the return of 14 outboard engines seized by the criminals. The strike comes after complaints and petitions to the Navy’s Forward Operating Base (FoB), which is responsible for policing the waterways, failed to bring about any action.
The situation has caused a looming scarcity of seafood, including fish and crayfish, with local dealers and customers from neighbouring markets unable to access the produce from Ibaka beach, which is also the proposed site for the Ibom Deep Seaport. Efforts by affected fishermen to retrieve their seized outboard engines have resulted in contributions of around N2 million each, as ransom to the militants.
Fishermen and transporters have accused security agencies, politicians, and even leaders of fishing unions of benefiting from the organized crime. The illicit activity has persisted for years, causing unquantifiable losses and leading to suspicion about the inability of naval personnel stationed at the terminal to combat insecurity.
The fishermen’s strike has entered its third day, and they are demanding a holistic probe of the problem. They have also refused to pay ransom to the militants and are calling for an investigation into the leadership of their union over alleged links to the criminals. Naval authorities have not responded to inquiries about the situation.