The people of Ibaka community in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have sent a “Save Our Souls” to the state government and the law enforcement agencies over the incessant criminal attacks on fishermen and traders by pirates in their waterways.
The activities of this group of criminal elements, according to the people have crippled the economic well-being of the area and also resulted in the loss of lives of fishermen, traders, boats, money and fishing materials.
Addressing newsmen, the National President of Ibaka Youth Association, Mr Daniel Udombo said his people are now living in fear as a result of incessant attacks.
According to him, the pirates are daily attacking fishermen at gunpoint with assault weapons and carting away boats, outboard engines, nets and other belongings.
Describing the situation as “unfortunate and sad,” Udombo appealed to both the state and federal governments as well as stakeholders to come to their aid by ensuring that the marine police and the Nigerian Navy patrol the waterways to check the activities of pirates in order to forestall the scarcity of fish in the state and the country.
He lamented that the activities of the pirates, believed to be based in neighbouring States, were becoming very regular and that the attacks had brought untold hardship on fishermen in the area and have constituted a major challenge to fishermen and affected the economic fortunes of the area.
The youth leader said that more than 60 outboard engines, boats and millions of naira had been stolen from fishermen by sea pirates in the past two months.
He cried out that security agents in the waterways and high seas could not salvage the situation, even as the killings and robbery attacks on the people worsen by the day.
According to him, the killings have been going on over the years.
“If government can come in and empower security agents like the Nigerian Navy and marine police to arrest the situation, the entire Ibaka people would be very glad because for some months and years, Ibaka people whose main source of livelihood is fishing business, and resident fishermen could no longer carry out their legitimate activities successfully because of fear of sea pirates and militants. We are calling on the government to come to our aid so that our people can be safe again to continue with the fishing business without fear.
“The activities of these sea pirates have really affected the economy of our area. We have about 100 hundred “Ghana boats” going for fishing and each boat employs over 50 persons both the fishermen and those working when they return from fishing. So, by the time all these boats are being stopped from fishing by sea pirates thousands of people who are benefiting directly and indirectly from this business would be jobless.
“The attacks on the people by sea pirates have become daring and gotten to the point that the pirates would come to Ibaka beach and extort money from fishermen and if the fishermen fail to pay, the pirates would abduct and kidnap people for ransom. The fear of the unknown is crippling the fishing business and other businesses.
“Sometimes, these sea pirates would come even very close to the Nigerian Navy Forward Operations Base in Ibaka and rob our people of their outboard engines and even abduct people for ransom and go away without any intervention from Navy and other security agencies and by the time you report to the Navy, the Navy would say they have not been given orders to attack the sea pirates. Sometimes, the marine police would say they don’t have functional boats.
“That is the problem we are facing. The fishermen are scared to go for fishing. The fishermen going for fishing are the ones who have prepared for the worst. A fortnight ago, two people were shot dead by the sea pirates,” he lamented.