By Tordue Salem – Abuja Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Agricultural Institutions, Rep. Awaji Inombek-Abiante(PDP-Rivers), has bemoaned the failure of the Nigerian government to reap over $1billion annually from the Fisheries Industry. Besides, he pledged his Committee’s commitment to the quick passage of two key fisheries industry bills into law; Brackish Water Fisheries Research Institute Bill and the Fisheries Institute of Nigeria Bill, as he called on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, to create a Fisheries and Aqua culture Ministry.
Abiante made this known at the weekend, during the “16th Fellowship Investitures and Launching of N500million Building Fund for National Secretariat” of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, FISON in Abuja, hosted by the National President of the association, Dr. Agbaibiaka Lukman Adegoke. At the event, were Governor Kayode Fayemi, of Ekiti State, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Ibikunle Amosun, Aliya Sabi-Abdullahi and Muhammad Enagi.
Also at the event, were the Whip of the House, Mohammed Monguno and Rep. Abdullahi Garba, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang and the Emir of Borgu, Niger State, Dr. Mohammed Dantoro. Most of the dignitaries, were conferred with fellowships of FISON. At the occasion, chaired by Barr. Inyang Etim Inyang, Abiante recalled that though the Fisheries Institute Bill was passed by the previous assembly, presidential assent was withheld. His words: “We came up with this demand to have an institute that will help us to develop that particular segment of the industry. That same bill was passed in the 8th Assembly, transmitted to Mr President; unfortunately it was not signed.
“You have listened to people speak, you have seen the gap in our fish requirement. Apart from that, the records are there; science is tending to encourage us to do more of fish than red meat. There is Omega3 requirement for several categories of persons, and you find it in fish. The value change addition that we will have, we are losing it out. The total global value of the fishing industry is over $200bn and with the kind of environment we have, we can get as much as 5 to 10 per cent. The 10 per cent of that value will give us something even greater than what we make in the oil and gas sector. “Why are we keeping a blind eye to these development? Probably due to ignorance; probably the people who know are not speaking to those who need to know. These two bills are before parliament. The bill that is requesting for the establishment of the Brackish Water Fisheries Research Institute has passed every attention in the House of Representatives. It has been transmitted to Senate for concurrence. If the Senate concurs, in no time it will be transmitted to Mr President. It has the potential of opening up the economy of this country. If we can conserve what we use; the import value of fish is over $1bn as we speak, that is over N400bn. It can take care of the capital budget requirements of two ministries under this administration. So, the challenge is advocacy. Those who should know have not known. What we have is not adequate”. According to the legislator, to reap greater gains from the Fisheries industry, a separate Ministry must be created for the sector.
“I was talking to the minister when he came for budget defence and there was this seeming admittance that the ministry is actually big, talking about agriculture, rural development, fisheries, livestock and other things. That challenge is there. What we have suggested over time; we have pioneered it but it has not gotten the right attention: countries that are taking advantage of the resources from the waters, talking about the fishes and aqua culture, even precious materials in the ocean that we can gain from, they have created for themselves separate ministries in charge of this. “When you are talking about policy direction, in China they have a separate ministry for aqua culture and fisheries. In Morocco, they have a defined drivers of this. In Japan, it is the same thing. Denmark also. So, we are saying that it is high time Nigerian Government considered creation of a separate ministry for fisheries, aqua culture and ocean resources. We should have that established to drive the policy and enable us to get the benefits from what we are doing”, he adviced. He added that “We do know that there is a challenge of resources available to government. Even the 8 per cent that we are talking about, it is an improvement on the previous budgets that we have had. In 2010, it was 1.5 to 1.6 per cent, so 8 per cent is about the highest that fisheries has gotten in 10 years”.