Fishermen plying their trade on the Calabar-Cameroon water channel have continued to have tales of woe as they have been under constant attacks of sea robbers said to be constituted mainly by ex-militants.
The menace of the hoodlums is said not to discriminate between ships and canoes as sources told Daily Newswatch that anything on water is usually at the mercy of the hoodlums.
Consequently, cost of water businesses in the area is said to have skyrocketed because of the risk seamen and fishermen go through in the hands of the pirates.
For instance, according to Mr. Okon Effiong, a fisherman that plies his trade around the Ibaka Port, Akwa Ibom State, almost on daily basis, they came under the heavy attacks of the pirates.
He lamented that on many occasions he had lost both cash and catch to the robbers said to be heavily armed with sophisticated weapons.
Another fisherman, James Edet, told Daily Newswatch that his brother recently lost his outboard Yamaha engine to the pirates who found nothing valuable on him and decided to take away his boat’s engine or risk death as penalty.
Edet lamented that the security agencies in the area could do little to stop the illegal acts of the rampaging hoodlums, who he said knew the terrain better than than those policing the waters.
“The Navy can’t stop these people; they are heavily armed and they are masters of the terrain. They know when to strike and when to retreat. I’m sure their firepower is more than that of the security agencies. You know they are militants”, he said.
He blamed the high cost of fish and other sea foods in the area that come mainly from neighbouring Cameroon on the activities of the pirates, as according to him, much of what should go to the sellers went to the sea robbers.
The menace of the hoodlums has shot up cost of water transportation in the area as a journey hitherto charged N100 now goes for between N200 and N250.
According to ferry operators, who spoke to our correspondent, the robbers always waylayed canoes to collect ransom or sink their boats, resulting in “settlement” as to the number of trips one made.
To the fishermen, the heavy presence of the Nigerian Navy has not deterred the activities of the sea robbers as they are said to know how to manipulate their ways to avoid the security operatives.
Similarly, ferries on international trips are said not to be spared by the pirates as they constantly harass passengers en route to Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, the jetty belonging to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, will soon be extended to enable it accommodate bigger vessels.
According to Director, Specialised Seafarers Training Centre of the Academy, Captain Francis Kponu, the expansion was informed by the avanlanche of expected project imports for the proposed Ibaka Deep Seaport.
He could not however say the level of expansion the jetty would assume on completion, even as he could not also estimate to what level the 1.2 metre water draft would be deepened.