Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has re-iterated its call to the Federal Government to save the Nigerian fishing trawlers from pirates that has made them lose above $60million foreign exchange in recent time.
The National President of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association, Manjit Sadrangani, made this appeal when the body had a dinner for the Special Adviser to the President on Export Programmes, Mrs. Modupe Sasore, last week in Lagos.
According to Manjit Sadrangani, Nigerian waters are now notorious for the insecurity and threats caused by pirates as the ferocity and frequency of these piracy attacks have grown out of proportion.
“In recent months, the hoodlums have organized and equipped themselves and are fearlessly operating a “Piracy Industry”, regardless of region, time of day or target. State-of-the-art fast attack boats, fully equipped with heavy artillery and fire power, are a constant and omni-present threat and scourge to our vessels and equipment, but more importantly, to our crews, highly trained in fishing, but, unfortunately, not in warfare.”
The NITOA’s boss said the activities of the pirates affects the country’s employment profile as nothing less than 10,000 direct employee and over 40,000 employers in the sector have lost their means of livelihood.
“The incessant loss of lives this year is climaxing in over ten casualties over the last few weeks. Over 50 % of the total fleet has known attacks over the last one year. The number of attacks in the last 2 months alone, exceeds 60 in number, resulting in the deaths of some of our sea going personnel with several seamen critically injured or maimed.”
He said though they have made representations to the government on different occasions, the gravity of the continued piracy threats urges them to appeal again for urgent assistance.
Mr. Manjit Sadrangani explained that fishing operations in Nigerian waters have become virtually impossible due to the restricted areas now available for them to fish in, “produc-tivity is rapidly falling.”
He queried “How productive can you be if you always have to look over your shoulder? Our sailors are now terrified to go to sea and we are afraid that our production will altogether come to a standstill soon, if this issue is not brought under control very soon.”
He added that his members have invested billions of Naira in their assets and it would, indeed, be a shame to see these assets wasted and an important and leading non-oil export industry grind to a halt in the country.
The trawlers boss said though the piracy issue is dangerous, he noted that they face a more dangerous threat, which is one that might kill the industry, if steps are not taken immediately.
He said the government needs to do something about AGO, which formed 40% of their production cost in 2002, but “today, constitutes over 8O% of our total cost of production.”
He added “fuel cost of one fishing vessels has risen from N14million per year, which, in itself, was extremely high, to a devastating N45million per year. An average sized company owning 10 trawlers would, therefore, be spending N450million a year to keep their vessels fishing, approximately, N300million more than what they would have spent just 3 years back.
He said their industry is unique and peculiar as far as usage of AGO is concerned. “It is a known fact that AGO is the main raw material for our production, where AGO is used 24 hours a day, as compared with almost all other industries where AGO is used as fuel standby power only.
The trawler boss said to offset their incremental costs on account of AGO, they can only increase the price of the fish they sell locally. “But, if we are to do that, firstly, we would not be able to sell our products because of cheaper imported fish available locally, and secondly, the price of our fish would escalate to such an extent that, not only would the common man be unable to afford this, otherwise, cheap form of protein, but none of us would be able to put fish on our tables anymore.”