Illegal Russian And Chinese Fishing In Nigerian Waters Is Causing The Low Revenue, Output And Dwindling Demand For Fish In Nigeria, FG Alleges
The federal government has alleged that low revenue, low output and dwindling demand for fish in Nigeria are because of the poor policing of the country’s territorial waters.
It similarly claimed that the development has allowed illegal Russian and Chinese companies free hand to fish illegally in the country.
The allegation was made last night by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, during a meeting with the national committee on Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures (HSOP).
Lokpobiri said out of the total fisheries requirement of over three million metric tonnes, Nigeria was only producing just about 1.1 million metric tons, living a gap of about two million metric tonnes.
“Our territorial waters are not policed to prevent illegal unregistered fishing. The Chinese, Russian and others are coming to Nigerian territorial waters and freely fishing,” he said, adding, “Part of the reports we got is that you hardly will see vessels that are arrested and brought to Nigeria on account of fishing illegally without permit on our territorial waters.”
He expressed worries that, foreign vessels routinely come here with the wrong notion that, in Nigeria, they can bribe their way.
“So, they come with some dollars. They bribe your officers who are on the high sea, and then they fish as much as they want and they go back.”
Moreover, he said, the illegal fishing also posed a lot of danger to local fishermen and women.
He added that there was no capacity to police or provide security for along the coastal waterways.
His view was corroborated by the chairman of the visiting committee members, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Shafi’i.
Shafi’i said there were so many illegal activities cutting across all the agencies that are represented in the HSOP.
He stressed that there was a lack of coordination of activities, prompting the federal government to set up a body that would coordinate to produce document that everybody will be aware of, and involving all the agencies that have anything to do, either with arresting, or detaining or prosecuting persons that carry out illegal activities in our environment.
The committee on harmonised standard operating procedure was launched on January 26, 2017, with the mandate to seek for cooperation, collaboration and coordination of activities on arrest, detention and prosecution of persons and vessels in our maritime environment.
Lokpobiri expressed delight in the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures document that was long overdue.
He said from fisheries resources alone, Nigeria should be able to earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange.
“Right now, we spend perhaps close to a billion dollars to import fish,” he observed, adding that, “in Liberia, on internationally agreed rates, vessels in their territorial waters that are arrested and detained because they don’t have requisite permit, will pay a minimum of $250,000. Nigeria certainly needs a lot more dollars now that petro-dollars are drying up.”