Emeka Samuel, UYO
Fishermen in Akwa Ibom have lamented the incessant attacks on pirates and militants operating in the riverine areas lamenting that it has negatively affected their businesses.
They said they have lost their fishing boats, outboard engines and nets worth several millions of naira, a development they said has affected the income of multipurpose cooperative society members in the area.
President of Nation Feeders Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Uruan Local Council, Mr Bassey Etim, made this known yesterday during a one-day national agri-preneur training scheme organised by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) in Uyo.
Etim lamented that the attacks apart from adversely affecting the income of their members, has also led to the death of some of the fishermen.
According to him, the absence of a modern drying machine is also hampering the growth of the cooperative society in the fight against poverty and wealth creation even as the activities of large scale fishing businessmen has stiffled small scale fishing entrepreneurs.
“That is why we formed the cooperative to enable us to embark on large scale fishing because the activities of the large scale fishermen who buy off all fish products before we hit the sea was frustrating and hindering a thriving cooperative movement in the area.” He said.
Etim who was giving an account of how the grants by SMEDAN have been utilised in creating wealth and promoting small business said they have been limited to subsistence fishing as they have been unable to go to the high seas as a result of their inability to compete with the large scale fishermen and businessmen.
Also speaking, the president of Ukeme Otobong Multipurpose cooperative society in Esit Urua, Eket Local Council, Mfonobong Abasiekong said the grants given to cooperatives have helped them to grow their businesses but appealed for assistance to enable them acquire either a tricycle or a mini truck for the evacuation of oil palm fruits after they have been harvested.
She also solicited for assistance in acquiring a modern oil palm processing facility to help them generate more income for members.
Mrs Lucy Ekpeyong, coordinator of SMEDAN in Akwa Ibom State described cooperatives societies as the powerhouse of the rural economy saying that they should acquire skills in business development of a common product or service saying it would ensure a sustainable poverty alleviation programme.
While presenting an address by the Director General of the agency, Wale Fasanya Ekpeyong reiterated the agency’s continued support to agri-preneurs through various schemes such as one local government one product, women self employment, national business skills development initiative among others and restated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to tackling unemployment through the development of agriculture and its value chain.
She lauded the Akwa Ibom state government for “unflinching support towards the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state.
Benefitting cooperative societies were drawn from Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket, Uruan and Uyo Local Councils.