By Kingsley Opurum, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the procurement of patrol vessels to curb and monitor illegal and unregulated fishing, and boost security on the waterways.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, made the disclosure during the 10th Annual Ministerial Conference of the Fisheries Committee for West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), held on Friday in Abuja.
The Vice-President stated that President Buhari-led government considers the safety of the nation’s waterways as a key priority.
In reiterating Federal Government’s commitment to checking fish import in the country, Prof. Osinbajo noted that the efforts are already yielding positive results.
Also, he said in 2017, local fish production increased from 450,000 metric tonnes from early January to 1.1 million metric tonnes.
He said: “The safety of Nigerian maritime water is also a principal concern to us. To this end, President Buhari has approved the purchase of some patrol vessels for the department of fisheries, which will be managed in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy.
“These vessels will boost the search and rescue capacities of the relevant security agencies to deter illegal fishing, prevent illegal unreported and unregulated fishing and help secure our vessels at sea.
“I am pleased to note that our efforts to reduce fish import and increase local fish production by encouraging the private sector to invest in aquaculture, is yielding positive results. Our domestic fish production for example, in the last two years, has increased from 450,000 metric tonnes to 1.1 million metric tonnes and we expect that this growth will be exponential especially as all of the initiatives, which we are looking at, key into our overall plans.”
The Vice-President said that Mr. President has also approved the establishment of a Lake Chad Naval base to strengthen security in the zone.
“Again, President Buhari has earlier this year, approved the establishment of a Lake Chad Naval base to boost security and fast-track restoration of deprived livelihoods in that zone,” he said.
Stressing the important role agriculture plays in diversification of economy, Prof. Osinbajo said that “Agriculture of course especially aquaculture is even one of the most critical multiple engines that we diversify our economies and create jobs and prosperity especially for our young people.
“We have focused on agriculture as being perhaps the partway for the sustainable hope for our people and also for providing the much needed jobs for hundreds and thousands of the young people who are graduating each year from various levels of our educational institutions.
Osinbajo, who stressed the need to support the regional aquaculture industry, stated that as part of commitments from the federal government to support the fisheries committee, a sum of $200,000 had been paid to the FCWC, urging other member countries to follow suit.
In his remark, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Heineken Lokpobiri, advised participants to take seriously issues relating to effective management of fishery resources.
He said that the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing deserves collective efforts which should be sustained.
In the same vein, Lokpobiri commended the FCWC Secretary General for the conference’s theme: Investment for Growth and Sustainability in Fisheries in West Africa.
Participants at the conference included representatives from Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo. Others are African Union, European Union and Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS).