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Feature: 10 Years Without Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival

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10 Years Without Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival

By Ibrahim Bello, Nigeria News Agency

Stakeholders are worried that for 10 years the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival has not been celebrated. The festival usually staged in March of every year held last in 2009.

It attracts fishermen from Niger Republic, Chad, Benin Republic and Cameroon.

Infrastructure at the venue of the festival are at great state of decay because of the abandonment.

The Argungu Grand Fishing Hotel by the side of  the Matan Fada River, where the event normally takes place is in a bad state.

The pavilion and its environs are over grown with weeds, indicating inactivity.

Alhaji Hussaini Makwashi (Sarkin Ruwa), the `chief of  fishermen,’ in the area, who  also overseers the Matan Fada Fishing River, pleaded that the festival should not be allowed to die.

He recounted the history of the festival, which he says dates back to 1934.

Makwashi said that it started during the reign of Muhammadu Sama, as emir of Argungu.

He said that the emir invited Sultan Hassan Dan-Muazu as a way of cementing relationship and fostering unitybetween the Fulani people and the Kabawa people.

.Makwashi  said that Dan-Muazu slept in Argungu, making him the first sultan to pass the night in the area.

“The emir sought the opinion of his people (Kabawa ) to know what to do in order to impress the sultan.

“The people came up with the idea of organising a grand fishing festival to entertain the sultan who was the first sultan to visit the area.

“That proposal resulted to more stronger ties between the Fulani and Kabawa people and even gave birth to inter-ethnic marriages between the two ethnic groups who were once sworn enemies,” he said.

Makwashi said that fishermen in the area had incurred losses as a result of the suspension or stoppage of the fishing festival.

“It is disheartening that this colourful and wealth generation event, which tourists from within and outside the country attend will just be abandoned like that.

“We were told some years back by the government that the event was put on hold because of the deteriorating security situation, especially when Boko Haram activities were devastating.

“And you know the festival attracts large number of people who come in their thousands to watch the events.

” We reasoned with them at that point in time, but now we have overcome such threat as we have no Boko Haram fear or attacks,” he said.

He lamented the economic difficulties faced by the  fishermen and their families, adding that they depended on the festival to get money to feed their families and sponsor their children to schools.

He said that the festival hosts over 30,000 fishermen from different places and countries, stressing that many people depend on the festival for their livelihood.

“We call on Gov. Atiku Bagudu, to fulfill his promise of reviving the fishing festival and also renovate the dilapidated structure at the fishing village,” he pleaded.

Alhaji Musa Argungu, a fisherman, said it had not been easy for the fishermen for the past 10 years. He said that the stoppage had caused them great economic havoc.

“This has been our business and we do it to earn ourliving, no one will be happy when he wakes up and discovers his means of livelihood is stopped.

“Whenever the fishing event holds, we earn reasonable amount of money that will solve many monetary challenges of our families, including money to `marry off’ our daughters.

” Put yourself in our shoes and imagine life without such an income for 10 years.

“Do you know that in a good day at the climax of the festival, we could get as much as N50,000 to N70,000 and in just one day,” he said.

Argungu pleaded with the government to revive and restore the lost glory of the event.

Alhaji Aminu Abubakar, Chairman of Kebbi Hoteliers’ Managers Association, said the managers had lost huge source of revenue due to delay in holding the festival.

“We have over 30 functional hotels in the state and we have been managing them well, should the festival be staged tomorrow, we are ready for the visitors.

” The business, if not because of  non-governmental organisations that do come for workshops and trainings as well as wedding events, the hoteliers may close down their businesses.

“We contribute a lot to the employment generation in the state, as whenever the festival is to take place, we increase the number of our staff or employ ad hoc staff, ” Abubakar said.

The manager appealed to the government to quickly  organise the event to enable them get more patronage.

Alhaji Shu’aibu Aliero, the Permanent Secretary, Kebbi Ministry of Information and Culture, noted that the festival had not been held for 10 years.

Aliero said that whatever the reasons people outside the government circle might give other than the following reasons could be described as figment of their imagination.

“The festival is suspended due largely to security situation in the country.

” We are living witnesses to the deteriorating security situation in the country that ranged from Boko Haram, kidnapping, cattle rustling and banditry.

“Though Kebbi has been adjudged as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria, the fact remains that the state has borders with states like Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and Niger, that have intermittent security challenges.

” Furthermore, there is the issue of climate change; it is observed that the low water level of Matan Fada River cannot allow the climax of the festival to take place over the years, because fishes are believed to be no longer there due to the absence of free flow of water from its tributaries,” he said.

According to him, the government waited for security situation to improve and for the water level to rise to enable her make preparations for the festival.

The permanent secretary said that the security situation had improved and the water level had risen, which prompted the state government to start preparations for the festival to take place either this year or early 2020.

Alhaji Umar Bena, Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Co-operative and Tourism, also attributed the suspension of the event to security challenges.

” You see, basically security concern in the country is the main reason why the ceremony has not been held for 10 years.

“Argungu Fishing Festival is an international event; people from different parts of the world assemble in Argungu; it will be too risky to hold such an event in an uncertain security situation,” he said.

Bena expressed optimism that the event might soon hold because of the improved security situation in the country.

(NANFeatures)

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