Ogulagha Fishing Hub
OGULAGHA, Nigeria – It is no longer news that over 90% of Nigeria’s earnings come from oil exploration activities in the country.
The United Arab Emirates is also an oil-producing country but she has been able to diversify and, today, tourism is also one of her major sources of revenue.
Since oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, present-day Bayelsa State, in commercial quantity in 1956, the country has been fixated in making it her major revenue earner.
The GbaramatuVoice Newspaper discovered a fishing hub in Ogulagha that, if followed up, could serve as another source of revenue as well as an avenue for tourism. It could also create jobs for the youths in Delta State.
Located 33.3 miles from Warri, Ogulagha has a population of over 15,000 and it is in Burutu LGA of Delta State.
It is bound by five communities: Burutu, Escravos, Odimodi, Gbaramatu kingdom, all in Delta State, and Agge, in Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State.
The major occupations of the people are fishing, farming and trading. The community also has Christians, Muslims and traditionalists living in it.
ACCESSING THE COMMUNITY
Accessing the community is only possible through the Warri river by boat or by flight as the SPDC (Shell) has a runway there.
Among the over 15,000 people living in it, some are Ilaje from Ondo State, Bayelsa State, Urhobos and even a few Hausas and Yorubas.
Some Ghanaians are also part of this population and form the basis for this write-up as they go out on a daily basis, except Sundays, with their Ghana boats, to fish in commercial quantity, and return, in the evenings, to sell their catch to the women. With them, in the business, are the Ilaje from Ondo State, fishermen from Epie, Nembe, Andoni, Brass in Rivers and Bayelsa states.
THE FISHING BOATS IN OGULAGHA
GbaramatuVoice observed that with about 60 to 70 boats, all colourfully painted and designed with flags of Ghana flying in front of them, Ghanaians hold the aces in this business due to a number of factors.
Firstly, the boats are made in Ghana as the timber used in their production are not available in Nigeria. A boat can last between 20 and 30 years due to the quality of the timber used in making it, according to two professional boatmen from the community — Dave Emomoboye and Timi Ogene. Each boat measures about 30 metres long and the Ilaje version, which the Ghanaians derisively refer to as ‘Ebukete,’ or short boat, is deep enough to swallow a 6 footer without his head being seen outside. This nickname has occasionally led to clashes between the Ghana and Ilaje fishermen. Women are never allowed on these boats. ‘Sumjesus’ is the longest of these boats followed by ‘Sea Tiger.’
Secondly, each costs between 5 and 6 million Naira. This amount is not readily available for many in the community to invest in the venture.
MODE OF OPERATION
According to GbaramatuVoice findings, each boat, on a daily basis travels individually, carrying between 9 and 23 persons onboard, sails from Ogulagha to the high seas where they cast their nets, and return in the evenings with their catch. Some also leave by 8pm and return the following morning but this is no longer happening because of the activities of sea pirates.
A lucky boat, with a single throw, can get a net full of fish that can fill it and 5 others, from findings.
Investigations also revealed a boat can make over a million naira in a single day.
As soon as the fishermen return, women would already be waiting by the seashore with their basins. Some paddle their canoes to the boats anchored about 20 metres from the shore, buy the quantity of fish they want, and paddle back to shore.
The fishermen are allowed to sell to women who maybe non-indigenes or indigenes of Ogulagha. The women buy directly, dry them using firewood, and resell to the non-natives who may come all the way from Warri and Bayelsa state, etc. They may also decide to resell them in their fresh state.
One basin known as ‘shabba’ sells for between 20,000 Naira and 22,000 Naira. After drying on firewood, it is sold for 30,000 naira to the interested buyers who may get as much as 60,000 when they get to their different communities.
Community boys do the offloading getting between 5,000 and 6,000 Naira daily. They also make money carrying commuters on their backs to the flying boats to prevent their legs entering water as the jetty is yet to be completed and get up to 500 Naira for each person they carry.
VIEWS OF OPERATORS
GbaramatuVoice newspaper spoke to a captain of one of the Ghanaian boats — ‘Grace in Heaven, Boat 1.’
“My name is Matthew Apga. We have 3 boats — ‘Grace in Heaven, 1,2 and 3.’ My father owns the boats and lives in Ghana.
“We left by 7 am, today, and returned by past 4 pm. The trip was not fruitful as some metal objects inside the water, damaged our net, so we could only get the fishes floating on top,” he explained without any sign of frustration.
He explained that the government can help them by checking the activities of sea pirates.
“We were attacked by the pirates, on one occasion, and we lost 5 engines,” he recalled. Each engine cost 2.2 million naira!
He also stated that their relationship with the community is cordial. A fact, as some Ghanaians who had lost some of their loved ones recently, got a parcel of land from the community to bury them, rather than take their corpses home to Ghana.
Kojo Nikwe was another Ghanaian captain spoken to. His boat arrived on shore with the men on board blowing ‘vuvuzuelas’ made popular during the World Cup tournament held in South Africa in 2010. Initially, it evoked a sense of a profitable trip until Nikwe said: “We got nothing today. Our half drum of fuel has been wasted.”
He did not look frustrated too. “Anytime we get a full load of fish, we may make 1.5 to 2 million naira from it. We go out every day except when the waves are high. We also do not go out at night because of sea pirates,” he said.
Another captain, William Edufu, spoke in similar light explaining that, “In a month, we may make up to 1.5 million Naira but expenses may take up to 800,000 Naira. Your net may tear, for instance, and a new one costs over 200,000 Naira.”
Usually, each net is suspended on the water using floaters made from a collection of empty plastic containers of such drinks as Coca-Cola, Fanta, etc. Eight of these contraptions is enough to suspend the net holding it at strategic points.
Friday Bigfuma is the captain of ‘Lucky 7, Boat 2.’ Sixteen boys work on his boat.
“In 3 months, we may make up to 3 million naira minus expenses such as fuel, etc. The owner will take half of the amount. Accounts can be done weekly, depending on the owner. The cost of the boat can be made in a week,” he said.
One of the indigenes, Josiah Loveday, explained that all he owns is a ‘hand pulling’ boat which he gave to 3 of his boys who make returns whenever they go out.
Queen Seigha, who was born in 1959, said she has lived in Ogulagha for over 40 years with her husband. She is from Eguama in Brass LGA of Bayelsa State.
“I use bamboo to pin ‘kpagoro’ before roasting them,” she explained. ‘Kpagoro’ is the local name for salt-water catfish. She resells the roasted catfish and, from the proceeds, she said she has been able to train all her children in school along with her husband and lamented the presence of non-functional government schools in the community. The buildings are there but they are not functioning.
The General Secretary of the community, Daniel Sunday, called on the government to use the business to assist the youths as it can curb restiveness among them.
“They can give us loans to buy the boats and other equipment,” he solicited adding “these Ghanaians helped the community with their fishing activities during the COVID-19 lockdown when companies closed down.”
Obed Oluku, a youth from Ogulagha, spoke in a similar vein urging private investors also to look into the business.
“Ogulagha is secure because of the security personnel guar ding the SPDC installations here. This venture can provide youths employment. Ogulagha is blessed,” he surmised.
Godwin Meeting Kiriobenadougha is over 70 years old and Ogulagha is his maternal home. He has been engaged in fishing from birth. Even though he does not own a Ghana boat, he said: “Through fishing, I trained all my children — 2 have graduated from the university, and one is still an undergraduate. The others are in secondary school. I also built a house from fishing.”
He also called on the government to help them in dealing with sea pirates and give them loans to get boats and nets.
Electricity supply is round the clock in the community courtesy of the SPDC. Commercial activities are also round the clock.
One of the press crew stepped out of his hotel room by midnight only to find women with their oranges waiting for buyers!
By the GbaramatuVoice Press Crew made up of Jacob Abai, Usman Adamu Attaboh, Enaibo Asiayei and Tarela Afore.
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