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Bagwai Mishap: Fishing Business Crippled in Watari Dam Six Months After

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Fisherman in Watawi looks at damaged canoe/ⓒVictor Christopher

For decades, Watari Dam was the epicenter of fishing in the riverine Bagwai community.

The town attracted people from all spheres of life who come to buy and sell fish.

An unfortunate boat disaster changed all that.

One man, Abdulhamidu Musa Dan-Kifi had six boats that he usually rented out for fishing damaged during the rescue operations.

In a chat with Nigeria Info FM in Kano, Dan-Kifi lamented that he had been living from hand to mouth before he managed to repair four of the boats.

"When the disaster happened, they used our boats to rescue the victims and recover the corpses.

“And most of the boats were damaged. Six of my boats spoilt, and I couldn't cope.

“Nobody assisted me, I complained and they said the state government will assist us.

“I had to repair the boats to put food on the table," he said.

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Veteran fisherman, Yunusa Aliyu claims to be making at least N10,000 daily from the fishing business before the incident.

The reverse is the case now.

"Before the tragedy, this place used to be a market and people came to buy fish from us. I usually make N8,000 to N10,000 daily.

“But, right now our business has crippled because we no longer have boats for fishing," he said.

Community Elders Disappointed with Kano State Government

Some elders in the community are disappointed with the state government’s failure to fulfill its promise to replace damaged boats and provide three modern boats.

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"18 fishing boats got spoilt during the incident, and right now their owners are out of business.

“To add salt to injury, the government is yet to fulfill its promises.

“These people sacrificed their lives and boats during the rescue exercise.

“We are calling the state government to fulfill its promise and assist those involved in the rescue exercise," Mallam Aliyu said.

A traditional ruler, Umaru Bagwai concurs that the government has failed on its promise.

He is however pressurizing the state to fulfill its pledge to the fishing community.

"I spoke with the Governor and he promised that modern boats will be given to the community, but nothing has been done.

“Those that lent their boats to us during the rescue are complaining that we are yet to repair their boats.

“I am calling on the state government to address the plight of the people," he said.

National Inland Waterways Authority Donates Motorised Ferry

Even though the Kano State government has so far been disappointing, the federal government has offered a ray of hope.

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) cheered the community up with the donation of an 18-passenger ferry on April 2.

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The boat can barely serve the needs of the village of about 200,000 people but they told me that a half loaf is better than none.

The captain of the boat, Abdullahi Sani says the boat carries no more than its 18-seater capacity, in order to avert a recurrence of the last disaster which was reportedly caused by overloading.

All the passengers traveling on the boat from Bagwai to Badau also wear life jackets.

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"The agency said the boat can only carry 18 people, including me. So that is what we are doing now.

“And we have mandated that nobody is allowed on the boat without a life jacket," Mr. Sani said.

We Have Fulfilled Our Promise -Kano State Government Spokesman

Efforts to speak to the Local Council Authority were unsuccessful as of the time of filing this report.

But the State Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba says a committee led by the Naval Commander in Kano is handling the provision of the modern boats promised by the state government.

"The issue of the modern boat is being handled by a committee headed by the Naval Commander who is based in Kano.

“They have discussed the issue extensively with good recommendations. So, I am sure whatever the issue is, it is not beyond the state government.

“We saw how the Governor and the Emir of Bichi presented cash donations and food items worth millions of naira to the family of the victims.

“Even those engaged during the rescue exercise I am sure government has assisted them," he said.

Mr. Garba however counters the fishermen’s claims about the government failing to imdemnify them.

He says the government has fulfilled its pledge. He wants the fishermen to formally find out the details of the fulfillment from their local government council.


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