Fishermen at Ibaka community in Mbo Local Government of Akwa Ibom State yesterday protested incessant kidnaps by suspected pirates.
They also complained that their outboard engines and boats had been stolen by the hoodlums, thereby crippling their source of livelihood.
The protest followed abduction of four fishermen (three Ghanaians and one Nigerian), last Thursday by suspected pirates on Ibaka waters, near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Nigerian Navy.
It was, however, learnt that the victims were released on Sunday after their captors collected N3.5million ransom.
Peeved about the situation, hundreds of fishermen, including youths, women and children, carried placards and trooped to the entrance leading to the FOB, Nigerian Navy.
They expressed disappointment that the Navy, Marine Police and the state government had not done enough to secure Ibaka waters, to enable them operate.
Some of the placards read:
Fishermen lives Matter, We are tired of paying ransom, Federal Government give us security, enough is enough, Federal Government, Navy stop sea piracy now and End to Kidnapping Now.
Addressing reporters during the protest, the Chairman of Fishermen Multipurpose Cooperative, Chief Effiong Etim Numah, lamented the plight of fishermen in the hands of pirates.
We are protesting, based on what we have encountered in the past, after reports and petitions to the government, which have fallen on deaf ears.
To mention a few, only this year, we members of the Fishermen Multipurpose Cooperative have lost 23 outboard engines to pirates. They have abducted 10 of our fishermen, demanding huge amount as ransom.
We have explained and notified security agencies. It was only last month that the Forward Operating Base Nigerian Navy had a general patrol for only one week. That patrol helped us to enjoy a little peace on the water. After that one week, this thing continued.
On a daily basis, pirates kidnap and seize our boats. We are here to let the world know that we are dying. We are common fishermen and this is our only means of livelihood. We are not farmers or traders.
Because of sea piracy, the economy of Akwa Ibom State is suffering. In the first kidnap, the pirates demanded N46million before our colleagues were released. We petitioned the Department of State Security (DSS) on the incident.
Between last week and this week, they have kidnapped seven of our fishermen and demanded N3.6million ransom. It was just yesterday that they were released after we paid the ransom.
The Youth President of Ibaka community, Victor Otobo, said it was unfortunate that the pirates had graduated from stealing of outboard engines to kidnapping for ransom.
He said if the situation was not brought under control by security agencies, the fishermen might be forced to vacate Ibaka waters and relocate to safer places to carry out their occupation.