The solid concrete floor bordering the Lagos Lagoon on the Bar Beach was abuzz penultimate week as visitors, buyers and sellers of seafood intermingle for the second edition of what has become the annual Festival of Seafood. The visitors were not just Nigerians; they include foreigners who were at the beach to relish the fun that characterised the festival and they had it in full.
For those involved in the sales, it was more of a privilege to make a lot of money. On parade were fishes of various kinds: tilapia, catfish, octopus, crayfish, prawns, crabs and salmon in various shapes and sizes. Besides the fresh seafood, dried fishes were also put up for sales in addition to specially prepared fish-based barbecue, well spiced for those in need of hot instant meal.
For visitors that are not interested in barbecue, the fried fish hot on the menu becomes an alternative. But it was not just about eating fishes, meals were also prepared. Topping the list, was pepper soup, where many who have shown some level of competence were giving the privilege to exhibit their skills with some mouth-watering cash reward.
At the end of the competition, Mr. Akinmosi Oluwatobi Samuel came first in the fish pepper soup competition and went home with N500,000, while Muyiwa Boluwatife and Apagume Caleb who finished second and third pocketed the sum of N300,000 and 200,000 respectively.
In his appraisal of the festival, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola described the occasion as symbolic adding that it has created opportunity for grassroots fishermen and people in the riverine communities to showcase their talents and open their businesses to the outside world. He explained that it has not only helped their individual development but has in addition promoted the economic growth of the state.
Speaking through the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Fashola said his administration would continue to support the growth of business opportunities in the riverine areas just like in every other sector so as to make them self reliant and contribute meaningfully to the growth of the economy.
In his remarks, Commissioner for Agriculture and Co-operatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal noted that the festival is being used to celebrate fish farmers and stakeholders in the value chain and boost their productivity.
“Market is one of the major challenges of fish farmers, but this festival has provided an array of opportunities for them to build capacity, bring them closer to the markets so as to boost their economy and eradicate poverty”.
For exhibitors, who include students, traders and fun lovers, the festival is quite instructive. Mr. Paul Ibitua, a Students of Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology said it has afforded him the privilege of learning new things. “I am learning new things how to preserve fishes and all the rest”, he said stressing that he is looking forward to the next edition. He however stressed the need for exhibition of more seafood during the festival.
For the former Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development, Mr. Adenije Adele, the festival is all about reviving the culture of Lagos State. “Lagos is a fishing community and we have lost track of the fact that we are a fishing community”, he said, adding that fishing is part of the culture of Lagos State being a coastal state. “So we have come to celebrate our culture”, he said, adding that the festival will get better and bigger each year.
President Epe Women Farmers Cooperative Union, Alhaji Shabi Aminat who was at the festival with a collection of fresh fish, told our correspondent that sales was impressive last year. Aminat who said she went home with the sum of N250,000 last year said things are cheaper this year since the state government facilitated their movement to the venue with free vehicles.
“Transportation has been reduced the ministry gave us vehicle that brought us down to this place, so we have to remove the transport fee to make it cheaper for buyers. I went home with 250,000 last year”, she said and emphasized the need for more festivals in the coming years.
For Mrs. Margareth Awoyenu, a fish farmer from Ebute-Ero community, the festival has presented farmers with a golden opportunity to sell their wares to willing consumers.
“I have benefited from the festival because people have been coming to my stand to buy fresh tilapia and catfish, I thank the state government for this programme”, she noted.
Most of the visitors were however delighted that the seafood festival was planned to dovetail into the flag-off of the Lagos Countdown to 2013, which also featured arrays of musicians thus making the occasion a beautiful marriage of fun and business.