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FCT fishing festival: Setting agenda for next edition

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ABUJA DIARY with Josephine Ella

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The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration is cognisant of the huge benefit that could be derived from tapping the abundant natural resources deposits in the territory. This informed the staging of the maiden edition of the FCT fishing festival in 2005, which aside the tourism potentials, would encourage fishermen to increase fish production.
Sequel to the approval of the festival by the then FCT Minister,  Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, the Yankara Reservoir in Yaba, Abaji Area Council was chosen as the  permanent fishing festival site for the FCT.
The administration's choice of the site is not unconnected with its beautiful lush green scenery with slow water flow which is said to be safe for ceremonial fishing expedition.
This edition of the Abuja Diary will be running through the pitfalls   which accounted largely for the unexpected outcome of the 2nd edition of the FCT fishing festival, held on April 14 in the Yankara Reservior, Yaba, Abaji and what the organisers,  FCT Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat and the FCT administration must consider if they must record success in the next edition.
That the 2nd edition of the fishing festival failed to meet up with expectations despite the huge fund committed into the project, is stating the obvious.
Not a few observers described the festival as a 'waste of time and resources'. This was evident in the various media reports by many journalists who covered the event.
The unfortunate outcome of the festival further backs up the adage that 'those who fail to plan, plan to fail'.  With proper planning and organisation, which was lacking in the 2nd edition, no doubt, the festival would be a success story in the next edition.
However, the Agriculture secretariat and the FCT administration must in their plans towards the next edition, ensure that trustworthy and committed officials are appointed to headship and members of the respective committees that would handle different aspect of the festival.
The one million question begging for answer after the failure of the last edition of the fishing festival is; how did the Agric secretary manage the N21m that was budgeted for the festival?
In view of the fact that there was nothing at the scenery to justify that this huge amount of money was fully committed to the festival, there are suspicion from some quarters that the fund might have been misappropriated.
Participants capitalised on the absence of coordination, which reflected in all the competitions featured at the event and the grand fishing expedition as well to play fast ones on the judges.
This was responsible for the confusion, cheatings and unruly behaviours by contestants at the event, since there were no rules for the competition, resulting in fights, and leaving some participants with injuries.
Organizers should therefore; set the rules for the competitions and most importantly, the grand fishing expedition, rather than  introducing new rules or changing rules during the game as witnessed in the last edition of the fishing festival.
The professional fishermen, who participated in the competition failed to net in fish deserving of the event.  The biggest catch of the day was according to the judges assessment weighed in at a miserable 4kg.
Outside this, what other contestants were able to come up with were mostly, fingerlings. These left spectators wondering what went wrong.
Contestants attributed this development to the timing of the fishing competition pointing out that the best time for fishing was during the morning hours or evening period and not in blazing sun.
This may not be far from the truth because the   fishing competition actually featured in the afternoon due to the late coming of some of the important dignitaries that graced the event.
In addition, the possibility of the fishes going into hiding during the period could not be ruled out since the water had been disturbed with the initial displays, such as the wild duck hunt, Tulu race, Gora race, embarked upon by contestants before the grand fishing competition.
For this reason, the fish competition should be held at the appropriate time and when the water is still calm, before other displays are staged. With this, it is believed that there will be big catches for spectators to take home at a price at the end of the event.
Also, there were no adequate boats to go round contestants. This resulted to organisers stepping down the boat race when a crisis broke out on account of this.
To forestall this kind of situation, the Agric secretariat must ensure that adequate fishing apparatus and other things needed for the competitions are provided for all participants.
Similarly,   basic facilities like water, was not provided in the temporary convenience deployed to the venue, there were eateries, although a segment was marked out for this purpose.
Many spectators and participants went home hungry, after spending close to 8 hours or more at the event as the only food vendor, who brought in food for sale sold at a highly exorbitant price that many could not afford. Those who could afford the food went home disappointed at the quality of the food which they described as tasteless.
To forestall a repeat of this anomaly in the food section, a professional caterer should be contracted by the organisers to operate Bukataria on the site in the next edition.  
Stepping up the number of participants above the numbers which took part in the competitions and inclusion of exhibition of farm produce and fishing equipment would make the event more colourful

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