-BY AMUDA DAN SULAIMAN FAB
Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, on Sunday went agog as the local government Sole Administraor, Hon. Lawal Shiru, declared Dankwo annual Fishing Festival open.
Shiru, was led to the venue by officials of the local government council where he declared the festival open.
This year’s Dankwo fishing festival marked the 147-year-old anniversary which symbolizes victory.
The residents who were dressed in colourful attire and traditional costumes, were seen chatting songs to commemorate the age-long festival.
In his welcome address, Shiru said efforts are being made by the Kogi Stat Government to upgrade the Lokoja Annual Dankwo Fishing Festival to an international standard.
“The steps to upgrade the fishing festival would no doubt improve the socio-economic well-being of the people of the state,” he said.
He assured the Lokoja youth of gainful employment, adding that the era of marginalization is over.
The Sole Administrator, therefore, called on all sons and daughters in the kingdom to continue to live in peace with one another, irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religious differences, saying a society which lacks peace and unity will not achieve any meaningful development.
The local government Administrator recalled that the people of Lokoja have been celebrating the fishing festival since 1871, saying there has never been a time when they jointly celebrate the festival with anyone, even as he stressed the need for the people of the area to continue to maintain peace.
He equally commended the state commissioner of police, Mr. Ali Janga for his concerted efforts in providing adequate security for a hitch-free festival, saying the high presence of law enforcement agents has no doubt encouraged large turn out of people to the occasion.
Speaking at the event, the representative of Maigari of Lokoja, Alhaji Ali Lawal Jiya, described Lokoja as a peaceful town, urging the people of the area to remain law abiding.
He expressed delight that the festival was held under a peaceful atmosphere, stressing the need for the youths not to do anything that would disrupt the existing peace in Lokoja and its environs.
Jiya maintained that violence does not pay, saying anyone caught threatening the peaceful co-existence of the people of Lokoja would be reported to the police, even as he expressed happiness that those who signed the peace treaty concerning the fishing festival have all abided by their commitments.
He therefore, urged the State government to intensify efforts in upgrading the Dankwo fishing festival to a standard one, so that it will attract investors and foreigners, as well as create job opportunities for the teeming youths of the area.
Jiya, who is a retired permanent secretary, observed that the fishing festival has economic importance not only to the kingdom, but Nigeria at large, saying that it showcases the importance of fisheries and agriculture, as well as serves as an aspect of the entertainment industry.
The event that commenced at about 8 a.m. yesterday, was heralded by various cultural groups such as Nupe and Hausa and many ethnic groups in the kingdom, who converged at the river Bank.
The fishermen, who came from various communities of the kingdom with majority of them carrying fishing nets went into the river scrambling to catch a fish.
People from different walks of life and dignitaries, including the state commissioner of Police, Mr. Ali Janga, traditional tittle holders from Lokoja and Koton-Karfe and other top government functionaries converged at the river Bank, which was the venue of the event to see who catches the bigger fish.
Some traditional and local musicians were also present at the venue of the event to add colour to the festival.