In early 2013 when Boko Haram insurgents launched several attacks in different parts of Borno State, the Lake Chad Basin was one of the areas affected.
This attack caused Musa Ibrahim and a cluster of other fishermen to flee and find safety in Maiduguri, the state capital.
It was a terrible journey as they trekked hundreds of kilometres, following dangerous roads for three days. Along the journey, some died of hunger and thirst.
“I think if not for God, I couldn’t have survived this,” Ibrahim told Prime Progress.
Ibrahim had not always lived in the Lake Chad area. He is originally from Makurdi in Benue State, where he started his trade as a fisherman. His fishing expeditions would later make him leave Makurdi as a teenager to live in the Lake Chad region.
“It’s a nice place for fishing, but unfortunately, the insurgency over the years has destroyed everything,” he expressed.
After escaping the Lake Chad region attack in 2013, Ibrahim settled in Maiduguri; but those were his most difficult days because he had no means to meet his family’s needs until he heard of Alau Dam.
Alau Dam is a body of water in the Kachallari community of Konduga Local Government Area in Borno State. Forty years ago, it was a river with one Baba Iro, who came from Chad Republic, said to be the first fisherman there. Later, the river was turned into a dam.
These days, from October of an outgoing year to May of a new year, fish is found in larger quantities from every depth of the dam, making the Kachallari community a fishing ground for people displaced by the insurgency that has killed over 35,000 people and displaced over 2.5 million others. It is a place where victims of war come to fish to feed their families.
Ibrahim’s son, Abdullahi, wanted to be a carpenter. Still, the wealth of fish in this dam inspired him to become a fisherfolk like his father and grandfather after graduating from primary school.
“I wanted to do something else. But nobody will help my father as the work is too much for him, so I joined him,” he said.
Amid job scarcity and rising crime rates, fishing in the dam has also become the resort of some graduates milked from the University of Maiduguri and other tertiary institutions in the state.
“You see, here, everything is different. The day you start fishing, you would get paid. No matter how little it may be. You don’t need to become a professional first like in tailoring or carpentry, where you need to learn for a while before starting to earn,” Ibrahim Aminu, a 26-year-old graduate from the University of Maiduguri, told Prime Progress.
Aminu also inherited the fishing business from his father. He goes to the Alau Dam on weekends from far away Bolori area in Maiduguri to fish.
“We mostly work in groups, and each can make a maximum of N10,000 daily. As an educated person, I hope to bring technological innovations into the business,” he added.
But due to persistent heavy rains, mainly in July and August, the dam is filled with excess water that subjects it to flooding, putting lives and properties at risk, damaging farmlands and destroying pathways around the community, and making it difficult to move across.
“You know how sad this can make you feel. Sometimes, it’s older people who have families. It’s tragic,” lamented Ibrahim, who also said many children have drowned in the waters.