Idabato — The people of Idabato, in the Bakassi Peninsular, have again been visited by a ravaging fire that left some 12 houses in ashes. Talking to CT, the Divisional Officer of Idabato, Mr. Kernyuy Tah Patrick blamed the fire outbreak on negligence on the part of fishermen smoking fish. "We are dealing with fishermen. This incident is the result of negligence in handling fire in the process of smoking fish. Somebody went into the kitchen, lighted fire and abandoned it. So, when the person went and slept, nobody was left to control the fire," the Divisional Officer explained.
The inferno which occurred at 12 midnight on Friday November 30, 2012, is not a strange phenomenon in the largest fishing settlement in Bakassi where almost 90 per cent of the population is involved in fishing-related activities. And this fire incident has not taken the Divisional Officer by surprise. "The issue of fire here in Idabato is not a new thing. Fire incidents are year in year out and even month in month out. We give the fishermen simple instructions on how to avoid these recurrent fire disasters. We advise them to look for different locations to smoke fish not where they live. But they don't follow our instructions. As a result, you'll see a wealthy fisherman who will be forced to re-start life from zero because fire has consumed all he had. We have also made proposals to the government on how to pre-empt these fire incidents," the DO said.
Concerning the affected families, the Divisional Officer regretted that most of them had run away or were in hiding erroneously thinking that the administration will take measures against them. When the incident occurred, the DO revealed, "I visited the affected area but to my greatest surprise I met only a few family members. I comforted them and asked them to tell me the truth about the incident so that we can map out solutions to avoid these fire incidents in future. But they were afraid and even hid the names of victims. This does not help us."
As in most of Idabato, the ravaged houses were makeshift thatched structures. Because of the lack of storage facilities, the only means of preserving fish is by smoking.