Makurdi — Fish business is a lucrative venture that is thriving in Makurdi, the Benue State capital. However, men dominate this market section of what most people elsewhere have come to regard as the turf of the womenfolk.
The fish traders found in different markets across the metropolis are mostly men - young and old - in their zinc and plank sheds taking shelter from the hot sun.
Though, fresh and dried fish are sold in all the major markets such as; the Modern market, Wadata market, High Level market and Wurukum market, the men are major dealers of frozen or ice fish, in the state.
Prospective buyers, mostly women patronize them because they are not only cheerful but they sold at cheaper rates. The men do not abuse customers like the women sellers who find everything wrong during the bargaining process and often end up calling the buyers names, some add.
"The men don't get angry or pick quarrel when you bargain at a low price," Martha, a customer said.
Ofoma Oscar, a fish trader said, "the fish business is better than white collar job. It helps me to make money enough to take care of myself. Though there are bad market days especially on working days but I make a lot of gain on Saturdays. I don't care if it is a woman's world so long I'm fulfilled here."
He said on weekends, when business is good, he realises N7,000 as or more as gain. While on bad market days, he goes home with between N1,000 and N2,000 gain. He said he sells up to six cartons of fish on Saturdays, but on other days only about two to retail customers.
He said he paid N35,000 to register with the association to enable him secure a space at the market.
Chairman of the Ice Fish Sellers Association at Modern market, Mr. Emmanuel Iragbu, an indigene of Abia State, has been in the business in Makurdi for about 10 years. He said the trade is not gender based as anyone can engage in it and make profit.
"In any business, it is not particularly restricted to man or woman. So anybody, regardless of sex, can trade in ice fish," Iragbu said, adding that the business has enabled him to fend for his family - a wife and four children - despite the economic crunch biting hard on certain segments of the society.
The chairman advised those seeking white collar jobs to try their hands on trading as it may even turn out to be more rewarding than what an average civil servant gets at the end of the month as salary.
Similarly, Francis Ngene, Vice Chairman of the association, who has been in the business for over 18 years, counseled the unemployed to look inwards and generate ideas that would enable them to become self reliant instead of waiting for jobs they can hardly get.
Meanwhile, the only female fish seller spotted at the Modern market, Sewuese Kyado, said that it is challenging for her to compete with the men for survival. "I am managing to survive. They feel it is their business, so they treat the women with scorn," she said.
Kyado, a graduate of College of Education, said she was standing in for her elder sister who owns the business to enable her make some money instead of idling away at home.