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Business is booming at the popular Baga Fish Market in Maiduguri

29 December 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes

Business is once again booming at the popular Baga Fish Market in Maiduguri, which was closed during the insurgency because of frequent attacks by extremists, and was allowed to reopen only seven months ago.

Business was slow at first because the roads used by fish traders to get to the market from regions in Lake Chad were still mainly closed and they were able to deliver their wares only three times a week.

But now fresh fish is brought in daily and market traders say things are close to getting back to normal.

Although situated in Maiduguri, the Baga Fish Market, which is famous in the northeast, got its name from a village in Lake Chad. Baga, in the Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, was hit badly during the insurgency. Most of the inhabitants were fishermen but when insurgents took over their communities they were forced to stop fishing altogether or to pay high levies to the extremists before they were allowed to fish.

Most of the roads leading from Lake Chad regions were closed – some by the insurgents, some by the military – meaning the traders were unable to deliver their fish to the market.

Fishermen lost their sole means of livelihood and, when the market was closed, traders also lost their jobs.

But now they’re back, the roads have been reopened and the market traders are thriving.

RNI reporter Aisha SD Jamal spoke to traders at the market.

Suleiman Yusuf said: “I sell raw fish. It is brought in from various local government areas and villages, such as Konduga, Bama, Aloe and from Baga town on the shores of Lake Chad.

“Transporting fish was banned because of the insecurity caused by the insurgency. When the market opened seven months ago fish was brought in three times a week. But now we receive fresh fish every day, which is a great improvement.

“Now that there is relative peace again and the market has reopened, we can do business as usual. We went through a very rough time when the market was closed. Many people lost their jobs; some became tricycle riders, others started phone-operating businesses and a lot of people left Maiduguri because there was nothing for them to do.

“People like us carried on selling fish that came from the River Alau in Maiduguri. But River Alau is not as big as the rivers in Lake Chad so, although we continued to trade, it was much less than before.”

Yusuf said life continued like that until the market was reopened.

“We rejoiced when the Baga Fish Market opened again. It was slow to start off with but now it is thriving. We get abundant fish from Baga town. It arrives daily, so we always have fresh fish to sell. We are so grateful to be back in business. As always, some days business is better than others. But we are happy that we have our jobs back and there is peace again.”

He said that, before the market was closed, people in Maiduguri used to buy a lot of fish. However, the insurgency and the high inflation rate had forced the prices to go up and the sales to go down.

“These days, many people cannot afford to buy fish. Sometimes we have to sell it at the price the buyer can pay, which is lower than the going rate. The worsening economy is making life difficult for many of us. We sell the fish to the people at the price they can afford, but that affects our profits. It is saddening. But we are here to sell fish, even if we do not get the higher price, and so we sell it for less.”

Mallam Umar told RNI that the insurgency had made life extremely difficult because the popular fish business between Baga and Maiduguri came to a halt.

“I started buying from fish farmers but it was very expensive and most people could not afford to buy fish at that price. But now we thank God because the business has been reopened and we have abundant fish that is brought in every day from Baga. This means we don’t have to rely on fish farmers within the town and we are getting more customers again.

“During the insurgency we lost many of our colleagues in Baga. Some died in attacks by insurgents, some had accidents, some went missing and we never heard from them again. We do not know what happened to them, but we suspect they might have been abducted and killed by insurgents.

“But now we’re back in business and we are once again doing well. Fish is transported daily from Baga and our businesses are being boosted little by little each day.”

A fish trader, who only gave his name as Kadai, said: “Although the number of customers is still not as much as it was before, we are still doing good business. It is great that we can get fresh fish every day from Baga. I’m certain that once the word gets out that the market is up and running again, like before, more people will return to the market. I think it is the prices that are putting many customers off. But the prices of everything have escalated, and it is not only fish. I think that is a major reason we do not get as many customers as we would like.”


About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal