“Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector can be a viable channel for Nigeria’s economic diversification, if…” Engr. Emeka Iloghalu, MD/CEO, FABDA

On the 18th of December, 2018, Anambra State House of Assembly passed into Law the Establishment of the Anambra State Fisheries and Aquaculture Business Development Agency (FABDA) following an Executive Bill from the Governor of the State, Chief Willie Obiano.

The Agency is to drive the growth and stabilization of the Economy of Fisheries and Aquaculture as well as increase the Gross Domestic Product of the sector.

In this exclusive interview with The News Chronicle (TNC), the Managing Director and CEO of the FABDA, Engr Emeka Iloghalu speaks on the Agency, its prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture development in the state and the opportunities that abound in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry.

TNC: To begin with, we would like to have a little background on what FABDA is all about and its mandate.

EI: FABDA simply means Fisheries and Aquaculture Business Development Agency (FABDA) and for what it is worth, Anambra State has the record as the first state to establish this Agency in the country. The agency was set up as a direct result of an executive bill from the governor to the State House of Assembly and the House passed it into Law on the 18th of December 2018 after following due diligence and taking views from various stakeholders to make it wholesome.

Then the Governor appointed my humble self as the pioneer Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Agency on the 1st January 2019.

FABDA is a start-up agency and as such, we have worked following the Law to build the foundations that will carry and drive the realization of the lofty expectations which government has for the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector. 

The Agency is charged with the responsibility of establishing operational orders, structure and standards, coordinating all the activities in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain in the state, harmonizing and synchronizing the different businesses for greater effectiveness, efficiency, governance, regulation, productivity and growth.

To achieve this, we started with organizing the private sector and guiding them to have leadership and coordination with a President that presides over the activities of the actors in the value chain just like the Chamber of Commerce structure.

The agency has established in their interaction with the stakeholders and actors in the sector, 16 distinct segments in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain.

These segments have their unique characteristics and operations that are all interlinked and continuously adding value to the business of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The traditional role of government is to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive and that is what we have done and are still doing in FABDA.

Through this instrumentality, we have put in focus, all that is required to make the sector profitable while growing.

No other state has established such Agency except Anambra State.

TNC: You spoke of coordinating activities in the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector.

In very specific terms, what are those innovations the Agency has brought into this area? 

EI: Aside from organizing the owners (ie stakeholders and actors) of the sector, a major innovation by this Agency is the introduction of operational standards and streamlining of the segments.

As the name implies, FABDA looks to develop the business aspects of Fisheries and Aquaculture to blend with the professional fish production aspect to grow the sector as a whole.

Before now, the Ministry of Agriculture had all the players classified together under one platform and refers to them as Fish farmers, but we have disrupted that arrangement to make room for better-defined business operations.

The Fish Farmers arrangement not only hinders the individual growth of the different actors but also tends to cripple the growth of the sector.

What we are working to achieve is to untangle these complexities, ambiguities and amorphous state of the so-called Fish farming to rather distinguish the actors and optimize their individual and collective capabilities and capacities as against the bundled arrangement.

The distinction helps to identify key growth indices that in turn enable the segments to grow distinctively and concurrently.

Scaling of the operators helps in streamlining their individual(segment) needs and ordering the approach to resolving them.

FABDA has adopted a categorization of operators in terms of capacity and revenue potential.

All these categorizations help to bring uniform operators together so that their challenges can be approached from a comprehensive point of view.

This also helps Fish producers to know what their input specification is and be able to determine their output targets.

That way the state has an organized and comprehensive data on fish production and the operators will be able to maintain their scales of operation and move from one scale to another like micro-scale to small and from small scale to medium and then to large scale, etc.

Part of the standards we are introducing includes regulating the kind of feeds and medicine used to grow fish especially use of antibiotics among other unhealthy practices; we have Professional arms like Fisheries Officers, Veterinary Services, etc in our Agency that looks after these.

We are also collaborating with other relevant professionals across the various segments of the value chain to adopt best practices in all the aspects of fish production and business promotion.

TNC: Are there projects you have accomplished or working on presently?

EI: We have succeeded in establishing the consciousness of orderliness and business planning in this sector in Anambra state. And it is a major achievement because without planning any amount of money injected into the sector will continue to dissolve into thin air.

One other landmark achievements we want to leave behind is our Fish production villages that we have designed to work in franchise models across the state.

The pilot phase of this initiative will be done first in the three senatorial districts and the funds are ready.

The model is to delineate all the segments in the Fisheries and Aquaculture value chain in the lines of business operations and units (i.e Table Fish production, Fingerlings production, Fish processing which includes fillets production, smoked Fish production, steak production, etc). These segments will form the star output of the distinct fish villages while there will be other ancillary activities.

We expect that private investors will buy into the model and begin to replicate them across all the local governments and communities of the state.

This is the laudable vision that Governor Willie Obiano had in setting up the FABDA and it has set the state on a progressive course.

TNC: Most laudable initiatives of governments have gone down the drain because the people did not buy into it. In the short period, this Agency has lasted, what has been the response of the operators in the industry to these innovations the Agency is bringing?

EI: The operators and actors have realized and are very relieved that there is now a dedicated Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture business Development; first of it’s kind. It is now institutionalized.

FABDA was established to institutionalize the development of Fisheries and Aquaculture businesses in the state. Things come in order and sequence. You can’t have standards when you don’t have an organization. 

First of all, we are getting the practitioners properly orientated to have them get further and proper buy-in into the emerging order.

We cannot just as government, come out and begin to implement in the air.

So we are working to galvanize the actors who are the owners of the sector to fully and properly buy into the initiative.

How this thing works is that the Law has been passed, an MD/CEO has also been appointed, an address has been created, the Private sector has been organized with leadership structure and actors have been identified and uniform associations formed. The various Fisheries Associations existing earlier were not disturbed.

An interactive platform was created and this has injected life into the business and a lot of fish producers are keying into what we are doing.

We see where the gaps are and we are linking up all the actors.

So, in a few months, the country will be seeing the benefits of materializing and manifesting in concrete terms.

TNC: You have spoken quite a lot about the investments of government in revolutionizing this sector and I am motivated to ask- What prospects are there in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Business?

EI: There are lots of prospects and opportunities in the Fisheries and Aquaculture business. This is because there are various Segments in the value chain and these are money-making opportunities.

However, to be able to get something out of the businesses, one needs to first, look at the scope of the industry and the different peculiarities in the value chain and with that, you begin to see where your interest lies and where you have a comparative advantage and be able to make an informed choice.

This is the kind of industry we are building through FABDA.

We are also working on the Centre of Excellence, some investors are already in the state and we are discussing with them.

Some projects have been designed to be producing the seed fish and then also off-take the grown out Fishes; they are dealing with more than one species of Fish.

These investments are designed to blend with our Fish production village Franchises.

We supply them what they need and they off-take what we have.

And then our actors key into the structure business velocity to boost their production and businesses.

This is helping us in building a viable Aquaculture industry in Anambra state.

We are envisaging a Fisheries and Aquaculture industry that will compare effectively with the Oil and Gas, Telecommunications, Banking, Real Estate, etc that have advanced and developed fully.

That way, creating jobs for our teeming youths and growing the larger economy through the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector will keep trending and growing.

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