Argungu Fishing Festival 2020 – Too close for comfort?

This year's Argungu Fishing Festival in northern Nigeria came uncomfortably close to the start of a Corona pandemic that has seen social distancing become the norm.

Images from the March 2020 Argungu Fishing Festival have provoked questions over the wisdom of holding such a huge gathering in the face of a growing wordwide Corona pandemic. However, the massive river festival, unrivalled in Africa, and held in late March, is being touted as a win for Nigeria after the event attracted visitors from across the region and stimulated economic growth in Kebbi State, which hosts the event.

The event – which saw 20,000 fishermen vie for the prize for the biggest fish – was held shortly before the region started imposing restrictions on movement in an attempt to lessen the impact of the Covid-19 virus.

The 60th edition of the event was important for Nigeria’s government, which presented it as a “return to normal” for the area, after a hiatus of ten years due to security concerns.

The waterways around Argungu fishing village are home to enormous giant perch and a purse of some USD 15,000 draws treasure seekers to the Matan Fada waterwa, which also harbours crocodiles in addition to the huge fish. Some fishermen use only their bare hands – a technique known elsewhere as “noodling”, to catch their prize fish.

The event, which first took place in 1934 and today is combined with a regional motor rally, polo tournament and other events, has historically drawn thousands of tourists as well as regional politicians. Initially part of a peace initiative between rival powers – the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom – the event has become a regional phenomenon and is also increasingly popular among photographers hoping to catch trophy pictures.

Given the size of this years crowd – particularly around the grandstands where VIP’s watched the event – next year’s event could be even larger.

This 2020 fishing prize went to Abubakar Ya’u, who landed a fish of 75 kilograms.

(Video courtesy of Shengolpix)

Prize Nile Perch on display at the 2020 Argungu Fishing Festival