Catch a 165lb fish and win a minibus at Nigerian festival

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The Independent Online

Drumbeats thump, muskets boom and, like an ancient army of warriors, a formidable line of fishermen charges towards the Matan Fada river, armed only with fishing nets and gourds to keep them afloat.

Drumbeats thump, muskets boom and, like an ancient army of warriors, a formidable line of fishermen charges towards the Matan Fada river, armed only with fishing nets and gourds to keep them afloat.

Plunging into the muddy waters in teams of two, they have just one hour to bring back the catch of the day.

Welcome to the Argungu Fishing Festival, the dramatic end to a four-day cultural jamboree last weekend in the north-western Nigerian state of Kebbi.

The competition, held annually since 1934, is a chance for thousands of traditional fishermen to pit their wits against their compatriots and - if they present the heaviest catch - win a big cash prize and a brand-new minibus.

This year's winning catch weighed in at 165lb. The victor received a reward of one million naira (£4,000), a welcome lifesaver in the poverty-stricken country where most people live on less than a dollar a day.

But for Nigerians, the Argungu is much more than just a talent contest. When it began, it was intended as a peace festival to mark the end of warring between the former Sokoto Caliphate and Kebbi Kingdom, where Argungu town stands.

On Saturday, the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, told cheering crowds: "Argungu will be the best of international tourist attractions."

It is unlikely to aid more than the local economy. Clashes between Christians and Muslims erupt frequently and the area is only likely to attract the most intrepid of travellers in a country with little income from tourism.

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