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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 11:56 GMT
Nigeria fish festival bans fish
Men fishing at a previous Argungu Fishing Festival

People in north-western Nigeria are angry that fishing has been banned at Kebbi State's Argungu fishing festival.

A fishing competition is the highlight of the festival when fishermen jump into a river and have an hour to scoop the biggest catch for a big cash prize.

But organisers say as the water level is so low the narrow Matan Fada river is very muddy, raising safety concerns for the estimated 30,000 competitors.

The event usually happens in March but was postponed because of a census.

It was rescheduled for October, but had to be postponed again when the sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Nigeria's Muslims, died in a plane crash.

Kebbi State Governor Adamu Aleiro says there will be a fishing display for symbolic purposes to show how the fish are caught using traditional nets and gourds.

But the BBC's Hassan Sahabi in Argungu says that local people are angered that Saturday's event will be something of a damp squib.

The arrival of thousands of fisherman for the competition is usually a good money-making opportunity for them, he says.

The Argungu fishing festival began in 1934 - and was used to mark peace between the former Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom.

The two empires had fought for centuries, and hostilities only ceased with the arrival of the British.

The competition is usually the culmination of a four-day cultural event and a motor rally, musicals and cultural dances are still taking place this year.

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