The Argungu fishing festival is the most popular festival in Northern Nigeria. It is a festival celebrated in Kebbi State and has been held since the 16th century. Today, the festival is a four-day annual event in the Northwestern part of Nigeria. This region is made up of fertile river areas (Matafanda, Mala and Gamji) with much irrigation and orchards. The majority of the fishermen are followers of Islam and also predominantly farmers. The festival was originally celebrated as a religious festival; it was transformed in the early 19th century by Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, the ruler of Sokoto, when he stormed the Kebbi Empire during a jihad and took control; he subsequently founded a village that he named ‘’Argungu’’.
The festival brings a lot of spectators from different parts of the country and abroad. At the beginning of the major event, 5000 fishermen and women gather close to the river, and at the sound of a gunshot, they all dive into the river. They are given an hour to catch the largest fish. Competitors are only allowed to use traditional fishing tools and many prefer to catch fish entirely by hand. The practice of hand-catching of fish is called ‘’Noodling’’. This is done to demonstrate their prowess. The traditional fishing tools used are nets and gourds made of calabash.
The competitors are joined by canoes filled with drummers and men rattling huge seed-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters. The person who catches the largest fish is awarded the prize money of $7000 dollars. In 2005, the winning fish weighed 75kg and needed men to hoist it on top of the scales.
Apart from the fish-catching competition, there is canoe racing, wild duck hunting, barehanded fishing, diving competitions and swimming. Afterwards, there is drinking, singing and dancing into the night.
The festival always marks the end of the growing season and the harvest. A one mile (1.6 kilometers) stretch of the Argungu River is protected throughout the year. This is done so as to have many fishes during this one-hour fishing frenzy. Kebbi State is also doing their best to preserve this tourist center.
Argungu Fishing Festival is also called Argungu Dance Festival. The festival has since grown into one of the most popular festivals in Nigeria and beyond. Tourists and guests always troop in large numbers from Europe, South East Asia, North America and neighboring African countries.