- The federal government of Nigeria is currently restoring the ancient Benin Moat, one of the greatest earthworks done by man. When properly rehabilitated, the Nigerian Ministry of Culture hopes the 13th to 15th century construction will be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thus attracting more tourists to Edo State.
The Benin Moat - or Iya, as it is termed locally - was originally constructed as a defence work surrounding Benin City, capital of one of the oldest kingdoms of the region. Built to an original height of more than 18 meters, and a length of 1,200 kilometers, the Iya was constructed in three stages. It was finalised around 1460, at that time being the world's largest earthwork.
As the Iya lost its protective functions, it was however left to fall into disrepair. The Benin City Walls were ravaged by the British in 1897. Since then, portions of the walls have "gradually vanished in the wake of modernisation," according to Edo State. Though the walls and moats have been protected by national legislation since 1961, no conservation plan exists.
After the monument now has turned out to be a site of importance for Nigeria's cultural history and tourism, the federal government recently accepted responsibility to protect the Benin moat.
Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Nchita Ogbuewu, now has been in Benin City on a working tour of tourism attractions in Edo State. Here, the Minister announced that the federal government now is to rehabilitate the moat to "restore the glory of Benin Kingdom". This was mainly to promote cultural tourism to Nigeria, however.
Minister Ogbuewu contended that it has become imperative that Nigerian cultural potentials, which have remained untapped for many years, be properly packaged for export. He pointed out that his nation-wide tour was aimed at coming up with a workable approach in packaging tourism for the purpose of marketing locally and internationally.
Speaking during courtesy visit on the Governor of Edo State, "the Minister enjoined the Governor to develop the political will in ensuring that the abundant culture and tourism potentials in Edo State are properly harnessed," according to a press release by the federal govenrment of Nigeria.
Minister Ogbuewu made known that his Ministry is to "work in close collaboration with the UNESCO to ensue that the moat is properly promoted as a World heritage site." Responding, the Executive Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, expressed satisfaction on the political will of the administration in the promotion of tourism as a viable revenue earner.
Chief Igbenedion lamented that successive past governments had neglected tourism, stressing the need for the federal government to back up its determination with the provision of infrastructures that will galvanise its development in Nigeria.
As a step towards ensuring that tourism is given its pride of place, the Edo State government has created the state Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism, "with a view of streamlining culture and tourism programmes," the press release said.
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