As part of measures to further showcase its tourism potentials to the world, Edo state government has commenced reclamation of the historical Benin moats that had been hitherto, encroached upon, filled with refuse as well as overgrown with weeds.
The moats also known as the walls of Benin was described by Guinness Book of World Records in 1974 as the World’s second largest man-made structure after the Great Wall of China.
It was added to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) World Heritage Tentative List on 1 November 1995 in the Cultural category.
Speaking with our correspondent recently on the development, Assistant Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Mr Godwin Odigie, said, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, had directed the ministry to embark on the project to preserve the Benin heritage to attract tourists.
“This administration is very passionate about tourism, so he has given a mandate that we should make sure that the Benin moats are reclaimed and brought to standard”, Mr Odigie said.
The moats which is called ‘Iya’ in Benin language, were built as a defense around great Benin Kingdom (now Benin city) during the time it engaged in wars.
The Tourism officer said, parts of the man-made earth works would be used to control flood in the Edo state capital, while others will be preserved for future generations and as well rake in revenue from tourism for the government.
In his words, “We are reclaiming it to make it attractive to tourists, to sustain it for posterity because we have been told by UNESCO that although the purpose of the moats was for defense in the time past but now it has been overtaken by events.
“The outer part of it would be used to channel flood in respect to the Benin water storm project, while the inner part would be reclaim and preserve for posterity so that our children, when they grow up will see it and when tourists visit we will show them what we have so we can now market it for revenue yielding”.
According to historical records, in the year 1280, Oba Oguola commenced the construction and decreed further construction of the moats around Benin to protect the city from invaders, which was however completed in the 15th century by Oba Ewuare N’ Ogidigan.