Much has been said of the Benin bronze sculptures – indeed the mention of Edo state amongst outsiders invokes visions of bronze heads and natives clad in beads. This is the testament to the fame of the Benin – Bini art. It was this same grandeur that made the Dutch geographer Olfert Dapper in 1668 compare the Oba’s court and the development favorably to that of Europe. Even back home here in Africa, the Queen Idia ivory mask was made the official symbol of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC 1977.
It nonetheless would be a great disservice to other art forms and indeed the other ethnic groups and tribes that today make up Edo state if we do not regard them, as there are worthy of mention in their own right.
In the literary arts, Dr. Festus Iyayi won the Commonwealth Prose prize in 1989 while Funsho Aiyegina won the poetry prize of the Association of Nigerian authors with his poetry with his poetry collection – ’A Letter to Lydia and other poems’.
In the performing arts, the state is home to numerous troupes and groups including the Edo Cultural Group, Uyi Edo Theatre Group, Inneh troupe, to mention a few.
The Uneme-Nekhua and the South Uneme people in Akoko Edo and Etsako West LGAs are known for being good blacksmiths, with particular skill in making traditional ceremonial swords. Gold and silversmiths abound in cities in the state fabricating ornaments. Somorika, Auchi, Igarra, and Ubiaja are major centers of traditional cloth weaving with colorful prize winning motifs. Ojah, also of Akoko Edo is renowned for its fine pottery.
The state government has been making highly commendable efforts to revitalize the tourism in the state as can be witnessed by the unveiling of tourism information desks at the Benin Airport to enlighten visitors to the tourist sites of the state. The last Aba festival held in Igarra, Akoko Edo LGA boosted the economy with 450 million Naira injected by the over one million people who graced the occasion. (The state has a population of between 5 to 7 million people by estimates.) The state is in the process of reviving and rebranding tourist sites – a whole 58 of them, including historical sites in Unuamen village of Oba Esigie and Queen Idia fame, tourist sites like Olekhu Namebo, Odigi shrine, and Okebu – the site of Queen Idia’s hosting of Udo warriors. Strides are being made to bring the culture back to the schools, with cultural clubs being commissioned and teachers in their hundreds being trained to teach the indigenous languages in schools. The state clearly is taking culture seriously with plans to build the Benin Cultural Heritage Complex on land given by the Oba of Benin.
Art galleries are not uncommon in Benin City, the state capital particularly on Airport and Mission roads. The Edo Festival of Arts and Culture EDOFEST held in December put the state’s culture and tourism destinations on the show with a movie premiere – ESOHE, music and cultural shows, seminars and talk shows, photo exhibitions amongst others.
There are positive signs as the British museum held talks with other European museums on possibly returning the Bini bronze statues. This would be a welcome catalyst in the state’s drive towards exploring its tourism potential as they would be on permanent display.
The future is indeed bright for the Edo arts, as traditional, informal means of learning and guilds continue to prosper. Formal education in the indigenous arts is also buoyant as both the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi and the University of Benin, Ekhenhuan campus play major roles in educating the eager students. Ceramic work, sculpting and metal works are course options in the Fine and Applied Arts department of the University of Benin and quality statues, sculptures, paintings, metal and ceramic works can be found on display in the open and in the various studios in the campus premises. Ibukun Emmanuel, a student of the Auchi Polytechnic was a social media sensation as he showed off his work – a carved bust of the Oba, with the canvas – a living tree.
The Edo State Government has made it its mission to make the state the industrial hub of the South-South through the development of industrial clusters and free trade zones. Below is a map showing the location of these zones, parks and clusters (proposed and ongoing projects)
All is set for the smooth take-off of the planned Benin Industrial Park close to the Azura-Edo power plant with the receipt of the Preliminary Report by Governor Godwin Obaseki. The power plant would deliver much-needed additional power to Nigeria, and, in turn, the broader West African power grid. The project is expected to provide access to affordable electricity to about 14 million residential consumers at a fraction of the cost of self-generated power.
The state enjoys a logistical `advantage` due to its unique location as an entry point to the South-South and Niger Delta region from the west and north of the country. The Benin – Ekpoma – Auchi – Abuja expressway linking the Northern parts of the country and the countries capital. With the Auchi Abuja road to the north. Onitsha and the Niger to the east, Lagos to the south, the Niger Delta and creeks to the south-east. The River Niger passes by the state, with five LGAs border the Niger amongst them Etsako Central, Etsako East, Esan South East.
With the planned opening of the Gelegele inland seaport, it is expected that it would drive commercial activities, opening up options for transporting goods to the creeks and Lagos lagoon. Traffic crossing the Niger via the bridge could also cross the Niger via barges from Agenebode.
The state has an airport – The Benin Airport, in Benin City – plans have been concluded to upgrade it an international airport with support for cargo, extend the runway, upgrade landing systems with adequate radio equipment that will enable the airport to handle day and night flights even in adverse weather conditions within 12 months (March 2018).
Of the factors responsible for industrialization, viz suitable political climate, technological advancement, presence of raw materials; the dearth of infrastructure has been the bane of industrialization in Nigeria. In the South of the country, no doubt blessed with resources – human and mineral, the problem of epileptic power supply stands out from the rest. Whilst industries can sometimes insulate themselves from the general infrastructural decay, the malaise of inefficient power cannot be easily avoided.
There are inherently opportunities in every problem, the epileptic power situation in Nigeria is no different. The Edo state government realising that the cost and availability of power plays a prominent role in the decision making process of investors when seeking suitable locations has made it its priority to explore the power generation potentials of the state. Edo state sees itself well placed to be the first choice location for power projects for these reasons:
The Azura-Edo IPP is a 461 MW Open Cycle Gas Turbine power station being constructed near Benin City in Edo State. It is the first phase of a 1,500 MW IPP facility.The plant is being executed in three phases; Phase 1 is now over with the construction completed eight months ahead of schedule in May 2018; Phase 2 will be the conversion into combined cycle with a capacity of between 670 MW; and Phase 3 will be an extension to Phase 1 and 2. Located on a 100 hectare site, there is ample room to accommodate future expansion of the power plant.
The electricity sector in Edo State is undergoing an unprecedented transition. Today, Azura power is providing affordable, secure and reliable electricity by attracting investors with low risk, stable returns. A month ahead of the planned official commissioning of its 450 megawatts (MW) capacity power generation plant located in Benin City, Edo State, Azura Power has announced the completion of its whole plant run, indicating that all of its three turbines with a collective output of 450MW have been deployed in Nigeria’s national grid.
The $900 million power plant was originally supposed to be completed around December this year, but it achieved a construction timeline cutback record of about seven months, and was thus planned for commissioning in May. The coming on grid of its three units could, however, improve the total amount of electricity available to the national grid by 450MW.
Edo-Azura Power sector provides enormous potential for investors. Manufacturing companies from Nigeria in Ghana, are set to relocate to Benin City, Edo State and take advantage of the liberal investment incentives here and improved power supply from Azura. Edo-Azura will provide electricity for industrial customers, typically, facilities and equipment which use electricity for processing, producing, or assembling goods; including diverse industries, such as manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and construction would prosper with uninterrupted electricity supply.
Edo-Azura power project will contribute to ensuring adequate and reliable electricity supply that is necessary for Nigeria’s continued economic development. It will also support private sector participation, capacity development and better governance in Transmission Company of Nigeria and sector institutions, Multinationals or Medium, Small or Micro-Entrepreneurs (MSMEs) should relocate to Edo State.
Edo State has three ecological zones: in the south, the rain forest, with some mangrove swamp; in the central, a little rain forest and savannah; and in the north, more savannah and a little rain forest. The vegetation belts of the state can be generalized into: Fresh Water Swamp, Lowland Rain Forest and Derived Savanna. Edo State is endowed with favorable climatic conditions and ecological conditions that have given ground to a blossoming agricultural sector? (Subsistence farming). The state enjoys almost nine months of rainfall in the southern part of the state. The state’s weather can be classified into two seasons: rainy season starting from April to October and dry season from November to March with a cold harmattan spell between December and January. Prominent crops grown in the state include rubber, oil palm, cashew, cassava, rice, maize and cocoa.
The state has an estimated 1.1 – 1.6 million hectares of cultivatable land, accounting for 70% of its total land mass. The state derives an estimated 40% of its revenue from proceeds from agriculture.
Growing the potential of agriculture in the state has been a priority for the state government. There have been numerous initiatives aimed at engaging the youths in agriculture. Recently, as part of a larger plan to cultivate 5000 hectares of farmland across the state, the state government revamped the Edo Fertilizer Plant and Chemical Company, Auchi in a private public partnership (PPP) initiative with WACOT limited to manage the facility – the facility is the only one of its kind in the region and is expected to also serve demand from Ondo, Delta, Kogi and other neighboring states. The state also in another PPP initiative with Saro Agro Sciences Limited to run a 450-hectare maize farm with the aim of making feed.
Rubber is grown in Esan, Owan, Orhiomwon, AkokoEdo, Ovia and Uhunmwode areas of the state. The state also houses the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria, Iyanomo, Edo state.
Rice, the most consumed food commodity in Nigeria is grown in the state in commercial quantities in Ekpoma, Ilushi, Agbede, Agenebode and surrounding areas.
The state grows over 200million tonnes of cassava annually. Pineapples are grown in Ehor LGA. The state is the largest producer of oil palm in the country, also housing the National Institute for Oil Palm Research NIFOR.
The Benin River Port hopes to bring more economic activities to the state. China Harbor has signed a memorandum of Understanding with the state government to execute the project. The government has assured that Security is guaranteed, as the government strengthens ties with the navy and police. It is anticipated that by September, the state government would secure additional funding arrangement which will facilitate the actualization of the project.