Obaseki, EU Strengthen Ties, Explore Investment Opportunities in Culture, Others
*Oba of Benin receives FG’s award on arts, culture
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his government was strengthening partnership with the European Union (EU) to sustain gains recorded by his administration in human capacity development, job creation, and tackling illegal migration, among others.
Obaseki said this when he received the Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ms. Samuela Isopi, who was on a courtesy visit, at the Government House, Benin City.
This was just as the Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, has formally received the Most Outstanding Traditional Ruler’s Arts and Culture award, courtesy of the Nigerian government.
Obaseki said the state was consolidating ties with the EU and exploring new areas of investments in the culture and tourism, education, tech and other sectors of the state’s economy.
He said, “We have had a very good and strong relationship with the EU since we got into office in 2016. They have been very supportive of our efforts at stemming the tide of irregular migration and human trafficking from Edo.
“For the successes and achievements we have made in the area of human trafficking and irregular migration, the EU has been a strong ally. They have worked very closely with us and their partner, the IOM, in ensuring they are able to roll out programmes to support victims of trafficking and returnees and help them with resettlement and job opportunities, making sure they are properly integrated into our society.”
Obaseki further noted, “We are now looking at windows for regular migration. How we can collaborate with the EU to create institutions to train our young people, certify and equip them so that they can be properly engaged and employed in Europe.”
On areas of collaboration, the governor stated, “Next year, December 3rd, marks 200 years an Italian archeologist, Giovanni Benzoni, came to and unfortunately died in Benin City and was buried in Ughoton, which we will be celebrating.
“We have gotten positive indication that the EU countries will support our bid to create and make Edo the culture hub of the subcontinent. This is just part of establishing Benin as the culture hub. It’s not only about the return of artifacts but going back to our past and seeing what we have done, how great this place has been and the kind of relationships we have had with Europe through the last few centuries.”
On her part, the EU Ambassador who noted that Edo was one of the first states she was visiting since her arrival into Nigeria, hailed the governor’s development strides across all sectors of the state’s economy.
Highlighting areas of cooperation, the Ambassador noted, “We know the potential that culture has to connect people but also to be a vector for development, especially for the young people. Edo State is a cultural capital. We heard so much about that – the history – and we wanted to come and see with our own eyes. We will visit the cultural sites and we are looking forward to it.
“We also try to use the opportunity to engage with political actors to discuss issues related to elections. The EU has been supporting elections in Nigeria since the return to civilian rule.”
Meanwhile, the Benin Monarch has formally received the Most Outstanding Traditional Ruler’s Arts and Culture award, courtesy of the Nigerian government.
Isopi was among guests when the award plaque was formally handed over to Oba Ewuare II at the weekend in his palace in Benin City.
The Nigerian Government, through the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), the federal government sole custodian of all the materials and other cultural collections used during the FESTAC hosted in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977.
The Oba Ewuare II eldest daughter, Princess Ikuoyemwen Aimiuwu Ewuare, accompanied by some Benin Palace Chiefs, had received the award on behalf of the Oba in Abuja.
During her earlier visit to the palace, the Director-General of CBAAC, Oluwabunmi Ayobami Amao said she had carefully followed the track record of Oba Ewuare II whose impact is not only felt in Nigeria but internationally in upholding the values and traditions of the Benin Kingdom over the years.
Addressing the Benin throne at the weekend, the EU Ambassador Isopi said that the visit to Oba palace was, among others, to establish contact with the sub-national government (Edo State) and the Oba of Benin in the area of cooperation.
She said, “I am very grateful to be in Edo State, which is very unique in Nigeria and beyond; also, for its very rich history and rich culture.
“We are very much impressed with what we have seen about the results that our joint actions have received.
“I thank you and reaffirm to you, our commitment and our thoughts to all Edo people,” Isopi said.
Sharing his personal experience during his diplomatic sojourn to Europe and America, Oba Ewuare II rued the plights of undocumented African migrants in Europe and America.
He harped on the need for a follow up in the prevention of human trafficking and irregular migration, which he noted has scaled down judging by the available data, through sensitization.
Oba Ewuare highlighted the role the Benin throne and Edo State government played in addressing the menace, which he said operates like drugs cartels