During the 17th century. Benin, in the present Edo, was one of the first cities to have street lighting, in any form. Huge metal lamps were built and placed around the city, especially near the king’s palace. The lamps were fueled by palm oil and provided illumination for traffic to and from the palace.
The Portuguese, indeed, confirmed that Benin, at that time, was remarkably different from other African settlements as the city was properly planned with good drainage.
The famous Benin City Wall stood out as a work of wonder. Beyond the city walls, several other walls were constructed to separate the surroundings of the capital into about 500 distinct villages. The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin as the world’s largest earthworks carried out before the mechanical age.
Estimates by New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material input than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.”
These walls, it quoted Pearce “extended for some 16,000 km in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They covered 6,500sq km and were all dug by the Edo people… They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.”
In a bid to reconnect to the glory of the ancient Benin society, the Edo State Government rolled out a mass employment scheme – Edo State Skills Development Agency (also known as EdoJobs) – through which it intends to create 200,000 jobs before the end of the Obaseki administration.
The Obaseki administration unveiled an ambitious programme, tagged “Making Edo Great Again (MEGA),” a 30-year agenda, aimed at leapfrog the state to the club of the 20 top economies in Africa by 2050, an economy of the current size of the nation of Mali.
The most recent data ranks Edo the seventh state in terms of GDP size while Lagos, Rivers and neighbouring Delta sit atop the table. The GDP size of the least of the three top states is about 50 per cent higher than that of Edo, which is working towards resetting the rating in 30 years when it intends to displace Oyo, Imo and Kano as well as take off one of the big three.
In 2020, Edo State IGR to total revenue ratio was 32 per cent as against a national average of 36 per cent. Its loan to revenue was 219 per cent. The government, at different occasions, accepted that the state’s fiscal position was not an exciting story but assured that it would continue to improve on the figures.
MEGA appears to have started already. A $1 billion six million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA) Okpella cement plant built by Dangote Group has commenced production, joining BUA Cement Plc, which had previously turned the comatose Edo Cement Company facility into a six million MTPA plant.
Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company, a modular refinery project executed with Chinese partners, is creating new vibes in the hitherto restive Ologbo community where it is sited.
“The Edo refinery is ready to receive crude oil; it is ready to process and deliver products. The pre-commissioning has been conducted by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and the refinery has been certified as ready for production.
Ologbo, a community in Edo State, plays host to the 55 megawatts (MW) Ossioma Power Plant. The project operation is secured by three licenses from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) – a generation, independent electricity distribution network and an eligible customer (willing buyer-willing seller) licenses – giving it an end-to-end privilege in the power value chain.
The Edo Production Centre, a pilot scheme, which is supported by the Ossisioma facility is another economic facilitation novelty.
Supported with reliable and affordable power supply, the production centre houses about 42 small-scale businesses (SMEs), some of which operate round the clock. The operators range from fashion, entertainment, metalwork to waste management, and other enterprise areas.
A replica of the production hub is the Edo Innovation Centre, where thousands of youths are trained in entrepreneurship, project management, solar panel making, computer appreciation, graphics, website design and other relevant skills in modern computing.
Gov. Obaseki had noted, during his pitch, that the Edo Tech Park aligned with the state’s vision to develop a “globally competitive digital economy for the benefit of Edo citizens by 2025.”
Through the programme, the state intends to produce 15,000 elite software engineers in collaboration with Decagon by 2025. The state government provided the physical infrastructure while Decagon brought the technical and organisational expertise required to produce the talents.
Governor Obaseki appears to be building the new Edo State in the image of the glorious Benin past.