Benin Moats

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BENIN MOAT (IYA)

A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE

 

THE BENIN MOAT [IYA]

 
The Benin Moat, also known traditionally as Iya, is the largest man-made earthworks in the world. One of the wonders of the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts. The moat encircles the old perimeter precincts of the City and was constructed as a defensive barrier in times of war. {5th} Oba Oguola {about 1280-1295} dug the first and second moats to fortify the City from invaders; Udo warriors “Iyokuo” under the command of Chief Akpanigiakon a powerful war lord, and the ruler of Udo.
 
Oba Oguola further decreed that important towns and Villages should build similar moats as defence systems around their communities.This gave rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs. Oba Oguola succeeded in crushing Chief Akpanigiakon and his powerful armies at the battle of Urhezen about 1285 CE. An extension of the moat was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of {12th} Oba Ewuare the Great (1440-1473 CE).The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long.
Edo, the people of Igodomigodo famously known for almost a millennium as Benin, had built a moat complex to protect themselves in the wars they fought. The defensive fortification of Benin City, the capital, consisted of ramparts and moats, call iya, enclosing a 4000 square kilometer (2485.5 miles) of community lands. In total, the Benin wall system encompasses over 10,000 kilometers (6213.7 miles) of earth boundaries. Patrick Darling, an archaeologist, estimates that the complex was built between 800 and 1000 up to the late fifteenth century (Keys 1994: 16).
Advantageously situated, the Benin Moats were dug in such a manner that earthen banks provided outer walls that complemented deep ditches. According to Graham Connah, the ditch formed an integral part of the intended barrier but was also a quarry for the material to construct the wall or bank (Keys 1994: 594). The ramparts range in size from shallow traces to the immense 20-meter-high (66 feet) around Benin City (Wesler 1998: 144). The Guinness Book of World Records describes the WALLS OF BENIN CITY as the world’s second largest man-made structure after China’s Great Wall, in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.
During the second half of the 15th century, Oba Ewuare the Great (ruled 1440-1473 AD) ordered a moat to be dug in the heart of the city. The earthworks served as a bastion and also afforded control of access to the capital which had nine gates that were shut at night. Travel notes of European visitors also described the Benin walls (e.g. Pacheco Pereira 1956: 130-147; Dapper 1668). It was finalized around 1460, at that time being the world’s largest earthwork.

EDO UNITED GROUP WANTS FG TO RESTORE HISTORIC EDO MOAT,
OR FACE LEGAL ACTION

The Federal Government has been called upon to take steps, within the next few months, to reclaim and preserve the historic Benin Moat, or face legal action in Nigerian and international courts.
by Sahara Reporters Feb 01, 2013

The Federal Government has been called upon to take steps, within the next few months, to reclaim and preserve the historic Benin Moat, or face legal action in Nigerian and international courts.

The notice is contained in a petition dated January 14, sent to President Goodluck Jonathan by the Edo United for Homeland Empowerment, USA, in which the group drew attention to decades of painfully enduring the government’s failure to study, conserve and restore the Benin Moat.

But the government could simply opt to give up its legal interest, the group said. “Either the Government should within the next three to four months embark on a genuine reclamation project of the Moat, or else it should formally relinquish statutory authority over and ownership of the Moat, transferring same to Edo State.

“Failing either of these two actions, we assure you that we will use all legal options to recover our historic property and thereby honor the greatness of our forefathers who constructed it and bequeathed it to us.”

The group said it will take the legal action on behalf of the Edo people as historic owners of the Moat, for violations that include “Breach of contract, Failure to fully protect the moral and cultural interest of the Edo citizens; and Denial of the Benin people’s Rights to benefit from the protection of cultural material interest resulting from scientific progress (as enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Abuse of Traditional and Cultural Heritage, for Negligent Neglect of Declared Historical Landmarks and National Monuments and finally, Dereliction of Duty and Responsibility to the Citizens.”

Full text of the petition:

TO: His Excellency, Dr. G.E. Jonathan, President Federal Republic of Nigeria
Abuja, Nigeria
January 14, 2013
Dear Sir,

Re: Federal Government Failure to Preserve the Benin Moat and Notice of Intent to File a Legal Action

BACKGROUND
The “Benin Moat” (Iya) is the largest earthwork in the world, estimated at 10,000 miles in length and covering 2,000 square miles in area. In volume, it is surpassed only by the Great Wall of China as the largest manmade structure in human history.

SEE:

http://www.csweb.bournemouth.ac.uk/africanlegacy/benin_Iya_earthworks.htm.

Since the 1970’s it has been partially surveyed and analyzed by famous archaeologists including Graham Connah (“The Archaeology of Benin”, Oxford University Press, 1975) and Patrick Darling (“The Ancient Linear Earthworks of Benin and Ishan”, Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology, 1984).

It is obvious that the Moat is the single greatest physical endeavor known in our part of the world, as well as being the clearest evidence for the antiquity and greatness of the civilization currently known as Benin Kingdom the most stable and respected monarchy in Africa today, and which continues to play a commendably progressive role in our political and civic life. Oral tradition says that Benin portion of the moat was originally dug by the Trojan like men of Benin Kingdom during the reign of Oba Oguola and Oba Ewuare the Great as a means of military defense, but other sections have been scientifically dated more than a thousand years before their time. At various times the Moat has served nonmilitary functions such as regulation of taxes, trade and commerce, and possibly also flood control. Attached to this letter is a partial map reprinted from one of the books cited above, hinting at the intricate structure of this engineering marvel.

In all humility we must admit that the Benin Moat just like the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Zimbabwe fort holds from the modern mind, generations’ secrets and treasures which now must be made to manifest the riches of its glory. As patriots we are determined not to allow this priceless ‘heritage to disappear through irresponsibility. A decade ago, the complex was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That was a good initial step, but now is time to follow mere words with real actions. We regret that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has done essentially nothing to rescue this national treasure from neglect, abuse and decay. This is shocking to say about the most important historical and cultural monument within the boundaries of Nigeria.

PROBLEM
Mr. President, having painfully endured decades of government failure to study, conserve and restore the Benin Moat, we, the undersigned executive members of the Edo United for Homeland Empowerment, U S A, being dully mandated, hereby resolve and herein convey (under US Notary Public and Seal) our profound concern on this matter to you as follows.

WHEREAS other Nations, blessed with less significant relics have effectively harnessed their landmarks and monuments as national symbols, the Federal government of Nigeria has ignored this greatest landmark of all;

WHEREAS the Federal Republic of Nigeria, exercising its sovereignty by National legislation declared the Benin Moat a National Monument in 1961, granted same full recognition and proclaim their intension to protect and preserve the Moat, no functional conservation plan has ever existed;

WHEREAS, after surveying the inner and city walls with citations (that in which indicated the highest point of the walls to be 30 ft and the ditch to be 30 feet deep), the Federal government by the Gazette of June 1st, 1967, declared the Benin Moat a National Property, however since then, no meaningful or substantial progress has been made to rescue the site from ongoing and accelerated destruction;

WHEREAS the Federal government Proclamation and recognition of the Moat is in itself an act of eminent domain taking over from Local Authority, the Federal Government has neither exercised due diligence nor sent accrued royalty to the various ethnic communities who were the historic owners of this monument, in compensation for our forefathers’ labor and sweat;

WHEREAS severally the Benin people and the Edo State Government have made repeated passionate appeals to the Federal Government on the simple matter of restoring and preserving the Moat as required by legislation, regrettably however Benin Moat is continually collapsing with irretrievable physical damage;

WHEREAS the Moat is the authentic reflection of the Benin people, their history and identity, a symbol of ancient scientific intelligence, engineering prowess and political organization, and a link to the past which could anchor the future of our people;

WHEREAS our forefathers’ patriotic concern to defend their land and environment is urgently needed today;

WHEREAS cultural tourism is one of the leading sectors of economic growth across most of the world, and yet one of the least developed sectors in Nigeria;

RESOLUTION
NOW THEREFORE, Mr. President, we intend to file a complaint on behalf of the Edo people as historic owners of the Moat, against the Federal Republic of Nigeria for failure to meet its legal obligations mentioned above. The court action will take place simultaneously in Nigeria and in International Courts, for the following violations and more: Breach of contract, Failure to fully protect the moral and cultural interest of the Edo citizens; and Denial of the Benin people’s Rights to benefit from the protection of cultural material interest resulting from scientific progress (as enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Abuse of Traditional and Cultural Heritage, for Negligent Neglect of Declared Historical Landmarks and National Monuments and finally, Dereliction of Duty and Responsibility to the Citizens.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the Federal Government has several options which are not beyond reach. Either the Government should within the next three to four months embark on a genuine reclamation project of the Moat, or else it should formally relinquish statutory authority over and ownership of the Moat, transferring same to Edo State. Failing either of these two actions, we assure you that we will use all legal options to recover our historic property and thereby honor the greatness of our forefathers who constructed it and bequeathed it to us.

Sincerely,

SIGNED

Frank Ekhator (HRA) Chairman, Edo United for Homeland Empowerment, USA.
Omolayo Omoruyi, Secretary General
Emmanuel Okunmwendia, Treasurer
Dickson Iyawe (LLB HONS) BL Chairman, Council of Presidents of Edo National Convention Worldwide (ENAW)
Dr. G. Sam Edo (Ph D, Information Security) Biometric expert and Professor of Information Security, Boston MA
Pat Abbe (RN) Patron, Idia Ladies Club USA
Aliu Otokiti, Secretary General Benin Club of Massachusetts
Francis Edosomwan
Elder Robinson Ekhator
Dr.Kienuwa Obaseki, Board of Trustee, Edo Arts and Cultural Heritage Institute, Secretary General, Edo Okpamakhin Worldwide.
Mrs. Bridget Ekhator
Monday Adenomon
[plus 63 other signatures]

CC
His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo, Uku Akpolokpolor Oba Erediauwa.
Senator David Mark (GCON), Nigerian Senate President.
Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, Edo State Governor.
Hon A. Tambuwal, Speaker National Assembly
Rt.Hon. Uyi Igbe, Speaker Edo State House of Assembly
Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Secretary to Edo State Govt.
Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, the High Priest of Edo land
Chief Sam Igbe, the Iyase of Benin
Hon. Edem Duke, the Federal Minister of Culture and Tourism
Senator Ehigie Uzamare, Senator Representing Edo South
Hon.Michael Airhuoyor, Community Activist and Former Local Govt. Supervisory Counselor for Information, Arts and Culture.
Alhaji Mohammed Ighile, Human Rights Activist, Organizing Secretary, Benin Cultural Heritage Center.
Isaac Umondiagbon Agbontean, Historian, Author of the Origin of Benin People and its Dynasty.
Prof. Friday Iyoha, Former Dean Dept of Management Science, Professor of Political Science, Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma.
Mrs. Abieyuwa Eribo, Special Adviser to Edo State Governor.
The Dean, Dept, of Archeology University OF Benin
Dr Victor Manfredi (Ph D in Anthropology), African Studies Center, Boston University Boston.
Irina Bokava, UNESCO Director General, Paris, France

Enclosed: map of Benin Moat sections in the vicinity of the capital

National monument, Benin Moat…

On the edge of extinction

By Simon Ebegbulem
For its sheer size, complexity and historical significance, the Benin Moat should be attracting the kind of global attention, if not more, attracted today by the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt.

Covering some 6,500 square kilometers, it is much longer than the Great Wall, a vast defensive fortification than spans 2,400 kilometers in China’s northern border.

And according to Prince Patrick Orosanye, a former Secretary to the Oba of Benin and a Culture Resource Consultant, “at least 37 million metric tonnes of earth was moved in the construction of the moat,” which he says is five times what was used in constructing the Pyramids of Egypt.

But the bad news is that the moat, which was declared declined a national monument by the Federal Government in 1961 is fast disappearing and may fade into oblivion “within our own life time.”

Prince Orosanye said: “The Benin City earth work popularly known as the Benin moat is a small part of a structure and when quantifying the time that was used in this construction it is about one hundred and fifty million man hours.

If one man was to dig it, it would have taken one hundred and fifty million hours. Then at least 37 million metric tonnes of earth was moved in this construction, that is five times bigger than what was used in constructing the great Pyramids in Egypt . It is five times longer than the Great Wall of China .

“But unfortunately, this massive monument which has been hidden for over a thousand years, is being defaced at a rate in which it will disappear completely within our own life time.

“The earth works is probably the greatest construction of a pre-mechanical civilization. The people who built this earth work were Binis in the South, then in the Central Esan people, because we have the same network, in Ekpoma. Several sources have been quoted, the first report on this moat was about 600 years ago by the white people.

“But we have an adage in Benin which says when ever you come you meet the moat at its walls. It was actually dug by the proto Edo people, the people who actually created the Benin Kingdom .

“The moat was dug before Benin became a city, because if you look at the moat, you have the one around Benin City itself, the one that starts from 3rd Circular, Sakpoba road junction, it passes through 3rd by Akpakpava, all the way down to Iyaro.

Then passes through Iyanga market through Observer, back again to 3rd junction and Sapele road. There is another that passed through five junction, Airport Road , that is the Uzama moat comprising of the Uzama villages.

Then you have Uselu, Ugbeku, Ihinhinmi. Every major Benin polity has its earth work. The three major communities that comprise Benin Kingdom , you have the Uronigbe, which means the ten gated towns in the East. You have Benin with nine gates in the central part, we have Udo with eight gates in the West.

“As I said, it is the largest construction made by a pre-mechanical civilization. It is supposed to be a big blessing to us but as the city expanded with the oil boom, it became a doom for the moat. People started building structures on them and started removing earth from the wall of the moat to fill their structures.

In 1961, the earthwork was declared a national monument. From July 21, 1961 till date, the walls that were protected by a purely traditional means were now thrown open for degradation by land hungry people. So in the last 30 years, the earth work has suffered tremendously. More than 60 per cent of the ones in Benin City have been damaged.

Prominent citizens, land speculators started selling those pieces to those who could afford it especially those from top of the pyramid. Where the problem lies right now is that there is an existing law protecting the moat but it has not been enforced because those are supposed to enforce the law are the ones breaking the law now.

When it was under traditional protection there was guarantee, but now we are faced with a situation where the moat is being destroyed at a rate that it may disappear in our life time. The palace set up several communities to check the excesses of these people destroying the moat but they won’t listen.

Because some of the perpetrators are close to those in power. If you go to 3rd Circular, end of the earth work it was government that destroyed that one in the name of creating a road. The government also went in and defaced the moat by placing drain pipes in the center of the moat, destroying a cultural heritage.

Then people deliberately break down the wall to fill their houses. We are making it a point of duty to inform the world that the greatest example of a pre-mechanical civilization is being destroyed, that the greatest visible evidence of Edo civilization is being destroyed completely”.

Opinions differ on what led to the construction of the moat in the first instance.

Chief Jacob Egharevba in a short history of Benin said the first moat was done by Oba Oguola in about 1208 AD to secure the territory from external aggression.

His view is shared by the Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebin who said: “The first moat or what they now call the inner moat and possibly the deepest is traceable to Oba Oguola who was the fifth Oba in the present dynasty. Oguola was the King that really stabilized the monarchy when the four Kings before him ruled as Usama, that is outside the city wall.

They could not enter the proper city because of the resistance of the political war lords in those days. But Oguola fought his way into the city and after defeating the resistant group he established the present palace that is within the city.

He was also said to be the Oba who dug the first moat, called the inner moat. It served as a preventive measure against people who were coming to trouble the new city , to ward off this attackers, that was the main purpose. There was a particular man, Akpanigiakon of Udo.

Prince Orosanye however, disagreed saying: “The truth here is that Oba Oguola’s father, Oba Ewedo, crossed the moat to enter Benin City . So how could the son have dug the moat which the father crossed? You know that he would not have become an Oba if the father was still alive.

Secondly most of our myths and legend all talked about the moat that was there before the Obaship. For instance at Ugbor and Ekhai, those are two areas to Sapele road end of Benin . They are two very ancient communities. One is so ancient that it is believed that the King of Ekhai came with God from the sky.

They said at a time because of the frequency in clashes between the two communities, the King of Ugbor and the King of Ekhai decided to dig boundaries. That is why the Benins call the earth work Iyanuwo, that is the boundary earth work. Each ancient community in Benin has its own network. It is about two hundred communities that encompass these 15,000 kilometers at least around Benin Kingdom its self.

So it is old. If you look at the sizes of the trees in these moats, we know how long it takes nature to build a tree to this level. Some of them are in the excess of a thousand years.”

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/03/national-monumentbenin-moat-on-the-edge-of-extinction/#sthash.IKvMpFsD.dpuf

EBENINALIVETODAYBenin_empire

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