The city of Benin in southern Nigeria was once the capital of the former Edo Kingdom of Benin, one of the oldest states in West Africa. It dates back to the 11th century.
Little remains of that kingdom. The once-mighty city is now the main “sender” place of origin of Nigerians migrating irregularly towards Libya in search of greener pastures in Europe.
To inform local youth about trafficking in persons and other risks of irregular migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) organized on 18 October three theatre performances in the Edo state capital. The performances marked the completion of an eight-month training in 17 communities in Edo and Delta states, two key migration-prone areas in Africa’s most populous country.
The open-air event brought together close to 100 individuals, who gathered to raise awareness about the plight of thousands of people who have suffered deception, abuse and exploitation along their migration journeys. Since early 2017, IOM has assisted some 15,171 men and women to voluntarily return to Nigeria. Most returned from Libya, Niger and Mali under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
Of those, 42 per cent came from Edo. The theatre project grouped 44 men and 33 women into five troupes performing 47 shows in 115 communities in Edo and Delta. From July through September this summer, those performances reached 8,403 individuals.
“Most of the actors are seeing theatre for the first time, so the training wasn’t easy. But I’m elated with the outcome,” said Lancelot Imasuen, a renown Nollywood filmmaker who led the project. “A lot of these people have the talent to pursue acting; some of them are even performing at the national arts and culture festival taking place this week in Benin City.”
Together with Imasuen, IOM helped audition the actors and performers and equipped them with materials, musical instruments and props. Imasuen, who directed the three plays titled Empty Waka, Dance of the Migrants and Trafficked, trained the participants on directing, script development, stage management, set and costume design, and make-up.
“We selected returnees, students, potential migrants, and their families to promote social cohesion as we have witnessed that many returnees face stigmatization upon return to their communities,” explained Cyprine Cheptepkeny, IOM Nigeria Awareness Raising Officer. “We chose theatre as an awareness raising tool to pass on the message in an entertaining way, going beyond the traditional information channels,” she added.
Those watching the plays in markets and other public spaces say they have been impacted by the stories. At one performance, a woman among the audience shared the story of her daughter. Based on that testimony, IOM was able to identify the daughter as a victim of trafficking. Following further investigation, IOM staff referred the case to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
“In ancient Greece, theatre was seen as an instrument for social development and a means to express belief, approval or disapproval, pain and suffering,” said Eleni Zerzelidou, EU Project Officer, Migration and Drugs. “Community theatre nowadays goes beyond that. It comes from the community and it can help the community develop capacities for critical thinking on human trafficking and other issues affecting them.”
This project is part of IOM’s wider efforts to promote safe migration channels in Nigeria. At the end of October, IOM will organize the ‘Music for Safe Migration’ concert in Benin City, among other sensitization activities. The event was funded by the European Union through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF).
PHOTOS: Ayefele gifts brand new cars to ace broadcasters in Ibadan
Far-famed Nigerian gospel singer and Chairman of Fresh 105.9 Ibadan, 106.9 Ado-Ekiti and 107.9 Abeokuta FM Radio Stations, Dr. Yinka Ayefele on Wednesday gave out two brand new cars to ace broadcasters, Komolafe Olaiya and Olalomi Amole in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
“Komolafe Olaiya and Olalomi Amole were today presented with car gifts by the Enigma, Dr. Yinka Ayefele”, the post read.
Over the years, the Nigerian music producer, Ayefele has been known for his generosity towards encouraging his staff regardless of their tribes.
Lagos govt. grants pardon to Funke Akindele, husband over breach of COVID-19 regulations
The Lagos state government on Friday granted pardon to actress, Funke Akindele, and her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello, who had earlier been convicted for an offence related to the disobedience of COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
The Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Kayode Oyekanmi, in a statement noted that the couple was granted pardon because they were non-custodial convicts.
The statement also revealed that 56 inmates from various correctional Centres were granted state pardon.
“A statement signed by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, said Mr. Sanwo-Olu acted based on the recommendations of the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, under the powers conferred on the Governor by Section 212 (1) & (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended,” the statement read in part.
“The 56 released inmates were recommended by the Advisory Council after due examination of their case files and consideration of the length of time served, the gravity of offence, old age and ill-health among other parameters.
“The Attorney General has also enjoined the beneficiaries to be good citizens and stay away from crime”.
It will be recalled that eight-member Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, headed by Dr. Abayomi Finnih was inaugurated by Governor Sanwo-Olu in December 2019.
Nigerian film Eyimofe set for London premiere, debuts trailer
As part of activities to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Day anniversary, a film, Eyimofe (This is my desire) is set to premiere in the United Kingdom, at the BFI London Film Festival on October 11.
The film, which had its world premiere at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in February, is also billed to celebrate its U.S premiere at the AFI Fest on October 20.
Ahead of the London screening, which will create an opportunity for the Nigerian community in the United Kingdom to join in the country’s 60th anniversary celebration, Eyimofe has debuted its official trailer for the festival, which is already generating interest from the global film community.
A GDN Studios production, the 114 minutes film directed by twin brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri, features Jude Akuwudike, Temi Ami-Williams, Cynthia Ebijie, Sadiq Daba, Tomiwa Edun, Jacobs Alexander, Tomiwa Edun, Chioma ‘Chigul’ Omeruah and others.
Funded entirely in Nigeria and shot in 16mm and filmed across 48 locations in Lagos, the two chapter drama follows the stories of Mofe (Jude Akuwudike), a factory technician, and Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams), a hairdresser, on their quest for what they believe will be a better life on foreign shores.
A passport, photos and a visa form recurring elements. The characters’ misfortunes are part of their everyday life and they are sketching out the need to leave Nigeria at the same time.
At the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, status, money, gender, skin colour and family structures are inextricably connected. The longing for another life is but one thread in this complex mesh, a promise that floats above things at once near and far away.
It would be recalled that Eyimofe is the 2020 official selection for Vancouver International Film Festival, an annual film festival held in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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