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...