The palace of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11, and the Edo State government are once again on collision course, this time over plans by the Godwin Obaseki-led government to acquire some portions of land around the palace, which are said to be traditional grounds.
Recall that residents of Ogbe-Ezoti, led by 87-year-old Pa Moses Obasuyi, had recently protested against what they claimed was an attempt by the governor to sell their ancestral homes to some individuals.
In recent times, the palace and the state government had clashed over the custody of looted artefacts repatriated from foreign museums, as well as the nolle prosequi issued by the government to terminate the case involving the palace and Ogiamen family.
At a press conference in Benin on Thursday, chiefs from the Palace of the Oba, and members of the Benin royal family, vehemently kicked against this development.
They also berated the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) over the manner it had been awarding contracts and giving out employment to the exclusion of the youths in the host communities.
The Iyase (Prime Minister) of Benin Kingdom, Sam Igbe, who spoke to journalists on behalf of the palace, said “We wish to draw the attention of the Edo State Government to the significant role of Ogbe-Ezoti in Benin Kingdom. The Ogbe-Ezoti, which was named after Oba Ezoti, is the portion of the Oba of Benin Palace that occupies the “Aro-Oto Shrine”. The traditional ground is mainly occupied by Palace functionaries who, from time immemorial, perform sacred traditional rites within the domain on behalf of the Palace of the Oba of Benin. It is forbidden in Benin Kingdom for a corpse to be interred within the length and breadth of Ogbe.
“The Ogbe-Ezoti Traditional Ground is one of the sacred traditional grounds in Benin Kingdom such as Usama Traditional Ground in Siluko Road; Ugo N’Erhie Traditional Ground in Upper Sakponba Road; Edaiken Traditional Ground in Uselu, among others.”
Supporting the recent protests by some aggrieved residents against the move by the state government to acquire the area, they appealed that the plan be shelved.
On the exclusion of members of host communities in award of contracts by NPDC, they warned against the consequences of such action.
According to them, “As a matter of fact, the indigenes of host communities are usually considered for such contracts in other states. We wish to inform the company that control of the youth is getting beyond our capacity, hence we appeal to management of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) to rescind the contract award with a view to considering the indigenes of host communities for the sake of peace and tranquility.