Obaseki Defers to Benin Monarch on Looted Artefacts

To Seek Audience With Palace To Iron Out Grey Areas

The Edo State government on Monday broke its silence on the face-off between it and the Palace of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11, Ogidigan, on the custody of stolen artefacts to be repatriated from Germany and other foreign countries. Secretary to the State Government, SSG Osarodion Ogie, in a statement, said the governor would “continue to make effort to secure a private audience with His Royal Majesty to discuss his concerns”. Ogie denied any conflict between the governor and the palace.

Recall that the Benin royal father had at a meeting with palace chiefs and Enigies on Friday, insisted that the looted artefacts must be returned to the palace from where they were stolen instead of the governor’s proposed Edo Museum of West African Arts, (EMOWAA) which would be managed by a private entity set up by the governor, the Legacy Restoration Trust.

Oba Ewuare 11 asserted that “The right and only legitimate destination for the artefacts to be repatriated as already pronounced by my father is under the aegis of the Benin Royal Museum that will be sited within the precinct of the Palace of the Oba of Benin from where they were looted, and also, the proper traditional institution that is also the custodian of all the cultural heritage of the Benin Kingdom”.

The Palace therefore strongly advised that “anyone, group, organization, or government – national and international – that is dealing with any organization or artificial group in the process of returning the looted artefacts from the Benin Kingdom, would be doing so at their own risk, and against the will of the people of the Benin Kingdom”.

But reacting to the position of the Benin monarch, Ogie, a lawyer, posited that “The Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has displayed, and will continue to display immense respect for our traditional institutions” and has “consequently ordered that on no account should anyone, whether in government or acting independently, engage in disrespectful exchanges and/or altercation with our revered Royal Majesty and the Benin Royal Palace”.

Ogie insisted that “The actions of the government thus far on this issue have been driven by selfless, patriotic considerations and in the best interest of Edo State and Edo people”.

The government’s statement read:

“The attention of the Edo State Government (EDSG) has been drawn to the widely publicised media statement issued by the Palace of His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.

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It is concerning that the statement appears to have created the impression that there is a major conflict between the interests of the EDSG and His Royal Majesty with regards to the laudable national milestone of having our highly valued artefacts returned home to Nigeria.

The Government of Edo State and the Governor have always acted transparently and in consonance with existing Federal and State laws in all matters relating to the proposed return of the artefacts and monuments.

The actions of the government thus far on this issue have been driven by selfless, patriotic considerations and in the best interest of Edo State and Edo people.

The Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has displayed, and will continue to display immense respect for our traditional institutions and therefore will continue to make effort to secure a private audience with His Royal Majesty to discuss his concerns.

The Governor has consequently ordered that on no account should anyone, whether in government or acting independently, engage in disrespectful exchanges and/or altercation with our revered Royal Majesty and the Benin Royal Palace.

Governor Obaseki, meanwhile, expresses his gratitude to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and other officials of the federal government for their patriotic and tireless efforts that have brought us to the verge of this eagerly anticipated achievement which has remained elusive for over a century.

While thanking and congratulating the Federal Government, the President, the Minister, the Royal Palace of the Oba of Benin, and all stakeholders who have contributed to the successes so far recorded in this endeavor, the Governor assures that he will continue to work assiduously with all local and international stakeholders for the eventual and final return of these valued records of our great and glorious heritage back to Benin City for the benefit of ALL Edo people, Nigerians and the black race”.

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