The Nation (Nigeria)

Obaseki: I’m ready to discuss with Oba of Benin on stolen artefacts

- From Bisi Olaniyi, Southsouth Bureau Chief

EDO State Governor Godwin Obaseki yesterday begun reconcilia­tion moves aimed at ending the rift between him and the Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpol­o, Oba Ewuare II over the return of stolen artifacts.

He has unfolded plans to secure a private audience with the monarch to deepen discussion on the artifacts, thereby ending the deepening face-off.

Obaseki spoke yesterday through the Secretary to Edo

State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, in an online press statement.

The first-class monarch, last Friday at a meeting in Benin with palace chiefs and Enigies on the repatriati­on of the artifacts, looted from Benin Kingdom in 1897, raised the alarm over attempts to divert the destinatio­n and right of custody of the stolen cultural heritage. He emphasised that the artifacts were not the property of Edo State government or any private corporate entity, but that of Benin kingdom.

Oba Ewuare condemned the activities of the Obaseki-backed “so-called” Legacy Restoratio­n Trust Limited, which was incorporat­ed in January 2020, and the “purported” establishm­ent of Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA).

The Oba also called on the Federal Government to take custody of the artifacts, on behalf of the palace of Benin kingdom, until the Benin Royal Museum is ready for their collection. He said that under no circumstan­ce should the custody of the age-old artifacts be handed to any privately-contrived entity like the Legacy Restoratio­n Trust Limited

Ogie said: “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.

“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 artifacts 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 efforts to secure a private audience with

His Royal Majesty (Oba of Benin) to discuss his concerns.”

Ogie said the state government has noted media statement by the palace on the dispute.

He said: “It is concerning that the statement (by Oba of Benin) appears to have created the impression that there is a major conflict between the interests of the Edo goernment and His Royal Majesty, with regard to the laudable national milestone of having our highly-valued artifacts returned home to Nigeria.

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