The Nation (Nigeria)

Ownership of looted Benin artefacts sparks protest in Edo

•Protesters kick against planned Fed Govt’s takeover

- From Bisi Olaniyi, Southsouth Bureau Chief, Benin

THERE was a protest yesterday in Benin, the Edo State capital, over the ownership of the looted artefacts belonging to the ancient city by some European countries.

The protest happened despite the decision of the Federal Government to temporaril­y keep the artefacts upon their return from Europe.

The government's position followed the face-off between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II.

The protesters, who carried placards bearing various inscriptio­ns, were members of Igun Bronze Casters Guild and descendant­s of Igun community in Edo State.

They marched round Benin, visited the palace of the monarch and the state secretaria­t of the Nigeria Union of Journalist­s (NUJ) in the Government Reservatio­n Area (GRA) of the ancient city, where they addressed reporters.

The protesters condemned the claim by members of Euoguola. rope and America-based Igunigbesa­nmwan-owina Descendant­s Cultural Movement, who earlier said they were part-owners of the looted artifacts and that they should be part of the negotiatio­ns for their return.

The protesters, led by the Ine of Igun, Chief Osarenren Inneh, were accompanie­d by some chiefs.

They urged security agencies, including the INTERPOL, to fish out those they said stayed overseas while fanning the embers of disunity.

The protesters said from time immemorial, they had been casting the bronze artworks for the Benin palace, making the object the property of the palace.

Inneh said: "We have never, in any way, been the owners of the artefacts that we were ordered to do by the palace. There is no member of this Igun that will say that as at 3,000 years ago, they could buy a kilo of manila. So, all the works that were done were inside the palace and were done for the monarch.

"We do works for the beautifica­tion of the palace. We do works to keep the history of Benin Kingdom in forms of plaques and art forms. So, we duplicate the history of the kingdom.

"We have never, in any way, been privileged to do these works for ourselves until we were given our royal charter in 1280 AD by Oba

They gave us that charter for commercial purpose and the artefacts were long in existence, even before the royal charter.

"We are servants to the palace; we are servants to the Oba of Benin. Nobody should pitch us against the palace, because we cannot go against the palace. We are grateful to the Oba of Benin for all that he has been doing for us over the years.

"Those who thrive in making mischief just for the fun of it had better be warned to look elsewhere for their game. For sure, this new chapter will not end well with them."

The protesters also asked the "enemies of progress and troublemak­ers" to desist forthwith, in order not to incur the wrath of the Benin monarch.

 ?? PHOTO:BISI OLANIYI ?? •The protesters­in Benin...yesterday.
PHOTO:BISI OLANIYI •The protesters­in Benin...yesterday.

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