Don’t disrespect Oba of Benin over the return of stolen artefacts, Obaseki warns aides

by Araayo Akande

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has instructed his aides not to engage in any disrespectful exchanges with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, over the return of looted Benin artefacts.

The media had been awash with reports of a cold war between the Oba and the Governor over the 1, 130 artefacts that the German government had said it would repatriate to Nigeria in 2022.  

Last Friday, the Oba addressed a news briefing where he stated that the artefacts were the palace’s property and not that of the state government. 

He also affirmed that a Benin Royal Museum built in the palace is the legitimate destination of the artefacts.

But reacting on Monday through a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, Governor Obaseki said he would continue to work assiduously with all local and international stakeholders to return the artefacts.

He also warned that none of his aides must disrespect the Oba and that the government was transparent with its involvement in the matter.

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

“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.

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“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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