The controversy as to who take custody of looted Benin artefacts took a new dimension Monday as Igun Bronze Casters Guild, Benin City, protested an advertorial sponsored by some persons (claimed to be from same Igun) wherein they claimed that the soon-to-be-returned Benin artifacts belong to them (Igbesamwan-Owina Descendants Cultural Movement of Europe and America) and should be given to them and not the Benin palace or Edo State Government.
There have been controversy between the Edo State Government and the Benin Palace as of who should take custody of the artifacts when they are returned from Europe before the Federal Government eventually declared that it will take custody of the looted artifacts for the main time last week.
In the said advertorial claiming ownership of the artifacts, the protesters said the claim by the ‘self-aclaimed Igbesamwan-Owina Descendants Cultural Movement of Europe and America’ that “all the artifacts looted from the palace under the reign of Oba Ovoramwen were gifted to preceding Obas of Benin before Oba Ovoramwen” were all false.
The protesters, comprising of chiefs, who carried placards to the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Edo State secretariat with inscriptions as: ‘We dissociate ourselves from America & Europe fake descendants. We belong to Omo N’Oba’; ‘Igun comminity will always be loyal to the Omo N’Oba’; ‘We are saying that we are with His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin’, said those behind the said advert were commissioned to make mischief.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters (Igun Bronze Casters Guild), Chief Kingsley Inneh, the Ine of Igun and President, Igun Bronze Casters Guild, who was flanked by three other chiefs from Igun, said the Bronze assembly is solely attached to the Benin palace with total obedience to the wish of the Oba, stressing that they can never be at war with His Royal Majesty.
“All the Bronze work in the palace are ordered for by His Royal Majesty in line with the dictates of the time. So, saying the Oba was gifted the art works is not only far from the truth but is being peddled cheaply by those who desire to profit illegally from what they have no authority upon. (sic).
“We, the Bronze casters of Igun, are never and will never be at war with our father, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, N’Ogidigan. We operate directly under his instructions and guidance and we are of the sound view that he is the right authority to be handed over the soon-to-be returned stolen Benin artifacts and whatever that those doing the return deem necessary to be added as some form of restoration of a wrong conceived against the Benin kingdom,” he said.(sic).
While calling on security agencies especially Interpol operatives to identify and arrest sponsors of the said advert they regarded as impersonators, they further pledged their unalloyed loyalty to the Benin Monarch.
Chief Inneh said, “And to sum up our submiss, we wish to call on the security agencies, especially Interpol operatives, to spread their dragnet to get the real identities of the writers and sponsors of the letter who hide under what we equate to be false identity to perpetrate falsehood and chrarcter assassination their stock-in-trade.”