The whereabout of the missing 400-year-old Olu of Warri crown and other royal items may soon be known as there are indications that the Zone 5 command of the Nigeria police with headquarters in Benin, Edo State capital, has recovered keys to where the missing items were kept.
One of the chiefs of the palace who does not want his name mentioned but was part of a meeting held with Officer in Charge of Anti-Vice in the Command, David Okoro, a Superintendent of Police on Friday, with the Iyatsere of Warri kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, and the suspended Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami in attendance, said the police have retrieved the keys to the palace room where the crown was kept.
Though the police is still investigating the incident (the missing crown) which some persons tagged as sacrilegious, the crux of the police investigation, it was learned, was to unravel the whereabouts of the 400-year-old crown which happens to be the symbol of the Itsekiri monarchy that was declared missing after the invasion.
Speaking further, the Chief who pleaded anonymity said a prominent chief of the palace eventually confessed to the police after much grilling on Friday that the keys where the items were kept were with him, adding that though traditionally the chief in question ought not to have access to the keys but a chief with the Uwangue of Warri kingdom title.
He said, “Last Friday we were at AIG and we met the Officer in Charge of Anti-Vice, David Okoro, and during the investigation, we were made to understand that the keys leading to the room where the crown and other royal monuments where kept was with one of the chiefs.
“The embattled prominent chief admitted that the keys were with him. I told the police that when our king passed on, the keys were with the Uwangue of Warri kingdom, the No 3 Chief – Gabriel Awala. By his title, he is in charge of the king’s wardrobe. Ordinarily, Awala should be with the keys.
“The chief who had the keys was not around when Baba passed on. After three days, when he returned he took the keys from Awala without the consent of the kingmakers. He had been with the keys until it was recovered last Friday.
“He told the police that he didn’t give the keys to anybody and the doors leading to the rooms were not broken, and after collecting what they wanted, he made small damage to the door to pervert Justice.
“He was asked to make an additional statement and the police told him he is the prime suspect and they asked him to make sure that all the items that were removed be returned.”
Recall that Ayiri had opposed the selection process of the Olu-designate, Prince Tsola Emiko, which led to uproar amongst the Itsekiri and the consequent missing of the Olu crown and other items. This drama made the Warri chiefs to petition the zone 5 command of the Nigeria Police, Benin City, against Ayiri whom the palace also suspended as the Ologbotsere of Warri. But during his first appearance at the Zone 5, Benin City on April 24 to answer questions from the police, the suspended chief denied knowledge or any involvement in the invasion or the missing items.
The demise of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, in December 2020, had created a succession tussle which eventually produced Prince Tsola Emiko as the chosen Olu-elect (Omoba) in Warri.
When contacted, the Zone 5 Police Public Relations Officer, Tijani Momoh, said he was not part of the investigative team and could not confirm or deny if the key had been retrieved.
“I was not part of the investigative team and cannot confirm if any key was retrieved from one of the chiefs or not,” he said.