Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuara II, has advised governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki to review his approach of using a private organistion to be the custodian of the Benin looted artifacts proposed to be repatriated soon.
Obaseki had reportedly floated a private company known as Legacy Restoration Trust Ltd allegedly incorporated January this year by the Governor purposely to receive and be custodian of the stolen artifacts.
The Oba in an enlarged meeting held with palace chiefs, Enogies, Okagheles (youths leaders) and the royal family in Benin on Friday noted that any attempt to divert destination or right of custody of the artifacts is not in the instrest of the people of Benin kingdom.
The Oba’s speech which was read by Iyase of Benin kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe, said the looted artifacts awaiting repatriation are the cultural heritage of Benin kingdom and not property of the state government or any private corporate entity that is not a creation of the Benin kingdom.
“The right and only legitimate destination for the artifacts to be repatriated as already pronounced by my father is under the aegis of the Benin Royal Museum that will be sited within the precinct of the Palace of the Oba of Benin from where they were looted, and also, the proper traditional institution that is also custodian of all the culture heritage of the Benin Kingdom,” he said.
The Oba said he does not believe the move by Obaseki to retrieve the looted artifacts through a privately registered company and purported establishment of Edo Museum of West Africa Arts (EMOWAA) are in consonance with the wishes of the people of Benin kingdom.
The Benin Monarch who said he had discussion with Mr. Governor after his ascension to throne on the plan of the Benin Royal Museum and that Obaseki expressed readiness to work with the palace to actualise the repatriation, wondered why Obaseki is proposing a private company to be the custodian of the looted artifacts.
“It is pertinent to note that shortly after my acsension to the throne I had several discussions with the Governor on the plan for the Benin Royal Museum and he expressed his readiness to work with the Palace to actualise this laudable wish of my father.
“I was however surprised to read from the Governor’s letter to the palace where reference was being made to the fact that a new Museum to be known as EMOWA is now being proposed, which will be funded and executed through the vehicle of another body now refered to as Lagacy Restoration Trust,” he said.
The Oba said the people of Benin kingdom and other stakeholders all endorsed the Benin Royal Museum to be built within the palace , as well as endorsing the Oba Ewuare II Foundation for fund raising.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to take custody of the artifacts on behalf of the palace until the Benin Royal Museum is ready for their collection.
“Under no circumstances should custody of our age old artifacts be handed to any private contrived entity like the Benin Lagacy Restoration Trust,” the Oba warned.