Looted Artefacts: Gov Obaseki Bars Aides From Replying Oba Of Benin

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has barred his media aides from engaging in “disrespectful exchanges” with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, over the monarch’s recent statement.

Godwin Obaseki and Oba Ewuare II were said to have been at loggerheads over the planned return of artefacts looted 124 years ago from the Benin Kingdom by British colonial masters.

THE WHISTLER had reported that Oba Ewuare II, on Friday, called a press conference where he suggested that the Obaseki-led government was trying to divert the artefacts to a private museum against the wish of the Edo people.

The monarch had said “… attempts to divert the destination of the right of custody of the artefacts is not in the interest of the Benin Kingdom to whom the palace of the Oba of Benin provides leadership,” adding that the artefacts, “are not property of the state government or any private corporation or entity that is not a creation of the Benin Kingdom.”

But responding in a statement on Monday, the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said the governor has immense respect for the monarch and would not join issues with him.

Ogie added that Governor Obaseki’s role in the planned return of the artefacts is driven by selflessness and patriotism.

He said, “It is concerning that the [the Oba’s] 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.

“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.”

More than one thousand looted artefacts are expected to be returned by the British, German and French governments.

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