As the controversy over where thousands of artefacts taken from the palace of the Oba of Benin in 1897 by the Europeans should be domiciled rages, Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), historians and leaders in Benin kingdom have said the stolen artefacts belong to the palace of the Oba of Benin and should, therefore, be returned there.
Similarly, Benin leaders have pledged their unflinching support for the monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpol, Oba Ewuare II, that the art forms were returned to the palace, from where they were looted, railing against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s proposal that the artefacts be returned to a third party.
Recall that Governor Obaseki, after a trip to Germany with the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had proposed that the artefacts which the German government promised to return to Nigeria in 2022, be domiciled in a museum to be built by the state government.
But the Benin monarch rejected the proposal at a briefing in Benin City weekend, insisting that the artefacts be returned to the palace, since they were taken away from there in the aftermath of the British invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.
Reacting to the development yesterday, former Federal Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Femi Okunnu. SAN, said the state government had no say in the artefacts that would be returned to Benin kingdom by some European states.
He said: “Any artefact stolen from Benin Palace belongs to Benin Palace. However, with due respect to the present Oba of Benin, this is a matter between the British and federal governments. “The state government has no transaction in this matter. If there must be any transaction, it should be between the Federal Government and Benin Palace.
“However, the British government is not even interested in returning all the artefacts because practically all the museums in Europe and America host them. My only worry is that Nigerian governments have not been serious with the preservation of our past, not the colonial past but African and Nigerian in particular and that is why the Nigerian government is irresponsible in the teachings of our history.
“The Benin Kingdom has a very good Museum in front of the palace, I remember. Governments should be serious and bring back teachings of history. I wonder if you don’t know the past, how do you plan for the future for your citizens?”On his part, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: “By God’s grace, I believe everything will be sorted out.” (Vanguard)