Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo state, has ordered his aides and associates not to engage in “disrespectful exchanges” with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, over the returned stolen artefacts.
Instead, he has opted to continue to engage him, according to a statement issued on Monday by Osarodion Ogie, secretary to the Edo state government.
Ewuare II had asked the federal government to take custody of the stolen artefacts after they are repatriated.
The German government said it would return the 1,130 looted Benin bronzes to Nigeria in 2022.
In 1897, the Benin kingdom, which was well-known for its rich cultural heritage and artefacts, was invaded by British soldiers, in what is now known as the Benin invasion of 1897.
Thousands of bronze castings and other cultural artefacts were destroyed while some were carted away.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, the Oba of Benin, said the stolen bronzes are not the property of the Edo state government but that of the Benin kingdom.
The Benin monarch said the “only legitimate destination for the artefacts” is under the Benin royal museum which will be sited within the vicinity of the Oba of Benin’s palace.
‘Obaseki will continue to engage with Oba’
Ogie, in his statement, said: “The attention of the Edo State Government (EDSG) has been drawn to the widely publicized media statement issued by the Palace of His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.
“It is concerning that the 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.”
He assured the Oba that Obaseki has immense respect for him and the traditional institutions of Benin.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
On Thursday, the federal government disclosed that Monica Grutters, German minister of state for culture, said the country is ready to make a “substantial return” of the 1,130 looted artefacts from the beginning of 2022.