As the controversy over where thousands of artefacts looted from the palace of Benin Kingdom in 1897 by the Europeans should be domiciled rages, a social activist Benjamin Oyemwense, has said the stolen artefacts belong to the palace of the Oba of Benin and should, therefore, be returned there.
Pledging his support for the Benin monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oyemwense said the art forms should be returned to the palace where they were looted from, railing against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s proposal that the artefacts be returned to a state-owned Museum.
Recall that Governor Obaseki, following his recent trip to Germany, had proposed that the 1,130 artefacts which the German government promises to return to Nigeria in 2022, be domiciled in a museum to be built by the state government.
But the proposal was rejected by the Benin monarch at a world press conference in Benin city over the 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.
Meanwhile, speaking in an interview with journalists in Benin City, the Edo state capital, on Monday, Oyemwense said the looted artefacts expected to be returned to the country should be kept in the custody of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II.
The Speaker of the University of Benin Students’ Union Government, called on Obaseki to have a sincere dialogue with the Benin monarch with a view to reaching mutual understanding on the best way the artefacts would be of utmost benefit to the royal palace and the Edo people.
Oyemwense said the recent statement by Oba Ewuare II to discerning minds, revealed that some opportunists with parochial interest were trying to bring the state governor and the Oba, on a collision course over the artefacts.
He, therefore, advised that Obaseki should be wary of such persons. The activist said the governor should endeavour to clear the controversy surrounding issues of the Benin Royal Museum and the Edo Museum of African Arts, EMOWAA, in his interface with the Benin monarch.