The Edo State Government has downplayed the reported rift between it and the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II over the proposed return and storage of the 1,130 stolen artefacts belonging to the state.
The position was contained in a statement by the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie on Monday.
The Oba had asked the Federal Government to temporarily take custody of 1,130 stolen Benin artefacts when they are repatriated from Europe amid the controversy surrounding where the artefacts will be housed.
The Benin Palace and the Edo State Government have disagreed over where the artefacts will be housed.
While the palace wants the artefacts kept in the Benin Royal Museum, which will be built within the palace, the state government wants the items preserved in the proposed Edo Museum of West African Arts.
The artefacts were looted during the invasion of the Benin Kingdom in 1897 by the British.
In the statement, the state government said it has 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.
Governor Godwin Obaseki also said he would “continue to make efforts to secure a private audience with His Royal Majesty to discuss his concerns.”
The Governor also 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”.
While appreciating the federal government, the state government assured that it would work with all the interested parties to ensure the eventual return of the artefacts.
Read full statement below:
Benin artefacts: Obaseki will continue to engage His Royal Majesty to secure final return
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.
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 efforts 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.
Osarodion Ogie Esq.
Secretary to the Edo State Government
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