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Looted artifacts have spiritual significance – Oba of Benin tells German envoy

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Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II has declared that Benin artifacts that were looted during British expedition of 1897 in Benin are not just mere artistic expressions but cultural objects that also bear an enormous spiritual significance to the palace of the Benin people.

Oba Ewuare II made the remark when he received a delegation of the Government envoy from Germany led by the Director-General for Culture and Communication in the German Foreign Ministry, Dr. Andreas Gorgen at his palace in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

The guests were on a fact-finding mission to the state for collaboration with the Edo State Government, Federal Government, German Government, National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM), and the Benin Royal Court as well as other stakeholders towards the return of the looted objects.

In an 8-point paper presentation of the Benin Dialogue Group and Oba Ewuare II Foundation by Ambassador Martins Uhomoibhi, a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the traditional ruler lamented the devastation and plunder wrecked upon Benin City during the British military expedition in 1897.

The monarch, who also alleged interference of meddlesome interlopers that are negotiating the return of Benin artifacts, noted that a critical part of the recommendations of the Benin Dialogue group, remains the establishment of a museum to be called “Benin Royal museum” in Benin City and not “Edo museum for West African Arts” (EMOWAA).

According to the Oba of Benin; After the architect, Mr. David Ajaye, the British Museum and the Nigerian authorities had announced a $4 million archeology project to excavate the site of the planned Benin Royal Museum, and other parts of Benin City, to uncover ancient remains including parts of the city walls.

“It is worth pointing out here that Mr. Ajaye, the British born Ghanian Architect, now promoting the EMOWAA project, was never a member of the Benin Dialogue Group. He has also never consulted or made contact with the Royal palace of Benin.

“Therefore the change of name from the original plans and concept is unacceptable as it was unilaterally conceived. Given the fact that there already exists a structure (The Oba Ewuare II Foundation), we believe that it is superfluous and totally unnecessary to create the Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT) and the proposed EMOWAA to take custody and manage the returned Benin looted artifacts.

“Ab initio, and as a matter of fact, the EMOWAA is a clear deviation from the original plan for the Benin royal museum,” he said.

The Oba of Benin pledged to work with the German Government and thanked the delegation for the visit and their insight since the painstaking efforts began several years ago.

Responding, the Director General for Culture and Communication in the German Foreign Ministry, Dr. Andreas Gorgen, said the German Government has acknowledged the looting of Benin artefacts and is committed to its return and restoration.

He also thanked the Government and people of Nigeria for their cooperation towards the return of the objects back to the original owners.

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