The Oba Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has disowned two groups which he described as “impostors“ fronting for the return of artifacts which the British looted from the palace in 1897.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed by the Secretary to the Benin Traditional Council (BTC), Mr Frank Irabor, and the Secretary, Oba Ewuare II Foundation, Mr Dennis Osaretin on Monday in Benin and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The statement reads in part: “The individuals and persons who parade themselves as official representatives of the “Legacy Restoration Trust“ and “Legal Restoration Trust“ were neither known nor authorized by the Oba of Benin.”
The statement affirmed the Oba of Benin as the original owner of the looted artifacts and the custodian of Benin customs and tradition.
It cautioned that anyone caught engaging in such unwholesome activities would be treated as a fraudster and perceived as an enemy working against the interest of the Benin Kingdom and the Benin people.
The statement particularly warned one Enotie Paul Ogbebor, his agents and privies to stop their unsolicited activities.
The statement entitled: “The renewed call for the return of looted Benin artifacts“ noted that the Oba of Benin or his duly authorized representatives or body corporate could interact or have dealings with any foreign donors or missions or any other international institutions globally in respect of the looted Benin artifacts.
“For avoidance of doubts, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin remains the legitimate custodian of all insignia, symbols and such other artifacts depicting the rich cultural heritage of the Benin people”.
The statement emphasised that “the Oba of Benin, in conjunction with the Benin Traditional Council, has set up a very robust framework and body corporate to midwife and coordinate all efforts aimed at retrieving the looted and stolen artifacts from all over the world.
It added that and the only recognised legal entities for this remained the Oba Ewuare II Foundation and the Benin Traditional Council. (NAN)