Former deputy governor of Edo State, Mr. Lucky Imasuen has rejected the involvement of a private investors — Legacy Restoration Trust Limited and the establishment of the Edo Museum for West Africa Arts (EMOWAA) to manage 1,130 Benin artifacts when they are repatriated from some European Countries to Edo State.
Recall that the Cultural artworks which were looted from the ancient City of Benin by British invaders in 1897, has become a subject of controversy over who takes possession between Edo State government-led by Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II.
While the State Governor is pushing for Legacy Restoration Trust Fund and EMOWAA to house the artifacts but the Benin monarch rejected the involvement of a third party, EMOWAA and pledged his support for the Benin Royal Museum house the artifacts which he claimed are solely owned by the Oba of Benin and Benin people.
On Friday July 10, 2021, the former deputy governor, expressed his sentiments on the raging crisis after an emergency meeting of Benin Chiefs, Enigie, Odionwere, heads of deities youth leaders, market women and other interest groups at the Oba of Benin palace in Benin City, cast the ram spell against the involvement of a third party.
Imasuen who served as deputy governor of Edo State during the period of interregnum between May 2007 and sacked by the court along with Professor Oserheimen Osunbor on November 11, 2008, told journalists on Friday that there is no controversy over the ownership of the artifacts.
He revealed that “there is need for the Federal and the State governments to be involved. Yes, the Benin Royal Museum should house the looted artifacts when they are repatriated. What we are against is allowing a private firm to manage them”.
Earlier in a remark, the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II said: “I have called this meeting today (Friday) to intimate you of the matter of the Benin artefacts in Europe on the verge of being repatriated, which I am sure you have heard and read about in recent weeks. You may also have heard about the recent activities of a group of individuals who incorporated a company since January 2020 called Legacy Restoration Trust Limited.
“It has become germane to note that the advocacy and demands for the return of the artefacts looted from the Benin Kingdom in 1897 have been going on for decades before the emergence of the incumbent Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki. I must sincerely thank the governor for joining the struggle and showing commitment to retrieve our stolen cultural heritage from Europe.
“While anticipating the return of the looted artefacts from Europe, I want to note that attempts to divert the destination or the right of custody of the artefacts is not in the interest of the people of Benin Kingdom, to whom the Palace of the Oba of Benin provides leadership. The looted artefacts awaiting repatriation from Europe are the cultural heritage of the Benin Kingdom created by our ancestors and forefathers within the traditional norms and rites of the kingdom.
“They are not property of the state government or any private corporate entity that is not a creation of the Benin Kingdom. The right and only legitimate destination for the artefacts to be repatriated as already pronounced by my father is under the aegis of the Benin Royal Museum that will be sited within the precincts of the Palace of the Oba of Benin, from where they were looted, and also, the proper traditional institution that is also the custodian of all the cultural heritage of the Benin Kingdom.
“The palace, therefore, strongly advises that anyone, group, organisation, or government – national and international – that is dealing with any organisation or artificial group in the process of returning the looted artefacts from the Benin Kingdom would be doing so at their own risk and against the will of the people of the Benin Kingdom”.
In the mean time, the federal government, Edo State government and the Benin Royal Family have concluded meeting in Germany towards the return of stolen artefacts to Edo State.
According to reports, the meeting in Berlin was attended by the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters, and Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas, while the Nigerian delegation include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
The Benin Royal Palace was represented by the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Prince Ezelekhae Ewuare.
At the meeting, the Minister insisted on a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin artefacts domiciled in German museums, adding that the return should be whole rather than substantial. He said this in the wake of remarks by Grutters that the European nation was ready to make ‘substantial return’ of the 1,130 looted artefacts.