The Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II says the 1897 British expedition in Benin Kingdom was not a retaliation for the alleged killing of some British soldiers as contained in some literatures on Benin history.
He made the remark during the presentation of two artefacts — a Cockerel sculpture and Oba Uhun Elao’s bronze burst otherwise known as Oba head, valued at £2.5m, to him by Amb. Sarafa Ishola, Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari fortnight ago at his palace in Benin City.
Recall that the the formal handing over of the artefacts between the Nigerian government and the monarch held in December last year at the palace.
The Cockerel estimated £2m was repatriated from Jesus College in Britain while the bronze head of the Oba worth £500,000 was the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. They were among the 10,000 pieces of bronzes and personal collections from the Oba of Benin palace during the British expedition of 1897.
Speaking further, the traditional ruler whose address was delivered by Prince Aghatise Erediauwa, said the motive of “the invaders was a calculated and a deliberately conceived plan to attack Benin for its territorial dominance and also for takeover her treasures”.
He revealed that “The result was a destruction of the civilization which equalled or even surpassed that of the aggressors who looted artefacts and other priceless treasures from the palace during the reign of Oba Ovoramwen N’ Ogbaisi of blessed memory.
Oba Ewuare noted that “it was such that the kingdom was totally decimated and in ruins in the aftermath of the war would not rise again. But by the grace of God and our ancestors, we are still standing.
According to him, “We are witnesses today to the beginning of the restitution of our artefacts which were taken away in 1897. The very first expedition by the British was not a retaliation for the killing of some British soldiers as most of the literatures will harp n today.
“The truth is that there was a calculated and a deliberately conceived plan to attack Benin for its territorial dominance and also for her treasures.
The result was a destruction of the civilization which equalled or even surpassed that of the aggressors. It was such that the kingdom was totally decimated and in ruins in the aftermath of the war would not rise again. But by the grace of God and our ancestors, we are still standing.
Oba Ewuare stressed that any private collector or group(s) currently with looted Benin artefacts and want to retain them should negotiate with palace for necessary documentation.
He also stated that the current conversion is about restitution. International scholars have agreed with the general views that all stolen artefacts must be returned to their place of origin.
In a remark, the Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, commended the Benin monarch for the painstaking efforts towards the return of the artefacts after 125 years.
The Governor who was represented by the State Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Monday Osaigbovo, reaffirmed the deposition of the monarch that the invasion of Benin empire by the British was not for a revenge for the slain soldiers, adding that the adventure was for “dominance to takeover Edo State haven known that all our artefacts were documented”.
While pledging his administration support for the safe custody of the returned artefacts, the Governor appealed to the Nigerian government to emulate Jesus College and the University of Aberdeen by returning other looted artefacts that are in their custody with reparation.
“I want to pledge that whatever the palace wants us to do as an individual or as a Government, we are ready to do so”, he stressed.
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