The Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State house in Abuja on Friday, to thank the president for his role on the recently returned Benin Bronzes and also to introduce members of the Board of Trustees of the Benin Royal Museum to the President.
In his speech, Oba Ewuare II lauded Commander in Chief for his immense support in making sure that the looted Bronzes and other artifacts gets to it’s rightful owners, and for setting the record straight. He also thanked other key stakeholders who played a part in the return of the stolen artefacts to the ancient city.
“Mr. President, sir I bring warm greetings from the Benin Royal Family, the Benin Traditional Institution and the good people of Edo State within Nigeria and in the diaspora.
“I am here with some members of the Royal Court of Benin and of the Board of Trustee of the Benin Royal Museum, to thank Your Excellency for your kind intervention as it relates to the issues that bothers on the return of Benin Bronzes and artefacts to its original place of abode,” Oba Ewuare II said.
The Oba also likened the Benin Bronzes and other works of art, to the famous British Crown Jewels.
“Mr. President I dare say that these artefacts, particularly Benin Bronzes and other Benin artefacts, may be likened to the Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy. Nobody could suddenly wake up and attempt to lay claim to their ownership, assuming if they were ever, to be successfully taken away by the Romans, who ruled over them at some point in history and, thereafter wished to return them to Britain,” he said.
The Oba of Benin took the oppurtunity to informed the President that he recently received a letter from the Brazilian consulate in Nigeria, confirming the Sovereign Authority of the Benin Royal Court, long before 1897.
“In the same vein the Brazilian Consulate in Nigeria also wrote a letter recently to me to further buttress the fact that, the Royal Court of Benin Kingdom existed as a SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY long before 1897, when the Benin bronzes and other Benin artefacts were forcibly removed to Britain and auctioned out to art collectors from around the world. This fact is captured in a statement in the letter which stated inter Alia that “…. It is in the historical record, your ancestral lineage is among the first to recognize the independence of Brazil in 1822,” he added
The Oba of Benin was accompanied by members of the Benin Traditional Rulers Council to see President Buhari; where he also stated that the artefacts cannot be overly claimed by private collectors and Muslims in both Europe and America.
Furthermore, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured the Benin Monarch that efforts will be stepped up to ensure 1130 more Benin Bronzes are repatriated from public museums in Germany.
In a statement signed by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari vowed to see out the return of these artefacts.
The Benin Royal Museum Board of Trustees were also present on the occasion—which saw the delegation express its gratitude for the return of Bronzes from the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen some months ago.
Buhari, who highlighted the importance of receiving these ancient artefacts, and its value to both the people of Benin and Nigeria at large, further stated that the arts were amongst the best on a global scale.
“In furtherance of these efforts, an agreement between Nigeria and Germany is currently being prepared. When concluded, it will signify the return to Nigeria by Germany of all the 1,130 Benin Bronzes in Germany’s public museums. This will be a monumental achievement.
“Furthermore, on the 7th of this month, the Glasgow City Council agreed to return 17 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. The legal issues are in the process of being sorted out.
“Other success stories include the return by the Netherlands in October 2020 of a 600-year-old Ife Terracotta; the return in April 2021 of a bronze piece from Mexico; as well as the repatriation, in November 2021, of two Benin Bronzes and an Ife Bronze head from the Metropolitan Museum, New York,” he stated.
The Oba of Benin informed the President that his Royal Court had concluded plans with the NCMM to establish an ultra-modern international standard Benin Royal Museum to house the Benin Bronzes and other artefacts for the purpose of preserving history, tourism and education.