His Royal Highness, Ọba Ewuare II of the Benin Kingdom has been granted full ownership, custody and management of the artefacts that were repatriated.
How The FG Confirmed The Artefacts
The confirmation was made in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 57, Volume 110 dated March 28, 2023.
The publication is titled, “Notice of Presidential Declaration – on the Recognition of Ownership, and an order vesting custody and Management of Repatriated looted Benin Artefacts in the Oba of Benin kingdom.”
In the notice, the FGN ordered that the “ownership of artefacts looted from the ancient Palace of the Oba and other parts of Benin Kingdom be and is vested in the Oba.”
Clarification Between The Ọba and Governor Obaseki On the Artefacts
The official declaration thus bring to an end the disagreement that has lingered between the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the Ọba of Benin.
Obaseki has sought for the custody and management of the plundered Benin artifacts to be managed by the state government.
What The FG Gazette Specified on the Artifacts
It explicitly said that “repatriated artefacts may be kept within the Palace of the Oba or such other locations within Benin City, or another place that the Oba and the Federal Government of Nigeria may consider secure and safe.”
The “Oba shall be responsible for the management of all places where the repatriated artefacts are domiciled or located.”
In conclusion, the “Oba shall work jointly with any recognised national or international institution to ensure the preservation and security of the repatriated artefacts for the benefit of humanity, and repatriated artefacts shall not be taken out of the designated custody without the written consent and authorization of the Oba, and upon such return, the artefacts shall first be inspected and authenticated by the Oba before it is accepted and restored to its designated custody.”
How The Benin Artifacts Were Stolen and Looted from Nigeria
In 1897, the British forces sacked the Benin kingdom and bronzes were stolen after the royal palace was burned and looted and the Ọba exiled.
Most of the treasures looted from the palace and kingdom by extension were then given out to officers who took part in the raid while the majority found their way to the British museums as well as other places such as Germany, USA, etc even with private collectors.
Despite the calls for return in over 125 years when the event had happened, the British would not oblige to sending it back until 2022 when an agreement was reached and some items are now finding their way back to the Benin Kingdom.