The Oba Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has disowned two groups which he described as ‘impostors,’ fronting for the return of artifacts the British looted from the palace in 1897.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed by the Secretary to the Benin Traditional Council, Frank Irabor, and the Secretary, Oba Ewuare II Foundation, Dennis Osaretin, on Monday in Benin.
“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,” said the statement.
It 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 people.
The statement particularly warned one Enotie Paul Ogbebor, his agents, and privies to stop their unsolicited activities.
The statement further 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 regarding the artifacts.
“For the 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,” it stated.
In conjunction with the BTC, the statement revealed that the Oba of Benin set up a framework to midwife and coordinate efforts to retrieve Benin’s looted artifacts scattered across the world.