FG recognises Oba of Benin as custodian of repatriated Benin artefacts

The long-standing dispute over the ownership and custody of repatriated looted Benin artefacts between the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, and Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has finally been settled by the Federal Government.

According to a Government Notice No. 25 in Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 57, Volume 110 dated March 28, 2023, 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”, the ownership of artefacts looted from the ancient Palace of the Oba and other parts of Benin Kingdom is now recognized as being vested in the Oba.

The notice also states that custody of the repatriated artefacts, “shall, from wherever and whenever they are brought into Nigeria, be handed over to the Oba as the original owner and custodian of the culture, heritage, and tradition of the people of Benin Kingdom in Edo State of Nigeria.”

Furthermore, it orders that “the Oba shall be responsible for the management of all places where the repatriated artefacts are domiciled or located,” and that “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.”

The gazette also specifies that the repatriated artefacts may be kept within the Palace of the Oba or such other locations within Benin City, or other places that the Oba and the Federal Government of Nigeria may consider secure and safe.

With the issuance of the official gazette, it is hoped that the repatriated Benin artefacts, which have been a subject of controversy and international discussions for decades, will finally be returned to their rightful owner and properly managed for the benefit of humanity.

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