President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, enjoined Oba Ewuare II of Benin and the palace to ensure the safe keep of the returned Benin artifacts from the United Kingdom (UK).

Buhari stated this in Benin City during the return of the two artifacts to the royal father in his palace.

The president, who was represented by Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Sarafa Isola, said that the return of the artifacts was a breakthrough.

According to him, it is a breakthrough because Nigeria and other African countries are working to repossess African artworks currently domicile abroad.

“Our part is to ensure that these highly-prized objects are preserved in accordance with global best practices.

“This will undoubtedly assist in the sustained campaign to return and repossess the remaining Benin artifacts as well as other Nigerian and African artifacts domiciled across the globe currently.

“I have the privilege to legally transfer the two repossessed Benin artifacts, the conqueror bronze statue cockerel, “Okpa”, and an ancestral head, “Uhunwun Elao” to Oba of Benin, on behalf of the president and we are also doing the legal transfer,” he said.

He said Nigeria took possession of the artifacts on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 at the Jesus College in England and the University of Abadin in Scotland.

The president advised that more emphasis be placed on the return of artifacts rather than the circumstances leading to their removal, as the demand for the return continued.

“My presence in Benin kingdom today is in fulfillment of the desire of the express directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to return the repossessed artifact to where they originally belong,” the representative added.

He said that the sovereignty of the artifacts, which were taken away from the Benin kingdom in 1897, was vested in the kingdom, under the then Oba Onveramen Nogbaise.

According to him, the sovereignty is now vested in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the constitution, to transfer the artifacts to the palace of Oba of Benin

On his part, Oba Ewuare II said that the return of the artifacts, which coincided with his coronation and birthday anniversary, signified a new era in Benin history and civilization.

The traditional ruler said that the artifacts had been returned contrary to speculations that they would be confined and kept away from public view.

“There will be no restriction, as the palace is already collaborating with the Federal Government, through National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), to build Benin Royal Museum to house returned artworks.

“The museum will be open to tourists and researchers,” he said.

The Oba appealed for financial assistance through specialised grants in setting up small and medium scale enterprises in Benin, including ICT training to support the active engagement of youths

Such support, he said, would help in minimizing illegal trafficking to Europe, adding that human development would be the best way the kingdom could be compensated for events of the past. (NAN)

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