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Edo govt, Benin traditional council clash over artifacts custody


The Edo State Government and the Benin Traditional Council are in a heated disagreement over the custody of ancient artifacts looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897 and the creation of new traditional councils in Edo South.

The Benin Traditional Council, through its solicitors, Professors Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, and Edoba Omoregie, SAN, emphasized that the Federal Government has recognized the palace as the rightful custodian of the artifacts. “The federal government has since settled the issue of rightful ownership in favor of the Palace by the gazetting of the ownership and custody of the artifacts in the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II,” the Council stated.

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The conflict deepened when the Edo State Government proposed creating new traditional councils in Edo South. The BTC opposed this, warning it could fragment the Benin Kingdom’s unity and undermine the authority of the Oba of Benin in traditional matters. “The government’s plan would amount to balkanizing the Benin Kingdom as there is no other traditional ruler in Edo South to preside over the proposed traditional councils than His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin,” the Council explained.

Despite the BTC’s opposition, the State Government went ahead with the creation of new councils and withheld financial entitlements from the BTC. This move is currently being challenged by the BTC in the State High Court.

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Additionally, the State Governor publicly supported some Enigie (local chiefs) who had proposed the new councils, even those suspended for breaking traditional norms. The BTC’s efforts to address these issues led to police charges against some Enigie, but the State Government intervened to nullify one of the charges.

The State Government further complicated matters by writing to the National Assembly to affirm the creation of the new councils as final and by revoking the concession of the Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, which had been turned into a motor park since November 2016.

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To resolve the conflict, the BTC has outlined specific demands:

1. Abolish the newly established seven traditional councils in Edo South.
2. Restore their financial entitlements to the pre-establishment level and refund withheld balances.
3. Refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the Benin Traditional Institution as outlined by Benin Customary Law.

The BTC insists on respecting the established disciplinary processes under the authority of Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, His Royal Majesty Ewuare II, Oba of Benin.