June 9, 2009

BNC wants Britain to return stolen Benin artefacts

BENIN—THE Benin National Congress (BNC), a socio-cultural organization in Edo State, has appealed to President Umaru Yar’Adua to prevail on the British authorities to repatriate  stolen Benin artefacts estimated at over five billion pounds.

The BNC also urged the President to investigate the oil wells belonging to the state that were ceded to Delta and Ondo states, asserting that the people of the state have been receiving meagre revenue from the Federation Account due to the situation it described as great injustice.

In a letter addressed to the president and signed by the Vice-President of the BNC, Mr. Omowenwen Imadiyi, the BNC regretted that irrespective of all efforts made in the past to draw the attention of the British government to repatriate the artefacts which were carted away during the British invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897, it had remained adamant.

According to the group “history is replete with dialogue and exchange of correspondences that have been made in the direction of this noble repatriation cause well over ten decades ago by the hospitable people of Edo State to the various arms of government and people of Great Britain to no avail.

“Whereas these objects are currently a great source of tourist revenues and pride to the people and government of Britain, the Bini, whose ancestors are the organic makers of these priceless works of arts are subjected to the same fate as others in taking a view of them at their various museums of abode across the globe.

“Mr. President will agree that it is common knowledge that one significant activity that signifies the end of a war is the faithful and unconditional return of the prisoners of war and all material substances seized or secured by all sides to the conflict.

“In the case of the inglorious Benin Massacre of 1897, not only was the Oba (Oba Ovonromwen) illegally deposed, our people were subjected to all manners of dehumanization and brazen looting of their artefacts; and the latter are yet to be returned even one hundred and twelve years after.”

The BNC stated that “the main objective of this letter is seek your formal support even though the relevant ministry or agencies are aware of this agitation and details, albeit very uncomplimentary commitment to our cause.

“We believe that your intervention can stem the rising disenchantment and near-resort to self-help by Edo people in Nigeria and the Diaspora over the more than a century old demand”.