We Are Servants of the Oba-Benin Bronze Carving Community Protesters


*Kick Against FG’s Takeover Plans

Ernest Omoarelojie


A group of protesters identified as Igun Bronze Casters Guild and Descendants of Igun Community, marched through major streets of Benin City, the state capital on Monday, miffed over the controversies surrounding the ownership of looted Benin artefacts.
The protesters, who were also at the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Press House, Benin City, are particularly irked over alleged claims by members of Europe and America-based Igun-Igbesanmwan-Owina Descendants Cultural Movement that they are part-owners of the looted artifacts and so should be part of the negotiations for their return.
Led by the Ine of Igun, Chief Osarenren Inneh, the group disclosed that the position of the foreign based group is misinformed and capable of creating discord. He therefore warned that they the foreign based claimant should look elsewhere if, as it appears, mischief making is their mission, adding that dire consequences await those who fail to desist henceforth from trouble making.
“Those who thrive in making mischief just for the fun of it had better be warned to look elsewhere for their game. For sure, this new chapter will not end well with them,” he warned, urging the “enemies of progress and troublemakers” to desist forthwith, in order not to incur the wrath of the Benin.
Branding various inscriptions, the group insists that they, as descendants of Igun community, are not unmindful of the facts of history which positioned them as servants of the Oba who were responsible for casting bronze for the beautification of the palace and preservation of the kingdom’s rich and highly revered culture.
According to him, at no point were the carvers given the privilege to do the carvings for themselves until Oba Oguola’s Royal Charter of 1280 AD, which offered the carvers commercial rights over their crafts which Chief Inneh disclosed, were not among the artefacts under review. The artefacts under review, he emphasized, were long in existence before the Royal Charter, a reason why no Igun Descendant can rightly lay ownership claim to any of them.
“We have never, in any way, been the owners of the artefacts that we were ordered to do by the palace. There is no member of this Igun that will say that as at 3,000 years ago, they could buy a kilo of manila. So, all the works that were done were inside the palace and were done for the monarch. We do works for the beautification of the palace. We do works to keep the history of Benin Kingdom in forms of plaques and art forms. So, we duplicate the history of the kingdom.
We have never, in any way, been privileged to do these works for ourselves until we were given our royal charter in 1280 AD by Oba Oguola. They gave us that charter for commercial purpose and the artefacts were long in existence even before the royal charter,” Chief Inneh said:
It would be recalled that following the agreement by Germany to return stolen artefacts belonging to the Benin Royal Palace, a simmering disagreement over who should take custody, ensued between the Royal Palace and state government. The latter insisted that it intends keeping the said artefacts in an independent private museum outside of the palace.
But the decision did not go down well with the Royal Palace, insisting that as its property, only the palace, from which the artefacts were stolen in the first instance, has right of ownership and should take custody.
Arguably arising from the festering undercurrent disagreement, the federal government announced that, as a temporary measure, it would keep the items in its custody upon release.

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