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Planned Sales Of Stolen Benin Artefacts: EDSG Urges UN Intervention

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Nigerian Observer 26 December 2010
By Osazuwa Akonedo

Edo State Government under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has called on the United Nations as a matter of public importance to intervene in the anticipated plans by the children of late lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey, then Colonial Deputy Commissioner and Vice consul in the Oil Rivers Protectorate to auction the highly valued Benin Royal artifacts, come February next year.

The state Government said the Benin icons are not mere artifacts that can be sold or purchased by anybody on earth and therefore implored that United Nations to act quickly on the petition submitted to them on November, 2009 in Stockholm – Sweden which asked for judicial arbitration in regards to the invasion of the Benin Kingdom in 1897 as related to the looting of the Benin icons.

Speaking on behalf of the state Government, Honourable Orobosa Omo-Ojo, the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Arts, culture and Tourism said the art works were not created as artifacts but memorables to remind the Oba and the people of Benin of ancient happenings.

“They were not created as artifacts, they are memorable. Things that were created to remind the Oba and the people of Benin of ancient happening, “ said Omo-Ojo,.

Adding, Lieutenant Colonel Gallwey was one of those who came and senselessly invaded the Benin kingdom and stole thousands of Bini Cult arts. To Underline, these were Bini Cult arts, they were not just ordinary artifacts they didn’t create them for decoration.

“To put on record, there was a special way, the Benins, the Royal family were recording history. These arts were what they were using to record history of great happenings in the Benin Kingdom. Before the British, the Portuguese have described us as great people: we were very civilised when they came. We had our laws – we had our history and our culture. The (British) only came here and invaded us. So, whatever they took from us, they are not specks (signs) of war, because we did not start a war with them. A war is when two sides declare, yes! We can’t settle an issue, therefore, let us go to war and settle it.”

Furthermore, Honurable Omo-Ojo said the state government have been working tirelessly searching for those in possession of Benin artifacts and thanked God Almighty for making the children of the late Gallwey to let out the artifacts stolen by their father from the Benin Kingdom.

“Thank God these thieves – whose son of a thief (late Gallwey)” has identified himself, we have been trying to locate them, we have records of them.

“We are calling on the United Nations to please show good example, because what the British did to us, seems like what Saddam Hussein did in Kuwait and if they could try in Saddam Hussein and he was hanged, we are equally calling on them to identify the grand children and children of the late lieutenant Colonel Gallwey and they should be brought to book?

He therefore called on the children of the late lieutenant Colonel and Mr. Jean Fritts, the Director of African Oceanic Arts at Sotheby’s London, to refrain from any criminal act in regards to their plans to auction a sixteen century Benin Ivory pendant mask said to be one of the last great masterpieces of Benin Sculpture remaining in private hands in February 2011.

“They should seek good counsel and refrain from selling the mask. Anything that makes them to ignore this call, Edo people, the Edo State government will use this as a starting point to protect our intellectual properties “ said Omo-Ojo.

It would be recalled that the Financial Times of London had reported that a sixteen century Benin Ivory pendant mask put at 4.5 million pounds is to be offered for sale at Sotheby’s London.

According to the media report, the mask stands at 22Cm high, the mask is believed to have been worn by an Oba and it is being sold by the descendants of Lt. Col. Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey, Deputy Commissioner and Vice-Consul in the newly established Oil Rivers Protectorate (later the Niger Coast Protectorate) in 1871. Lt. Col. Gallwey is said to have participated in the British Government’s “punitive Expedition” of 1897 against the Benin Kingdom.

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