The planned auction of Oba Ovonramwen’s statue in London-Benin National Congress seeks African Union severance of ties with United Kingdom. 22-12-2010.
At a time when the Bini's are celebrating the annual Igue festival with missed feelings to the effect that this period also coincide with the infamous British punitive mission to the old Benin Empire-where hundreds of thousands of our indigenes were killed, raped and maimed; with very precious materials violently looted; it is rather sad, callous and insensitive on the part of British Government to tolerate the attempt or perpetuate the auctioning of stolen Benin icons like Oba Ovonramwen statue whose death and burial-place has continued to reflect intrigues and day-light-murder. After much ado about campaigns by prominent individuals and groups the world over to effect the repatriation of these artifacts; we consider our demand on the African Union to severe ties with Britain as expedient because their continuous refusal to yield to the clarion calls present them as though they are irrepressible (cannot be restrained); in a supposedly global village where United Nations is the presiding arbiter.
Our independent investigation has revealed that the artifact was deliberately under-valued at 4.5million pounds to down-play public outcry. In actual fact, the auctioning agency is being economical with the actual cost of Oba Ovonramwen's statue, because independent archeological survey indicates that the value of the artifact is in the neighborhood of 71 million pounds. At no time had His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin or the Government of Nigeria approved of the transfer of the Benin icon, so where is the legitimacy of ownership? The person seeking to auction it ought to be arrested in the first place for “possession of stolen property”
As a matter of fact, the planned auction of this artifact is a reflection of the failure of Nigeria's federal government to act in the direction of recovering these imprisoned artifacts in the custody of Britain and their allies. We condemn very strong term the docility of federal government Agencies like the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in the prevailing circumstance; and the Congress will not take responsibility for mobilizing our members and the concerned international public both on the Streets of United Kingdom and in the United State, because, it is a universal fact that the item in question is a stolen priceless cultural property of the Benin people. If Britain continues to hold-on to such priceless stolen items, it is not justiceable for them to be referring to other nations who differ with them in foreign policies as “rogue nations”; whereas, they have failed to reasons in the calls for the return of these works of arts by our ancestors.
The African Union must take a decisive look at our petition because it could help to nip in the bud, a pregnant International legal suit against the government of United Kingdom; and more so, when the planed action amounts to an assault on the sovereignty of the people and government of Nigeria which is a sub-set of the African Union. This action is ignoble and the United Nation should condemn the proposal, while setting a deadline for the unconditional return of these priceless arts.
Mr. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo- President, Benin National Congress.