Battle over custody of Royal Artifacts paves way for 4 Museums in Edo


The long-drawn battle between the Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and the highly respected Oba of the Benin kingdom palace over custody of the returned rare Benin artifacts “stolen” by the British during the invasion of the palace, may have produced some unintended outcomes .

Before the onset of the battle, there was only one federal-owned museum, located in the heart of Benin City, the state capital, servicing the entire state.

The National Museum, owned by the federal government, was established to preserve rare national monuments and artifacts. The Museum is located along the popular Ring Road in Benin City

Ironically, Edo State is the greatest beneficiary of the battle for custody of the artifacts as the number of museums in the state has significantly risen from the paltry one to four.

Not too long ago, the British government caved in to mounting pressure and agreed to return some “stolen” Benin artifacts which were carted away during the invasion of the Benin kingdom by the colonialists.

This sparked a huge row between the state government and the palace over who should take custody of the items. The palace defied attempts to hand over the artifacts to the state government.

Much as Gov. Obaseki tried to placate the palace as well as reach a truce, the Oba of Benin stood his ground, insisting the artifacts be handed over to the palace for safe custody.

The case quickly brought to the fore the paucity of museums to house rare artifacts and other relics

Almost in a record time, officials of the Jehovah’s Witness, religious sect, with its headquarters in Edo State, opened a museum in Igieduma, on the outskirts of Benin, to house and preserve important relics central to the historical growth and expansion of the church.

The museum in Igieduma became the second functional museum in the state

Similarly, the palace proposed to build a befitting royal museum to house the returned “stolen” artifacts. The museum is to be located opposite the palace of the Oba of Benin but it’s construction has been stalled for various reasons

Forced to pull out of the original plan to support the building a royal museum as a result of the row, Gov. Obaseki gave approval for the construction of the Edo Museum of African Arts, which was later modified to the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA)

The MOWAA edifice will be housed at the site of the demolished Central Hospital in Benin.

When fully operational, the museum is expected to function as a non-profit making body as well as serve as a cultural hub for the promotion of West African arts and culture

At completion, both the royal museum and MOWAA will bring the total number of museums in the state to four.

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