While he told the Oba he is in the state for political reasons, Osinbajo said he deemed it appropriate to make the Palace his first stop.
The visit to the palace, the Vice President explained, is to inform the Oba of his intention to run for president in the coming election. He also said he is in the state to consult with members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
On his part, the Oba of Benin said he admires the Vice President’s eloquence, calmness, humility, respect for culture, and fear of God. He also thanked him for having respect for culture.
The Oba also believes that putting the electorate first should be a priority for political officeholders. He, however, regretted that while politicians make promises, and use all sorts of tactics, they eventually do not put the electorate first.
Oba Ewuare, therefore, appealed to politicians not to continue in that trend.
He noted that the country is blessed with resources but wondered why there’s suffering and poverty and crime.
The monarch, who reminded Osinbajo that he (VP) is a cleric, said if he emerges as president, he would have a lot on his shoulders to turn things around.
According to him, the VP is eminently qualified for the position as he prayed that the voters hear his voice. He wished Osinbajo well in the pursuit.
The Edo State Police Command has said its operatives on Wednesday killed six kidnap suspects along the Benin-Lagos Bypass.
A statement by the command said the suspects were in the process of kidnapping passengers of an 18-seater bus en route to the eastern part of the country from Lagos.
The statement explained that the police operatives were on investigation activities around the area when they detected the suspects believed to have been part of a notorious gang terrorising the Benin-Lagos Expressway.
It said the team of operatives, on sighting the suspected kidnappers, engaged them in a gun duel, injuring six (6) of the suspects who were subsequently arrested and taken to the hospital. They were reportedly confirmed dead by the medical practitioner on duty.
Other members of the gang allegedly fled in different directions with various degrees of bullet injuries during the gun battle. One pump action was recovered from the scene. Bush combing is said to be ongoing to arrest the fleeing gang members.
Meanwhile, all the passengers on board were reportedly rescued unhurt, profiled, and asked to continue their journey.
Nine people including a Frenchman were killed this week in attacks in a national park in Benin’s remote north bordering troubled Niger and Burkina Faso, according to a government update.
The toll was the deadliest in recent attacks Benin has suffered as coastal West African states face spillover from Sahel countries battling jihadists.
An African Parks patrol flushing out poachers and another patrol hit two improvised explosive devices on Tuesday, killing five park rangers, one park official, one soldier, and a French trainer who was with them, the Benin government said in a statement late Thursday.
A third reconnaissance patrol also hit another explosive on Thursday, killing another African Parks official, it said.
“The government wishes to reassure the population that… our strategy will secure this critical area,” a statement said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
African Parks, which manages the wildlife reserve in the north of Benin, had said on Wednesday six people were killed in an attack.
France said on Thursday it had opened an investigation a 50-year-old national was among those killed in a “terrorist attack in Park W in northern Benin”.
No group has claimed responsibility but Benin’s military has increased its presence in the area following two attacks late last year that military sources blamed on jihadists from across the border.
Benin had long been one of the more stable countries in West Africa, where Islamic State and al Qaeda militants threaten Sahel countries.
Criminal smuggling gangs also operate along its frontier.
In January, two Benin soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive in the northern Atakora region.
The W national park, which extends over Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, is attached to the Pendjari park where two French tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in 2019.
Troops of 4 Brigade Nigerian Army(NA) acting on credible intelligence have taken out three kidnappers, who are believed to be part of the notorious kidnap/robbery gang terrorizing the ever-busy Auchi-Benin road in Edo State.
The kidnappers met their waterloo on Wednesday while on their nefarious operation along the axis. They ran out of luck when the vigilant troops swooped in on them, engaging them in a gun duel that led to the elimination of three members of the gang, while others fled in different directions.
Army spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, explained in a brief statement that the gallant troops recovered one AK 47 rifle, one Pump Action Shotgun, and other dangerous weapons.
Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to track the fleeing criminals and free up that corridor from all forms of violent crime. The army through its spokesman, enjoined the general public, particularly the people of Edo State, to continue to expose criminal elements in their localities to law enforcement agencies.
They were also urged to go about their normal activities without panic, as efforts are in place to ensure seamless security.
A key Benin opposition leader went on trial on terrorism charges on Friday, nine months after she was arrested just before President Patrice Talon’s re-election in April.
Reckya Madougou, one of the opposition leaders banned from running in the election, was arrested in March accused of trying to disrupt the ballot and destablise the country.
Her trial opened just days after the same special court sentenced another opposition figure Joel Aivo to 10 years in prison.
Critics say the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court or Criet, has been used by Talon’s regime to crack down on the opposition and pushed Benin into authoritarianism.
Madougou faces a 20-year sentence if found guilty of financing terrorism and acts of terrorism among other charges.
She arrived in a prison van to the Porto-Novo court where some of her supporters waited for her, some wearing white T-shirts with her image and the words: “Free Reckya Madougou”.
“The dossier is completely empty… because it is exclusively a political accusation,” one of her lawyers, Antoine Vey, told AFP.
“If the trial were fair, there is no doubt she would be released and fully acquitted,” he said. “We are fearful of a heavy sentence.”
Since the beginning of March, Madougou has been incarcerated in the civil prison of Misserete. Her lawyers have repeatedly warned of “very difficult” conditions, with no contact with the outside world except her legal team.
– Political pressure –
Less than a week before the April election, a judge from the special court fled Benin denouncing political pressure to make rulings, in particular in the case of Madougou’s arrest.
Government officials dismiss claims of political interference and say Benin’s judiciary is independent.
Benin was long praised for its thriving multi-party democracy in a troubled region. But critics say the West African state’s democracy has steadily eroded under Talon, a 63-year-old cotton magnate first elected in 2016.
Some opposition leaders have fled the country while others were disqualified from running in elections, or targeted for investigation.
Aivo, a professor who had been held for eight months, was found guilty on Tuesday of plotting against the state and money laundering.
Aivo, who was also barred from running in the election, was arrested on April 15, four days after the ballot that saw Talon returned to power.
The same special court in 2018 also sentenced Sebastien Ajavon, an opposition figure who came third in the previous election, to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.
He was again sentenced in early March in absentia to a second sentence of five years in prison for “forgery, forgery, and fraud”. He now lives in exile.
France on Tuesday handed back 26 treasures that were looted from Benin during colonial times, fulfilling a promise made by President Emmanuel Macron to restore a lost part of Africa’s heritage.
Benin President Patrice Talon and Culture Minister Jean-Michel Abimbola travelled to Paris to bring home the artefacts that were snatched by French forces 130 years ago.
Talon said he felt “overwhelming emotion” at recovering the objects taken during the ransacking of the kingdom of Dahomey in the south of present-day Benin, including a royal throne.
Speaking to reporters at the presidential palace in Paris, where France signed over the artefacts to Benin, Talon said the treasures were much more than cultural goods — the term used by France to describe them.
“This is our soul, Mr President,” he said, flanked by Macron.
The French leader hailed “a symbolic, moving and historic moment” which had been long-awaited by Africans.
The return of the pieces taken from Abomey palace, which also include three totemic statues, comes as calls mount in Africa for European countries to return the colonial spoils lining their museum shelves.
In France, most are held by the Quai Branly museum, which has begun a major review of its collection to identify works believed to have been acquired through violence or coercion.
French lawmakers last year passed a bill allowing Paris to return artefacts to both Benin and Senegal, another former French colony in west Africa.
Talon made clear that he saw Tuesday’s handover as just the first step in a large-scale restitution process, asking “how do you expect my enthusiasm to be complete” when France still held other key artefacts.
But he added he was “confident” that further restitutions would follow. “Beyond this handover, we will continue the work,” Macron promised.
‘I can die in peace’
In Benin’s capital Cotonou, the return of the prized works was hotly anticipated.
“I get goosebumps at the prospect of being able to see these royal treasures up close, particularly our ancestors’ thrones. It’s unbelievable,” an elder of the Dah Adohouannon community, told AFP.
“At 72 years, I can die in peace, once I have seen them.”
The restitution is part of a drive by Macron to improve his country’s image in Africa, especially among young people.
Before being packed up for the long journey home the works were shown at the Quai Branly for one last time in late October.
In Benin, they will be exhibited at various sites, including a former Portuguese fort in the city of Ouidah, once a slave-trading hub, while awaiting the completion of a museum in Abomey to house them.
Experts estimate that 85 to 90 percent of African cultural artefacts were taken from the continent.
Some were seized by colonial administrators, troops or doctors and passed down to descendants who in turn donated them to museums in Europe.
But others were presented as gifts to missionaries or acquired by African art collectors at the start of the 20th century or discovered during scientific expeditions.
An expert report commissioned by Macron counted some 90,000 African works in French museums, 70,000 of them at the Quai Branly alone.
Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have also received requests from African countries to return lost treasures.
Nigeria said last month it had agreed with Germany on the return of hundreds of so-called Benin Bronzes — metal plaques and sculptures from the 16th to 18th centuries that were stolen from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom in present-day Nigeria.
Belgium has announced plans to return several objects looted from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nigeria has received a Benin bronze artefact from the University of Cambridge, more than a hundred years after it was taken from the country.
At a ceremony on Wednesday in the UK, the university handed over the artefact to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, in a move it earlier described as the “first institutional return of its kind.”
Jesus College is the first UK institution to hand back a Benin bronze, raising pressure on other establishments, including the British Museum, to follow suit.
The Nigerian delegation was led by the head of the agency, Professor Abba Tijani, to receive the elaborately carved cockerel, known as “Okukor”.
“We’re excited, very happy to see that this artefact, which has been away from Nigeria for decades, is in good shape,” he said.
Tijani, who spoke during the ceremony to hand over the treasure, stated that it was the first time a UK institution would give back a Benin bronze.
He hailed the college’s act as “a great example for other institutions and other countries” and urged the British Museum to change its stance on the bronzes in its collection.
Noting that Nigeria has handed over a formal request for their repatriation, Tijani insisted that the sculptures “are going to the right place and they will be looked after”.
The bronze was taken from the kingdom of Benin — now part of Nigeria — in 1897 when Britain had a foothold on the African continent.
Cambridge’s Jesus College removed the cockerel from public display in 2016 after a campaign by students arguing it was a symbol of Britain’s colonial past.
‘Now With Its Rightful Owner’
Several other western institutions have said they also plan to hand looted African treasures back.
But the British Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of Benin bronzes, has not done so.
Many are facing mounting pressure to give back colonial-era treasures, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nigerian government officials taking part in the ceremony included the Ambassador to the UK, Sarafa Isola, and the brother of the Oba of Benin, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa.
“I thank you for this wonderful initiative. The people of Nigeria are grateful,” said Isola while passing on the thanks of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prince Erediauwa, on his part, said, “Jesus College is indeed challenging the erroneous arguments that stolen art cannot be returned because of the existence of different legal jurisdictions on the matter.”
Earlier, the head of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, handed the elaborately carved cockerel to the Nigerian delegation amid cheers and a trumpet fanfare.
“We are proud to be the first institution to simply act,” said Alleyne, hailing a “really historic occasion” as she formally transferred the cockerel’s ownership. “We are delighted that it is now with its rightful owner.”
This week, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris is exhibiting a trove of Benin treasures for a final time before they are handed back to Nigeria.
Tijani is expected to travel to Scotland to receive another Benin bronze from the University of Aberdeen on Thursday.
Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, is safer in neighbouring Benin Republic than in Nigeria, one of his lawyers said on Saturday.
“He (Igboho) is safer in Benin,” Ibrahim David Salami told international news agency AFP. “He is not at all safe in Nigeria. Sending him to Nigeria means certain death.”
Channels Television had reported that armed security men stormed Igboho’s residence in Ibadan on July 1, an incident that resulted in a firefight that sparked tension in the Soka area of the Oyo State capital.
Hours later, the Department of State Services (DSS) claimed responsibility in a statement, saying the invasion was a raid by a joint team of security operatives.
It claimed that Igboho and others plotted to wage a violent insurrection against the Nigerian State and asked the Yoruba nation agitator to turn himself in at the nearest security agency.
Igboho’s associates arrested by the DSS were later paraded and detained for over two months despite the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja ordering their release.
The Yoruba nation agitator, on the other hand, fled the country to Benin but was later arrested by authorities en route to Germany.
While the Federal Government is making effort to extradite him, Salami insisted that Nigerian authorities have yet to officially begin the process.
“What we feared at the start was an extradition request but there is no such demand,” the lawyer said.
“The fact that he is being investigated for a violation that could have been committed on Beninese territory is a hurdle to an extradition request as this case will first have to be sorted out.”
The Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Ewuare II, has said repatriated Benin Bronzes should be returned to the Benin Royal Museum to be cited within the precincts of his palace.
At a press briefing in his palace on Friday, the Oba called on the Federal Government to take custody of the artefacts when repatriated until the royal museum is ready.
The Oba’s intervention and comments follow the controversy over where the artefacts, looted by British soldiers during the invasion of the Benin Kingdom, ought to be kept when returned.
According to him, individuals or institutions dealing with the private company, Legacy Restoration Trust, regarding the return of the looted artefacts does so at their own risk and against the will of the Benin people.
He advised Governor Godwin Obaseki to review the use of a private company to pursue the return of the artefacts, adding that the items should be returned where they were taken from.
On May 18, Germany, through its Director-General of Culture and Communication, Dr Andreas Gorgen, said his country was on a restitution mission to Nigeria to return all artefacts taken from the Benin Empire.
The announcement had led to questions over where the stolen artefacts – bronze, wooden, brass, metal and ivory tusks; collectively known as the Benin bronzes – would be returned to.
FG, Obaseki Firm Up Agreement
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, Edo State Government and the Benin royal family have concluded a meeting in Germany towards the return of stolen artefacts to Edo State.
The meeting in Berlin was attended by the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Monika Grutters, and Foreign Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas, while the Nigerian delegation includes the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
The Benin Royal Palace was represented by the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Prince Ezelekhae Ewuare.
At the meeting, Lai Mohammed insisted on a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin artefacts domiciled in German museums, adding that the return should be whole rather than substantial. He said this in the wake of remarks by Grutters that the European nation was ready to make a ‘substantial return’ of the 1,130 looted artefacts.
Mohammed said the issue of provenance, which has to do with the place of origin of the artefacts, should not be allowed to unduly delay the repatriation of the art works, noting, “That they are known as Benin Bronzes, which is already a confirmation of their source of origin (which is Benin).”
At a separate meeting with Maas, Mohammed also reiterated that no condition should be attached to the return of the artefacts.
He stressed the need for the parties to commit to definite timelines for the return of the Benin Bronzes in addition to concluding all necessary negotiations in a very short term.
He added that the discussions between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the artworks was not the end of an era, but rather the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy between both countries.
The Minister thanked Germany for taking the lead in the global efforts to repatriate all artefacts that were looted from Nigeria and the African continent, adding “We see Germany as a leader in the efforts to take practical steps to repatriate our stolen artefacts, and we hope Germany will sustain that lead.”
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who was also on the Nigerian delegation, said a “transformational” museum is to be built in Benin City, to house the artefacts upon their return, as part of a new cultural district in the city.
The governor said he was attending the talks to demonstrate the strong partnership involving the Federal Government of Nigeria, the (Benin) Royal family and the people of Edo State.
Earlier, the German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Grutters, said “the way we deal with the issue of Benin Bronzes is important to addressing our colonial past,” describing the issues as “an important personal concern.”
She assured the 1,130 artefacts would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022, noting that Germany had twice sent delegations to Nigeria for talks over the planned repatriation. She said such a move indicated that both sides had moved beyond mere talks, saying all the Museums in Germany stockpiling Benin Bronzes have agreed to cooperate.
Other people on the Nigerian delegation were the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf Tuggar and Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), Prof. Abba Tijani.
They were later taken on a guided tour of the Humboldt-Forum, a royal palace turned museum in the heart of Berlin that houses artworks from around the world.
A second person has died after troops opened fire with live rounds to break up a protest in central Benin just days before President Patrice Talon seeks re-election, a local official said on Friday.
Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is expected to easily win Sunday’s ballot with most of his main opponents exiled or disqualified, but protests have erupted in opposition bastions in the center and north of the country.
On Thursday, troops fired tear gas and live rounds in the air to break up protesters who had blocked a major highway in the central city of Save.
Officials had reported at least one person killed and at least five wounded by gunfire.
“One of those wounded by bullets has died this morning. So the toll is now two dead and five wounded,” Save city mayor Denis Oba Chabi told AFP.
“The situation is calm and youths have not erected any new barricades, and after negotiations, the military has returned to the barracks.”
Benin was long praised as a thriving multi-party democracy in often troubled West Africa, but critics say Talon has steered the country into authoritarianism with a steady crackdown on his opponents.
Most are in exile, have been disqualified by electoral reforms or targeted for investigation by special court critics say Talon has used as a political tool.
A government spokesman Alain Orounla said on Thursday security forces were attacked by “drugged and armed” youths and had responded when they came under fire.
“It is our people’s constitutional right to protest in the street, to express themselves and to have their voices heard,” said opposition leader Joel Aivo, one of those disqualified from running in the election.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc condemned “peaceful protests that gradually turned violent in several cities across the country.”
The US State Department on Friday also called on all in Benin to remain peaceful.
“We urge all parties to express their perspectives peacefully,” spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge the electoral institutions and courts overseeing these processes and verifying these results to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently.”
Talon faces two little-known rivals — Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.
One opposition leader Reckya Madougou was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the election with terrorism, a charge her lawyer says is fabricated.
A judge from the special court created by Talon also fled the country this week after denouncing political pressure to make rulings against opponents, including the decision to detain Madougou.
The Super Eagles maintained top of Group L standings in the AFCON qualifier after a 93rd-minute winner from substitute Paul Onuachu on Saturday evening.
The Nigerian side had already booked their place in Cameroon after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played out a 0-0 draw earlier in the day, with Benin needing one point from the match against Nigeria to also secure a place at the finals of the competition.
A fourth consecutive goalless draw in the section seemed on the cards until giant substitute Onuachu reacted quickest when goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe blocked a Victor Osimhen shot in Porto-Novo.
A combination of the woodwork, which foiled Osimhen, wild shooting and several superb saves by Allagbe had kept the match at Stade Charles de Gaulle goalless for 92 minutes.
The Super Eagles travelled by sea to the capital of Benin Friday after players raised concerns about the poor road network linking the neighbouring west African countries.
A few hours later, the visitors trained at the match venue using the light of a full moon because the floodlights were not switched on.
Nigeria have 11 points, Benin seven, Sierra Leone four and Lesotho three going into the final round of qualifiers Tuesday.
While three-time African champions Nigeria host Lesotho in Lagos with only pride at stake, Cup of Nations qualification will be on the line when Sierra Leone confront Benin in Freetown.
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have also qualified, leaving seven places to be filled.
The first of those will be decided on Sunday in Omdurman with Sudan needing a win and South Africa at least a draw as they battle to join Ghana from Group C
A leading member of Benin’s opposition has been held and brought before a special court, the government said, as critics accuse the authorities of a crackdown ahead of upcoming elections.
Bio Dramane Tidjani, from the opposition Democrats party, was summoned on Monday by the Court of Repression of Economic Offences and Terrorism for “destabilising the electoral process,” government spokesman Alain Orounla said.
“The special prosecutor… heard people whose suspicious activity and reprehensible actions required them to be heard in a court of law,” he said, without giving details.
“The government will… rigorously sanction anyone who seeks to disrupt the upcoming election or cause violence,” Orounla said in remarks to reporters late Wednesday.
Tidjani, who is not well known by the public but is important within the party and close to its leader, was still in custody on Thursday, his party said.
On April 11, 5.5 million people will be eligible to either reelect President Patrice Talon or vote for one of two opposition candidates — former minister Alassane Soumano or Corentin Kohoue, a dissident opposition figure.
Out of the 20 aspiring presidents, 17 had their candidacies rejected by the West African country’s electoral commission.
Elected in 2016, Talon had initially said he would complete only one mandate, later changing his mind and announcing in mid-February he was running again.
His critics say the country has veered into authoritarianism under his rule.
It is unclear why Tidjani was brought before the court or why he was kept in custody.
Two other members of his party, former parliamentarians Noureini Atchade and Justin Adjovi, were also summoned by the court last Friday but were not detained.
“Bio Dramane Tidjani’s detention is arbitrary and illegal,” said Rekiath Madougou, the head of the Democrats.
“This serves to prove once again that the current regime is becoming authoritarian.”
The electoral commission rejected Madougou’s candidacy in the upcoming election in mid-February for failing to receive the 16 signatures needed from elected officials.
A close ally of former president Boni Yayi, a major rival of Talon, Madougou took to Facebook to denounce “plots against freedom fighters” just two months before the election.
Supporters of the incumbent reject those charges and say conditions are in place for a fair election in the former French colony.