From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Operatives of the Zone 5 Police Command headquarters in Benin City, Edo State, are said to have recovered the keys to the room where the missing items were kept during the alleged invasion of the palace of the Olu of Warri.
Recall that following the alleged invasion, the palace petitioned the Zone 5 Command to lunch an investigation into the incident and to unravel the whereabouts of the 400-year-old crown, the symbol of the Itsekiri monarchy, that was declared missing after the invasion.
Last Friday, as follow up to series of meetings with operatives of the Zone 5 Command, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atseleghe and the suspended Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, in company with other palace chiefs, with the Officer in Charge of Anti-Vice in the Command, David Okoro, a Superintendent of Police.
According to a chief of the Olu Palace, who attended the investigative session on Friday, the police have retrieved the keys of the palace room where the crown was kept from one of the chiefs.
‘Last Friday, we were at the AIG and we met the Officer in Charge of Anti-Vice, David Okoro, and during the investigation, we were made to understand that the keys leading to the room where the crown and other royal monuments where kept were with one of the chiefs.
‘The embattled prominent chief admitted that the keys were with him. I told the police that when our king passed on, the keys were with the Uwangue of Warri Kingdom, the No 3 Chief who is Gabriel Awala. By his title, he is in charge of the king’s wardrobe. Ordinarily, Awala should be with the keys.
‘The chief who had the keys was not around when Baba passed on. After three days when he returned, he took the keys from Awala without the consent of the kingmakers. He had been with the keys until it was recovered last Friday.
‘He told the police that he didn’t give the keys to anybody and the doors leading to the rooms were not broken and after collecting what they wanted, he made small damage to the door to pervert justice.
‘He was asked to make an additional statement and the police told him he is the prime suspect and they asked him to make sure that all the items that were removed be returned,’ the palace chief who craved anonymity, said.
The demise of the former Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, in December 2020, had created a succession tussle which eventually produced Prince Tsola Emiko as the chosen Olu-elect (Omoba) of Warri.
Following the palace’s petition to the police, the suspended Ologbotsere, Chief Ayiri Emami, was invited for questioning on April 24 and, after his session with the police, he told reporters in Benin that he had told the police that he had no knowledge or any involvement in the invasion nor of the missing items.
When contacted, the Zone 5 Police Public Relations Officer, Tijani Momoh, said he was not part of the investigative team and could not confirm nor deny if the keys had been retrieved.
‘I was not part of the investigation. I cannot confirm or deny if any key was retrieved from one of the chiefs,’ he said.