By PATRICK OCHOGA, Benin City
As the investigation into the missing crown of the Olu of Warri Kingdom and other items continues, there are indications that the Zone 5 Police Command with headquarters in Benin City, Edo State has recovered the keys where the missing items were kept.
The Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, and the suspended Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami in the company of other palace chiefs, met on Friday with the officer in charge of anti-vice in the command, David Okoro, a superintendent of police.
The crux of the police investigation, it was learned, was to unravel the whereabouts of the 400-year-old crown which is the symbol of the Itsekiri monarchy that was declared missing after the invasion of the palace.
One of the chiefs, who attended the investigative session on Friday, said the Police have retrieved the keys of the palace room where the crown was kept from them.
The chief, who craved anonymity, said, “Last Friday we were at AIG and we met the Officer in Charge of Anti-Vice, David Okoro in Benin, 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 was 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.”
Recall that Ayiri had during his first visit to the Zone 5 in Benin City on April 24 denied knowledge or any involvement in the invasion or the missing items.
The demise of the immediate past 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) in Warri.
When contacted, the Zone 5 police public relations officer, Tijani Momoh, said he was not part of the investigative team and could not confirm or deny if the key had been retrieved.
“I was not part of the investigative team and cannot confirm if any key was retrieved from one of the chiefs or not,” he said.